Jones is currently being sued by Sandy Hook families over his claims that the shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators in 2012 was staged by paid actors who faked the children's deaths. Jones later admitted that the shooting was real, but the suit continues, and the damages against him might limit his ability to promote his conspiracy theories.
In a lesser known case, Jones was sued for copyright infringement for using the Pepe the Frog character for a MAGA poster that was sold on his website. Matt Furie is the creator of the character which was first used in his 2003 comic book, Play Time, and then appeared in other Furie comic books. After white supremacists began using "Pepe" during the 2016 presidential election, Furie became upset that his character was being used as a "hate symbol."
Jones claimed that Pepe’s image on the poster was protected by the First Amendment because it is transformative, and he has possible defenses of fair use, de minimis use and abandonment of the copyright, which is when one intentionally relinquishes enforcement of one’s copyright.
Damages from copyright infringement can be substantial although often difficult to prove. Furie sought $1.2 million dollars in statutory damages as set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 504(c). For infringements that are not willful, statutory damages range from $750 to $30,000 per infringement. The amount depends on the seriousness of the infringing act. However, one who knowingly infringes another copyright can be subject to damages of as much as $150,000 for a single infringement.
However, Furie’s failure to timely register his copyright limited his potential recovery. He didn’t seek copyright registration until September 2017. He elected to settle the case after the judge ruled that Furie could not seek statutory damages and reimbursement of attorney fees because he had not timely registered his copyright. The ruling severely limited the amount of potential damages Furie could recover.
An author must register a copyright to file a suit for infringement in federal court. 17 U.S.C. § 411(a). If the work is registered prior to infringement (or after infringement but within three months of first publication of the work), the owner may obtain statutory damages and/or attorney fees. However, a prevailing defendant may seek attorney fees regardless of whether the plaintiff had a timely registration.
The settlement agreement includes a provision that Info Wars destroy any copies of the poster in its possession. Info Wars also agreed not to sell any other items with Pepe’s likeness without permission.
This case is an t example of why it is important to timely register your copyright.
More information on Copyright Registration.