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The Mom Of "Success Kid" Sent Rep. Steve King A Cease-And-Desist Letter For Using The Meme In An Ad

"I have/would never give permission for use of my son's photo to promote any agenda of this vile man or that disgusting party."

Posted on January 27, 2020, at 5:47 p.m. ET

Courtesy Laney Griner

The mother of the boy in the "Success Kid" meme has sent Rep. Steve King, who is known for his racist and anti-immigrant remarks, a cease-and-desist letter after the famous image was used in a fundraising campaign ad for his reelection.

Attorneys for Laney Griner sent King and his campaign the letter on Monday arguing that the lawmaker was infringing on her copyright and violating her son's rights by using the image in an ad with the words "FUND OUR MEMES."

The ad appeared on WinRed, an online campaign donor platform. King also posted a link to the ad on his Facebook page.

Screengrab / Via secure.winred.com

In a series of tweets, Griner said King and his campaign did not have her permission to use the photo of her son and called on the member of Congress to immediately remove the image from his campaign sites.

"Neither I, my son, nor 'Success Kid' have any affiliation with Representative King, nor would we have ever agreed to this use," Griner tweeted. "I do not endorse Representative King and, like most people, I strongly disagree with his views."

1/5 I recently learned that Iowa Representative Steve King is using my copyrighted photograph of my minor son Samuel known as “Success Kid” to raise money in a “Fund our Memes” online campaign, also implying that he has some kind of ownership in it.

King's staff and his campaign did not immediately return BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.

By Monday afternoon, the post, which included a link to the WinRed ad and asked "Do you enjoy our memes?? 🤔 If so, please click the link below," had been removed from King's Facebook page.

King, who has served in Congress since 2003, has a history of making racist statements, has spoken in support of white nationalism and against immigration, and made remarks defending incest and rape. Last year, House Republican leadership removed King from his committee assignments because of the racist comments.

Last week, Griner retweeted an image of the ad on King's Facebook page, saying that she did not give the lawmaker permission to use the photo.

"I have/would never give permission for use of my son's photo to promote any agenda of this vile man or that disgusting party," she tweeted.

Just so it’s clear - I have/would never give permission for use of my son’s photo to promote any agenda of this vile man or that disgusting party. https://t.co/AVdl9dxXCs

Griner first posted the picture of Sam with a fistful of sand and a smug look on his face to her Flickr page in 2007. The image went viral and eventually became known as the "Success Kid" meme. Today, the image is still used by people to illustrate an achievement or satisfaction.

Griner initially licensed the image through Getty but ultimately decided to get the copyright, which was registered in 2012, according to the letter. Since then, Griner has fielded many requests to use the image in advertisements and for online campaigns.

The image has been licensed by Honey Bunches of Oats for television ads and Coca-Cola for a Super Bowl commercial. In 2013, the Obama administration used the image to promote immigration reform, with Griner's permission.

But not all companies have reached out to get authorization. In 2015, Griner sued a fireworks retailer for using the image without her permission. That matter was resolved in a confidential settlement, said Stephen Rothschild, Griner’s attorney.

"Our client has a long-established history of licensing 'Success Kid' to legitimate advertisers," Griner's attorneys wrote in the letter to King. "Unlike you and your campaign, they followed the law, gave our client the opportunity to approve or disapprove of their uses, bargained for licenses, and paid for the rights they legitimately acquired."

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