The rules of art

Adaptation, authorized sequel, revival, homage or plagiarism? The announced return of Gaston Lagaffe is currently making as much noise in the media as the mammoth gaffophone! This is the opportunity to come back to this complex but nevertheless fundamental question of copyright.
© Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
© Hergé - Moulinsart 2022

But in fact, what is copyright?

Although it has always been considered a form of expression, art - and consequently the 'ninth art' - is no exception and is therefore legally regulated in the same way as other areas of human activity.
Also - but provided that it is original and produced - any creation is protected by copyright. A generic legal term which actually covers two distinct yet complementary dimensions which are:
  • economic rights, which ensure that the holder of these rights (this may be the author or a third party) receives a royalty linked to the distribution and commercial exploitation of the work
  • and moral rights, which protect the non-economic interests of the author - namely: the recognition of the authorship of the work, the guarantee of its integrity, the possibility or not of disclosing it to the public and finally, the right to withdraw and repentance.
© Hergé - Moulinsart 2022

The moral of the story

While economic rights can be assigned (sold) or licensed (in the form of a licence), the moral rights are inherent to the person - namely, specific to the author - and therefore inalienable and imprescriptible.
Thanks to these fundamental rights, the author has the power to firmly oppose any distortion, modification or infringement that could be made to their work without their consent. On their death, this prerogative continues (up to 70 years after their death, in Belgium, but in perpetuity in France) and is passed on to the heirs (also known as the rights holders) or to third parties that they has previously designated by will (known as successor in title).
These are the true "guardians of the temple" and will then act as guarantors. This means that, for example, if the author they represent has expressed the wish not to see their work continued after his or her death, they are in a position to legally oppose any attempt to appropriate or pursue ithat work, with the simple purpose of ensuring that his or her choices and wishes are respected.
This is precisely what motivates Isabelle Franquin, daughter and heir of the Belgian cartoonist of the same name, to oppose the cretion of a new book featuring the popular and sympathetic Gaston Lagaffe, created in 1957. To be continued...
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