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Friday, June 08, 2007


Tintin v. The Copyright Amendment Blob

Bill Leak, cartoonist with The Australian, has been depicting Labor leader Kevin Rudd as Tintin since December 2006. Late last week, Moulinsart, (the firm controlling the copyright of the late Herge, creator of Tintin) based in Brussells threatened to sue Leak over his use of Tintin.

Luckily for Leak, the recently introduced section 41A of the Copyright Act contains a fair dealing exception for the purposes of parody and satire. In light of this, most experts predicted that Moulinsart would not succeed if it decided to take action.

Moulinsart eventually conceded that Leak is free to portray Kevin Rudd as Tintin (yes, the Copyright Amendment Blob won this fight) but threatened to sue if he continued to make the images available for sale via The Australian website (but the war continues). Apparently Leak responded to Moulinstart's letter by saying "I'm not a lawyer, I'm a cartoonist. I poke fun at people for a living. I'm sure Herge would have approved" (source).

A representative for the firm claimed:
"We have no problem with him using Tintin as a parody in his cartoons in the newspaper but when he starts selling them to the public then it becomes more commercial than editorial and he is infringing copyright.... It is passing those cartoons off as something they are not, as something official. He is not permitted to make those sales so we want him to stop doing that and to compensate us for any past sales. Our job is to promote and protect Herge's work and we are very serious about this." ("The Bleak side of Tintin'", The Australian, June 4 2007)
Somehow, I think the many references to Australian industrial relations policy and John Howard might give away the fact that the cartoon isn't quite 'official'. After all, the real Tintin never actually came to Australia.


"Satire, with apologies to Herge", The Australian, June 1 2007
"The Bleak side of Tintin'", The Australian, June 4 2007
"Tintin lives on in Leak'toons" The Australian, June 4 2007

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