CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCAU) — A lawsuit accusing a former Iowa representative of copyright infringement after he used a meme for his political campaign will now be in the hands of an Iowa court.
A lawsuit filed against Steve King has been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. The lawsuit, which was filed in December of 2020, was moved to the Cedar Rapids court on June 21.
According to court documents, Laney Marie Griner and Sam Griner sued King, King for Congress and others not disclosed for using a meme that Laney owns the registered copyright for. The photo features Sam and is known as an Internet meme titled “Success Kid.” The meme was posted on King’s campaign fundraising page on Facebook and WinRed. The lawsuit said the use of the meme used the plaintiff’s “identify and persona for their own use and benefit, namely, to raise money for King for Congress and WinRed.”
Laney registered the meme in February of 2012. The photo has been licensed to legitimate advertisers including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Microsoft, Vitamin Water, Hot Topic, Virgin Mobil, and more.
The lawsuit said the Griners were “horrified” after learning they had used Sam’s likeness to support King’s campaign, who find the former representative’s views to be “abhorrent.” In a series of tweets from January of 2020, Laney Griner called for King to remove the meme and admit to taking it without their permission, as well as refund all money raised from the campaign for misusing the meme.
On a January 29, 2020, post on King’s campaign’s Facebook page, the campaign admitted to using the meme to solicit funds. King said that when he learned that the meme was copyrighted and owned by Laney Griner, they took it down, saying they regretted using it.
The Griners are seeking at least $75,000 in damages, as well as punitive damages for “their unauthorized use of Sam’s likeness and invasion of his privacy.”
King has a history of being embroiled in controversy. The lawsuit said King has been under fire for making comments and sharing tweets of white supremacists. In an January 2019 interview with The New York Times, King asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization, how did that language become offensive?” He has also made offensive comments about Muslim children preventing civilization from being restored, saying America can’t “restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.” He has compared immigrants crossing the border illegally to cattle and made light of rape and incest in defending his anti-abortion views.
King lost his bid to be nominated for a 10th term during the Iowa primary in June of 2020, being beat out by Rep. Randy Feenstra.