If you’ve spent time on the internet in the last decade, you’ve likely come across a viral meme sometimes described as the “success kid.” The meme features a little boy at the beach who looks extremely pleased with himself and appears to be making a celebratory fist. It’s adorable, wholesome, and as GOP Rep. Steve King likely just learned, copyrighted. When the little boy’s mother, Laney Griner, discovered her son’s face was used in one of King’s campaign ads, she was, as she told The Washington Post in an interview, “filled with rage.” Now, she says she’s working with a legal team to make King and his campaign take down the image and apologize.
Here is her original tweet that features King’s ad.
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
— Laney Griner (@laneymg) January 23, 2020
As well as her recent follow-ups.
2/5 Representative King and his campaign staff appropriated “Success Kid” without my permission. “Success Kid’s” is about positivity and celebrates achievement. Neither I, my son, nor “Success Kid” have any affiliation with Representative King,
— Laney Griner (@laneymg) January 27, 2020
“I don’t want anyone thinking I was willing to accept any amount of money for them to use it,” Griner, who told the Post she’s a liberal, continued to the news outlet. “There’s no amount of money I would take for that. … We stay away from negative attachments, and this is about as negative as you can get in my mind.”
According to what Griner’s lawyer told the Post, King has until Wednesday, Jan. 29, to take action. Otherwise, Griner will move forward and sue both King’s campaign and his fundraising site.
As BuzzFeed News reports, Griner gave permission to former President Barack Obama to use the image back in 2013 to promote immigration reform. Vice reports that Griner granted permission to Hot Topic, Vitamin Water, and Radio Shack, among others in the past.
If you’re curious about the boy in the ad, he’s not a “fan” of Trump, either. “He’s basically been a meme for as long as he knows. But once he hit 12, 13 it was just like, an embarrassment for him,” Griner told GQ when the publication asked how her son felt about King using his likeness. “He watches the news with us and he definitely is not a fan of Trump or what this party is about.”