Matt Furie, the creator of the beloved, sometimes controversial Pepe the Frog meme, requested that a frog-themed nonfungible token (NFT) project worth $4M be removed from OpenSea for copyright infringement.
The “Sad Frogs District” is an NFT project containing 7,000 programmatically generated Sad Frog NFTs from a selection of around 200 traits. The artwork depicted in the NFTs may draw some inspiration from Furie’s character Pepe.
According to OpenSea’s community-help Discord channel on Aug. 17, numerous members asked why the verified NFT project had been delisted, as they could no longer access the Sad Frog NFTs on the platform.
An OpenSea moderator later confirmed the delisting, noting that “Pepe items have been delisted due to a DMCA takedown request by the creator of Pepe, Matt Furie.”
The Sad Frogs District was launched earlier this month and has already generated more than $4 million in volume from a median price of $450 per NFT.
A Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown occurs when a copyright owner asserts that their content is being used online without their permission and requests its removal to forego further legal action.
“We know this is likely disappointing, and we don’t enjoy doing it—that said, we must comply with lawful takedown requests,” the message read.
However, the moderator also added that while OpenSea had to comply with the DMCA takedown, creators that feel that “their work should not be subject to a DMCA are welcome to file a counter-DMCA. We are unbiased and will follow whatever is lawfully required.”
According to the project’s website, the Sad Frogs are “inspired by collective artworks of internet artists and cyberpunk aesthetics.” The team appears ready to fight the copyright claims after it revealed that it has taken up the option to submit a counter DMCA to OpenSea.
It is unclear how this DMCA claim will play out, as the project’s artwork doesn’t appear to directly depict Pepe the Frog. Twitter user “Iced Cooly” also pointed out that Furie is playing working in a gray area of his own, as the Pepe creator has an NFT listed on OpenSea depicting Star Wars character Jabba the Hut in his unique art style.
Pepe the Frog first appeared in Furies’ 2005 comic book series “Boy’s Club” as a laid-back frog with the now-famous catchphrase “Feels good man.” The character became “internet famous” after years of widespread memeing on social media platforms such as 4chan, MySpace, Tumblr and Reddit.
Furie is no stranger to disputes over the ownership of the Pepe brand, and he played a role in the “Non Fungible Pepe” project being taken down from OpenSea earlier this year. The project was widely successful and was on track to make $60 million, but he refused to approve the project after the team reached out to him to see if he wanted to be involved.
He has also regularly fought to take the beloved frog back from the alt-right connotations attributed by 4chan users. In 2019, Furie was awarded $15,000 in a copyright settlement against Alex Jones’ Infowars forselling Pepe-themed wall art.