Pepe the Frog used to be a simple cartoon character; that is, it was that until it was stolen from the creator and started being used by the alt-right.
Matt Furie is the artist and creator of Pepe the Frog; he created Pepe for the cartoon Boy’s Club in 2005. Fast-forward 12 years and now a Google image search of “Pepe the Frog” brings up photo after photo of Pepe with a Swastica, Pepe as Donald Trump, and Pepe saying “kill jews man” (as featured in the image above). There was a book written by Eric Houser in which Pepe was drawn to be an islamaphobic farmer. There was even an app in which Pepe was featured when gamers helped “build the wall”. Did Furie want any of this to happen with his creation? No. He is now fighting the content he can on DMCA complaints.
Pepe as anti-semitic content began booming when Trump started to run for office. Since Trump’s presidential campaign, anti-semitism and general racism became more openly widespread. It always existed, but people felt more comfortable voicing their racist remarks out on the streets and over the internet. Many did so using Pepe memes. The openness of racism got worse after his election, and it has been just spiraling and growing since then. Pepe being associated with these groups made him boom to a new audience and only be associated by many with these racist people. It had to be analyzed by the Anti-Defamation League to check if it could be considered a hate symbol. It’s gotten a lot of attention; attention Furie isn’t happy with at all.
Since Pepe is Furie’s intellectual property, he has been able to use copywriter laws to remove the book and app from popular use and purchase. The memes are where Furie has had trouble claiming Pepe. Since 2008 people used Pepe as memes on websites like reddit and 4chan, and Furie never did anything. He said it was fair-use. Now, though, he has a situation in which his creation is only being associated with hate. Is it still fair?
Law’s and rules aside, is it not a crime to take someone’s creation, and turn it into something that was potentially going to be recognized as a hate symbol? They have helped promote the actual copywriter of his work in the book and app. These people have collectively destroyed and forever-altered his art.