The mom of “Success Kid,” the empowered toddler who has become a popular meme, has filed a cease-and-desist letter against Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa for alleged copyright infringement.
With his fist raised and a determined expression on his face, then-toddler Sam Griner was transformed into a meme shortly after his mother, Laney Griner, posted the photo on Flickr in 2007. According to the Flickr caption, the photo was taken in Jacksonville by his mother when Sam was just 11 months old.
Griner registered the copyright on the photo in 2012, according to the letter. But for more than a decade, the meme has been used countless times, including by the White House in 2013 to push changes in immigration laws.
When the Florida woman noticed King had used the meme of her son in fundraising efforts, she took to Twitter to protest the usage: Griner tweeted Thursday that King is a “vile man” and that she did not give permission to either him or his “disgusting party” to use her son’s image to promote his agenda.
In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, King used Sam’s image with the message “FUND OUR MEMES,” in white block letters on a blurred background of the U.S. Capitol. The post linked to the conservative fundraising site WinRed and asked people to donate if they enjoy the memes King posts on his page.
King became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003. He has represented Iowa’s 4th District since 2013.
Live impeachment trial updates:Trump to Republicans: Don’t let Democrats ‘play you’ on witnesses
Through the law firm King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, LLP in Los Angeles, Griner sent the cease-and-desist letter to King, his campaign and WinRed.
In the letter, attorneys say King and his campaign are “willfully infringing our client’s copyright and violating her son’s rights in his likeness” to raise money for his campaign. It alleges that King implied “Success Kid” is associated with his campaign, and the use “has harmed and continues to harm” the friendly message of the meme.
The letter also states that people may be hesitant to purchase products associated with “Success Kid” due to King’s use.
The firm asks in the letter that King remove “Success Kid” from all websites he owns or controls, post a message on all websites where he used the meme saying he posted it to solicit funds and did not have permission, and provide a list of all the money he received in response to the meme.
It also demands that King provide proof that the campaign “has refunded or is in the process of refunding all such funds to the payors,” and has notified them that the meme was unauthorized and the owners are not affiliated with his campaign. The letter asks that King contact the firm to discuss compensation for using the meme.
What’s next in impeachment?:16 hours of questions. How that will work
Griner’s lawyer, Stephen Rothschild, said the law firm has not heard back from King, his campaign, or WinRed.
“We hope they will do the right thing and apologize for this blatant misuse of our client’s copyrighted work and their attempt to associate Sam with their extremist views,” he said in an email.
The letter states that if King has not complied with the Griner’s requests by 11 a.m. Wednesday, Griner will sue King, his campaign and WinRed for copyright infringement.
A media representative for King did not return requests for comment.
Sarah LeBlanc covers trending news for the Register. Reach her at [email protected]