Hergé's heirs lose legal battle with Tintin parody artist

Xavier Marabout painted an amusing yet exquisitely detailed series of works depicting Tintin, the overwhelmingly decent and heroic journalist, hanging out with women—a rare creature in the works of Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Moulinsart S.A., the company that holds the right's to Hergé's work, sued for infringement over the depictions and has lost big. Not only did a French court determine that the paintings are parodies, but it ordered Moulinsart to pay €10,000 over threats it issued to galleries showing Marabout's work and €20,000 in legal fees.

Xavier Marabout's dreamy artworks imagine Tintin into the landscapes of Edward Hopper, including a take on Queensborough Bridge, 1913, or talking with a less-clothed version of Hopper's Chop Suey. Earlier this year, the Breton artist was sued for infringement by Moulinsart, which manages the Tintin business. Moulinsart's lawyer argued that "taking advantage of the reputation of a character to immerse him in an erotic universe has nothing to do with humour". Marabout's lawyer argued that the paintings were parody. On Monday, Moulinsart's complaint was rejected by the court in Rennes. "The court recognised the parody exception and the humorous intention expressed by my client," Marabout's lawyer, Bertrand Ermeneux, said.

It's interesting to see how such actions differ from those in the U.S. and the U.K. The idea that a character has a reputation to defend intersects oddly with trademarks, but in Europe there are stronger protections for artists' moral rights. I'd love to read an expert analysis of this case now that the verdict's out.

Moulinsart seems to have a reputation for heavy-handed enforcement of Tintin "intellectual property".