A federal judge will let a jury decide whether conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars website had a legal right to sell a poster featuring the image of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that became hijacked by far-right extremists.
U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald refused Thursday to throw out a copyright infringement lawsuit that Pepe’s creator, California-based artist Matt Furie, filed against Infowars over its poster sales.
Lawyers for Furie and Infowars both said they were pleased by the ruling, which clears a path for a jury trial to begin July 16 in Los Angeles.
Louis Tompros, one Furie’s lawyers, said his client looks forward to asking jurors to hold Infowars accountable for misappropriating Pepe, the anthropomorphic frog he created in the early 2000s.
“This is a case about making sure nobody (else) is making money off Pepe the Frog,” Tompros said today.
Infowars’ attorney, Marc Randazza, said the decision preserves his client’s key free speech defenses against Furie’s claims and limits any possible award to a maximum of roughly $13,000.
“We are fighting this case because we think it’s a free speech issue,” Randazza said. “(Jones) is doing it as an act in the public interest instead of his own interest.”
Jones faces other costly litigation. Relatives of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed defamation suits against Jones after he questioned whether the shooting rampage was a hoax.
Jones livestreams his show on Infowars’ website, but he has lost access to other platforms. Twitter and Facebook have permanently banned him.
Jones also uses his website to sell a diverse range of products. Furie’s lawsuit says he didn’t authorize the site to sell a “MAGA” poster that depicts Pepe alongside images of Jones, President Donald Trump, far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos and other right-wing figures.