Tintin, Kevin Rudd and copyright law – June 1, 2007

An Australian satirical cartoonist has been stopped from drawing politician Kevin Rudd in the parody likeness of Tintin.

Bill Leak is the editorial cartoonist for The Australian newspaper. He has been threatened with legal action by Moulinsart SA in Belgium, which owns the commercial rights to Hergé’s famous character.

Leak has been drawing Aussie opposition leader Kevin Rudd in a Tintin style for some months — and most folk seem to think the likeness is near-perfect. But Moulinsart is displeased; it wants to ensure that Leak cannot “commercialise paintings and other cartoons reproducing parodied adaptations of Tintin and Snowy.â€� It is also looking for Leak to pay “reasonable copyrightsâ€�.

Herge was known to avoid political scenes and advocated understanding through his comics. But parodying comic characters for social commentary should hardly be viewed under the same lens as copyright infringement. Australian copyright law has expressly allowed satirical impression. The exception was introduced in Dec-2006 with a view to “promote free speech and Australia’s fine tradition of satire by allowing comedians and cartoonists to use copyright material for the purposes of parody or satire.” European laws does not have the same provision.

Here are some links to news articles and blogs on this topic: