The adventures of Tintin in the land of counterfeits

Expressly provided for by Article L. 122-5, 4°, of the Intellectual Property Code which provides that: “When the work has been disclosed, the author may not prohibit: parody, pastiche and caricature, given the laws of the genre” it is sometimes misused by creators accused of counterfeiting.

The Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence, seized on the occasion of a dispute opposing the estate of the author of comic strips Hergé to an artist marketing works of “pop art”, recalls very precisely the criteria which make it possible to qualify or not a work of parody.

Georges Rémi, known as “Hergé”, author of comic strips of Belgian nationality, is mainly known for being at the origin of the many adventures of his emblematic character, the reporter “Tintin”. Deceased in 1987, the succession of Hergé represented by his widow, with regard to moral and patrimonial rights and by the Moulinsart company, which became Tintinimaginatio for derivative rights, battles fiercely against any infringing exploitation of his copyrights. His battles have often made it possible to advance case law, particularly with regard to the definition of the parody exception.

The case opposed this time the estate of Hergé to a visual artist, author of sculptures “representing in particular the figures of” pop culture “such as Snoopy, Popeye or Mickey using the technique of screen printing and that of masking, attached to the artistic movement of the poster designers. »

During the year 2017, the sculptor undertook to manufacture and market, in art galleries, sculptures inspired by the original elements extracted from the work of Hergé, in particular the face and the bust of Tintin and the rocket extracted from the albums “Objectif Lune” and “On a marche sur la Lune”, without seeking prior authorization from his heirs.

Upon discovery of these works, Hergé’s heirs ordered seizure-counterfeiting operations then assigned, according to the document initiating proceedings of March 18, 2019, the sculptor as well as one of the art galleries located in Marseille which had marketed 55 busts of Tintin and 14 sculptures representing the rocket, before the judicial court of Marseille. It also appeared that the works were named with reference to Tintin album titles.

In support of his action, the estate of the author argued that the character of Tintin was an original intellectual creation born of Hergé’s imagination, just like the rocket present in the albums “Objectif Lune” and “On a marche on the Moon”, as well as the titles of the albums, which was naturally disputed by the sculptor. He maintained that the very features of the character of Tintin would not be original and that the originality of the titles of the albums would not be characterized. He also argued that his works fell under the parody exception provided for…

The adventures of Tintin in the land of counterfeits