Tintin: no infringement for parodic works inspired by Hergé19/05/2021
The court of Rennes dismissed the Belgian company, exclusive owner of the exploitation rights of Hergé’s work, which asked for the condemnation of a French artist for having reproduced and adapted the world of Tintin without the consent of his beneficiaries and between 10,000 and 15,000 euros of damages.
At issue are twenty-three paintings featuring the character of Tintin in a setting inspired by the works of the famous American painter Edward Hopper.
For the record, comics are protected on several levels. First, the comic book itself can be protected as a literary work and often results from a collaboration between several co-authors. Secondly, the characters and their universe are also likely to be protected separately, as an original work taken in isolation from the comic strip. The character/work is thus at the center of all the other works that make up the comic strip, notably the dialogues, the scenario, the illustrations.
The court of Rennes rendered its decision on May 10. It recognizes the exception of parody in that the defendant artist used Hergé’s work with a humorous intention for a critical purpose. The court also held that inspiration remains possible as long as the original work is not infringed.
The plaintiff company also invoked the moral rights of Hergé, who refused to include women in his work because they are “rarely comic elements“. The lawyer of the French artist pointed out this conflict between copyright and freedom of expression and creation. His client had indeed made paintings where we saw the character of Tintin in the company of women. “It is the principle of parody“, explains the artist. His reasoning convinced the judges.
The sentence is heavy for the Belgian company that had contacted galleries to prevent the exhibition of the disputed works, since the court considered that the latter has unfairly denigrated the French artist. It will have to pay him 10 000 euros as damages, and 20 000 euros for legal costs.
By the IP/IT team of UGGC Avocats