Surprising virtually everyone, a Dutch court has ruled that Moulinsart SA, which fiercely protects Herge’s creations, doesn’t actually own all the rights to Tintin.
Agence France-Presse reports the commercial and copyright arm of the Herge Foundation had sued a small Dutch fan club in 2012, claiming it failed to secure the rights to republish Tintin art in one of its fanzines. However, what might’ve seemed like a fairly straightforward case of copyright versus fair use was turned on its ear when the attorney for the Herge Society fan club produced a 1942 document in which the author signed over Tintin’s publishing rights to his publisher Casterman.
“It appears from a 1942 document … that Herge gave publishing rights for the books of the adventures of Tintin to publisher Casterman so Moulinsart is not the one to decide who can use material from the books,” the court wrote.
Tom Spurgeon and Bart Beaty offer commentary on that twist, which the latter characterizes as “straight out of a 1940s courtroom melodrama.” “The ownership of Tintin was not something that I think many people thought was in question,” he added.
Neither Moulinsart nor Herge’s family contested the validity of the document, which came from an anonymous Herge expert. What comes next is anybody’s guess.
“The big question is to know whether they (other fan clubs) have to continue paying Moulinsart,” Herge Society secretary Stijn Verbeek told AFP. “Perhaps a Belgian judge has to make such a ruling before it counts in Belgium.”