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Hergé heirs lose exclusive rights to ‘Tintin’ comics

AFP | Comics author Georges Remi (also known as Hergé) reading his book “Tintin and the Lake of Sharks” on December 7, 1972

A Dutch court has ruled that the heirs of “Tintin” creator Hergé do not have exclusive control over images from the famed comic book after a document from 1942 revealed that the author signed away the rights to his publisher.


The case has all the intrigue of an actual “Tintin” adventure. In 2012 Moulinsart SA, a Belgian company that manages Hergé’s work on behalf of his family, sued a small Dutch fan club for publishing images from the beloved comic book series in its fanzine.

Moulinsart claimed that the group, the Hergé Society, had broken the law by using the images without obtaining prior authorisation or paying for the rights.

But in an unexpected twist, a lawyer for the Hergé Society produced a document in court signed by Hergé (whose real name is Georges Remi) in 1942, giving the rights to “Tintin” to his publisher, Casterman.

The lawyer, Katelijn van Voorst, obtained the document from an expert on Hergé who wished to remain anonymous.

Neither Hergé’s family nor Moulinsart contested the new evidence, which judges at an appeals court in The Hague cited in their decision.

“It appears in a document from 1942…. that Moulinsart is not the one to decide who can use images taken from the book, and therefore does not have the copyright in this case,” said the ruling, which was seen by AFP Monday.

The judgment comes as a major blow to Moulinsart, which was long assumed to hold exclusive rights to “Tintin”, and is known for aggressively protecting and promoting Hergé’s work.

“The big question is to know whether [other ‘Tintin’ fan clubs] will have to continue to pay Moulinsart SA,” Stijn Verbeek, head of the Hergé Society, told AFP.

Voorst noted that the 1942 document “is very interesting for everyone, both abroad and in the Netherlands”.

The Friends of Hergé fan club in Belgium, however, said it was “too early” to tell how the ruling would change things.

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