June 8, 2015
Moulinsart Lost A Legal Case At The Hague Over Tintin Rights
The best article I've read this morning on what seems to be an astonishing decision in the Netherlands over Tintin rights is found here
-- with an image of a key court document and a link to the actual decision made.
As I understand it, a Netherlands-based Tintin fan group founded back in the 1990s
was sued by longtime assumed Tintin rights holder Moulinsart in a way that people have come to expect of Moulinsart: aggressively, and not just for commercial use but for what some countries and persons living there would hold are obviously fair use circumstances because they are specifically utilized to illustrate study or commentary.
What came out in that court according to these reports is a 1942 document where Hergé assigned rights to his publisher, Casterman. This is sort of like finding there's a tape of a lengthy 1962 conversation between Martin Goodman and Jack Kirby just sitting around somewhere.
I asked Bart Beaty what he thought of the case, and received back this thoughtful response from the knowledgeable observer of the European comics industry.
"This is a legal decision that comes almost completely out of left field with absolutely no warning. There relatively little online chatter about the lawsuit that resulted in this decision, and the surprise piece of evidence -- straight out of a 1940s courtroom melodrama -- was not something that was on the radar. The ownership of Tintin was not something that I think many people thought was in question. This is not like the Kirby family suddenly winning the rights to his creations (indeed, it would be the opposite because this ruling takes the rights from the family and gives them to the publisher) but is in many ways a bigger deal. We knew that the Kirbys were fighting for the rights and that there was always a chance, however slim, that they might win them. There wasn't much of a struggle going on here.
"Reaction in my social media has been a mixture of pure shock -- my own first reaction -- and a good deal of joy. It is important to bear in mind that Nick Rodwell, who runs Moulinsart, is one of the most disliked people in European comics amongst fans. The husband of Hergé's second wife, he has taken hold of the Tintin empire and consistently reined over it in a way that antagonizes fans and scholars (Moulinsart is relentless in the protection of the Tintin copyrights even to the point of discouraging academic study of the Tintin books). More than a few people feel that Casterman would be better stewards of the Hergé legacy than the man who married his widow.
"Ultimately, I have no idea how this will play out. Expect appeals and counter-suits, naturally. This was a bolt out of the blue -- like waking up to learn that the sky is orange. It's just completely unexpected."
We'll continue to report on this as more news come out.
posted 8:25 am PST
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