Moulinsart

Sacrilege!

In 2006, a worldwide protest was created by the publication of a series of cartoons of Muhammad appeared in Danish newspapers. According to the protestors, such images were sacrilege and affront to muslims everywhere. So strong were the Islamist feelings that Danish flags were burnt, embassies attacked and over 100 people died in violent confrontations with the police.

protest.jpg

Photo (c) sgrah, CC Some Rights Reserved

The Truth

The real story is much more complicated than that.

The protests were the result of a concerted effort to generate outrage that took several months to bear fruit. This included the creation of new cartoons by the agitators that were far more offensive than the original images. The irony of muslims deliberately creating offensive images to incite muslims over offensive images appears to be lost on the extreme elements of the muslim world.

The whole concept of banning images of Muhammad is itself relatively new and limited only to certain parts of the muslim faith. The image below show a young Muhammad meeting the monk Bahira. The image dates from around 1315 AD.

Muammad-as-youth-meeting-monk-bahira-compendium-persia-1315-edin-550.jpg

Tintin Meets Muhammad

In the May 17, 1977 edition of the Nouveau Tintin, the French language Tintin magazine ran an piece on the life of Muhammad. This sort of historical article was common in the Tintin magazine because Herge had very strong ideas about educating and informing the children who read his publication.

The article covered all of Muhammad’s life and he was repeatedly shown. His early life had simple illustrations but his later life is depicted as a full comic strip. In the sample page below, Muhammad is in the red turban, being wounded by an arrow.

muhammad Tintin

Image (c) Nouveau Tintin magazine

For more on this, visit the Mohammed Image Archive

Moulinsart

There are growing signs of a public relations disaster for Moulinsart over the Bob Garcia case with several UK newspapers running stories about a potential boycott.

Trouble started when Moulinsart sued Bob Garcia over five short books he published about Tintin. In two of the books, he reproduced images owned by Moulinsart believing he was covered by the doctrine of fair use. At the initial trial Mr Garcia won but lost on appeal and is now facing bankruptcy over a €40,000 bill for damages.

Bob Garcia’s own blog contains no mention of a boycott. It does have some quotes that are alleged to have been made by Moulinsart to journalists about “Moulinsart [being a] victim of harassment by Bob Garcia” which is certainly an interesting spin on the situation.

Both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have run stories on the case. For two major UK papers to cover a French story about copyright infringement is a demonstration of the power of Tintin’s name and the size of the potential PR disaster the Moulinsart are facing.

Help! (Or Should That Be Aider!)

My French is shockingly bad and I rely mostly on Google Translate to read non-English news coverage. If any of my readers are following this case (and other Tintin news) in the French or Belgium media, could you please keep me updated with any interesting links or developments.

I’m particularly interested in finding the Facebook group set-up in support of Mr Garcia. If you can track it down, please let me know. UPDATE: Thanks to @muziejus for tracking down the Support Bob Garcia Facebook group.

If you have any links or news you want to share, please just comment to this or any other post on the site, or email me: Chris [at] TintinMovie [dot] org.

Sources: Tintin fans threaten boycott of film after aficionado sued over pamphlets of comic hero, Tintin film boycott threat over row with Hergé widow’s British husband, Video of Bob Garcia in 2007 being interviewed on French TV about his books.

UPDATE: Some coverage on US web sites: Spielberg’s ‘TINTIN’ Euro Release Stirs Legal Debacle

Herge, Moulinsart

There are a lots of words that can describe Nick Rodwell but popular is not one of them.

As head of Moulinsart and husband to Herge’s second wife Fanny, he holds in his hands one of the biggest, most iconic and most loved characters of the 20th Century. A man in this position has to make some hard decisions and will inevitably step on some toes but Nick Rodwell does seem to have a special gift when it comes to annoying people. Not many publishers are on the receiving end of a 200 pages of a book criticising nearly everything they have done.

Stéphane Steeman, Belgian humourist, radio presenter, writer, Herge collector and longtime president of The Friends of Herge has self-published a new book L’escalade. It is not all about Nick Rodwell but about The Friends of Herge and how the actions of Moulinsart destoryed his love for Herge’s works.

… censorship, bans, subpoenas, legal threats, blackmail and so forth, out of decency of our members I never mentioned the name of Mr. Rodwell in our reviews, I never criticized Moulinsart … And yet, I’m in a squad that Mr. Rodwell was nicknamed “The Black List”

It is hard to tell from the sources if this book is born out of personal bitterness against Nick Rodwell and Moulinsart or a genuine, well rounded criticism of the man and the company. Mr Rodwell’s behaviour has certainly been far from the standards set by Tintin and the company’s legitimate desire to protect its copyright has at times appeared self-defeating.

Boycott Moulinsart!

One of the company’s ongoing legal battles is against Bob García. As we reported earlier, Mr Garcia published five Tintin related books. Two of these books used a handful of images that are owned by Moulinsart that the author believed were usable under the idea of Fair Use. At the initial trial, the judge found in favour of Bob Garcia however Moulinsart won on appeal and are now forcing Mr Garcia into bankruptcy to collect damages. Some fans are now trying to organise a boycott of Herge products on behalf of Mr Garcia.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, it is certainly doing the image of Moulinsart and Nick Rodwell no good at all.

Sources: Stéphane Steeman consacre un livre à Nick Rodwell, son pire ennemi, Los fans de Tintin amenazan con boicotear la película de Spielberg, L’ESCALADE, de Stéphane Steeman

Moulinsart

On the blog of Pierre Assouline (author of Herge: The Man who Created Tintin) there is news of Moulinsart using their legal muscle to push a small publisher to bankruptcy.

As everything is in French and I’m relying on a Google Translation, I cannot sure of the facts of the case. What appears to have happened is that Bob Garcia, writer and Jazz Musician, published some work that included images of copyright images of Tintin. Moulinsart sued and initially lost but won on appeal.

Without seeing the work concerned, it is impossible to see whether this action is justified. But the Nick Rodwell and the company have a track record of heavily enforcing their copyright and trying to go beyond what they are legally entitled to (see Bad Press for Moulinsart, Moulinsart Washing Dirty Laundry in Public, Fan Site Killed by Legal Threats and Moulinsart Versus Art).

Source: Moulinsart l’a tué, presque

Herge, Moulinsart, Tintin, Tintin in the Congo

This week it was a Congolese accountant suing Moulinsart over the racist images in Tintin in the Congo. Last week it was Brooklyn Library’s decision to lock the book up. Before that is was the British Commission for Racial Equality who attacked the book.

With a high profile film on the way, Moulinsart must be wondering what to do about this never ending stream of bad publicity. There is a very real danger that Herge’s name and reputation will become tarnished by this 80 year old comic but their options are limited and none of them are ideal.

Publish and be Dammed

Ignoring the fuss and sticking to the line that Tintin Au Congo is a work of a young writer living in a very different time is certainly the most honest and intellectually sound idea but it all to easily could look like they are condoning racism.

The investors in the movie will be nervous about how this will play in America. At the moment, Tintin is almost unknown so no one really cares but in 18 months time, it will be a different story. Images of black protestors outside of cinemas would critically damage the film in the race conscious USA. With a reported $130 million invested we can be sure that the studios executives will be on the phone to the head of Moulinsart, Nick Rodwell, demanding that something is done.

Bury It

The simplest option is for Moulinsart to make an announcement saying that the book is out-dated and to stop publishing the book, removing all traces of it from their product line. Rather like the victim of a Stalinist purge, Tintin Au Congo will be airbrushed out of the official history, leaving behind an idealised image of Herge and his creation for public consumption. Certainly, real Tintin fans would know about the book and rumours would circulate in the general public but the charges of racism would be effectively blunted.

To an extent this has been done already, with its withdrawal from the US market but in order silence the critics, they need to withdraw it all languages and all editions, including the facsimile editions. This approach is the easiest option and will cost the company relatively little in lost sales.

The Sacred Cow

Herge left strict instructions that no one else should write or draw Tintin after his death and Moulinsart have devoutly stuck to this. The temptation of the millions a new Tintin book could make has been suppressed by the overwhelming desire to protect Herge’s legacy and honour his life work. But can this commitment stand up to the pressure of public opinion and the demands of studio executives? Would Moulinsart release a modified, updated version of Tintin in the Congo?

This would be a major step for Moulinsart and one that may open the floodgates to new Tintin material but it would have a number of advantages. It tackles the accusation of racism without creating the skeleton in the closet that simply burying the book might create. It would be profitable as well as millions of Tintin fans buy the new edition and it generates a huge amount of positive publicity.

No Right Answer

Each of these potential solutions create their own problems and picking between them is no easy task but it seem unlikely that doing nothing is a viable option. A constant stream of Tintin is Racist headlines will damage Herge’s reputation and the prospects for the film.

Personally I think they should publish and be dammed. Herge’ life story is complex but overall it is a positive one. Trying to hide or deny Europe’s colonial and racist past helps nobody in the long run. Tintin exemplified the boy scout idea of being honest and doing the right thing. Let’s be honest about Tintin’s past.

Herge, Moulinsart

The blog of Nick Rodwell, head of Moulinsart and owner of the rights to Tintin, has been suspended by the editors of Tintin.com.

Mr Rodwell apparently used the blog to launch a unrestrained attack on certain journalists and newspapers. One French newspaper reporter was described as “The Liar” and described two French and Belgian television reporters as having an “hatred towards me”. The full text of the attack is not available but reports in the Belgium press suggest it also included personal insults and comments about the journalist’s families.

In an announcement on the Tintin.com website there was no apology but “In a spirit of appeasement, we have decided to remove the contested texts and comments”.

It is not clear what sparked the diatribe from Nick Rodwell but he has received a lot of criticism for his tight control over the use of Tintin. He is married to Fanny Vlamynck, the Herge’s second wife and together they have ruled over the world of Tintin. When the Herge museum opened, journalists from all other the world arrived only to find that were not allowed to film inside the building. In the past, Moulinsart has tried to ban work by Danish artist Ole Ahlberg, succeeded in shutting down fan sites and had a very public dispute with Tintin’s publishers, Casterman.

Source: Tintin blog shut down after attack, Nick Rodwell’s blog closed in response to criticism.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mark, who has provided a link to the original text in English. It is a rambling, incoherent and absolutely unjustified invasion into the privacy of the journalists and their children. One can only speculate as to why an a clearly intelligent man would stoop to such attacks but it is clear the Mr Rodwell could do with some time off.

Casterman, Moulinsart

Further to our reports yesterday Bad Press for Moulinsart it seems that Moulinsart (holds of the Tintin copyright) are in dispute with Casterman (Tintin’s publishers). Via a magazine interview, Moulinsart have announced they are setting their lawyers on the problem. A long and costly courtroom battle looks likely.

Combined with attacks on fan groups, this looks like Moulinsart getting organised ahead of the sales bonanza that will surround the release of the film. A box office smash will generate hundreds of millions of dollars of merchandise and book sales and a significant slice of it will go straight into Moulinsart pocket. Even a poor box office performance will generate a lot of sales of the books as old fans are reminded of Tintin and seek to complete their collections.

This is shrewd business by Moulinsart. If they can increase their earnings from Herge’s creation by just 0.5% by these legal maneuverings they will be tens of millions of dollars better off.

Source: Tintinologist (via The Tintin Blog)

Editorial, Herge, Links, Moulinsart

Tintin fan site Objectif Tintin is shutting down tomorrow after Moulinsart sent legal threats over its use of Herge’s art in its logo and other places. Under Belgian law, such usage is legal but Moulinsart is throwing its muscle around more and more. Presumably it wants tight control over Tintin in anticipation of millions of new fans, and dollars, the Tintin movies will bring in.

Source: Tintin site decides to close up shop

Herge, Moulinsart, Tintin and Snowy

The Danish artist, Ole Ahlberg, was sued by Moulinsart (Tintin’s copyright holders), for using images of Tintin and the Thompson Twins in his art. They lost.

This dates back to 2001, when the artist was opening a show of his art in Brussels with the wife of the Danish prime minister when Moulinsart’s lawyers demanded the offending images be removed. Ahlberg refused and the case went to court where the Judge found in the artists favour on the grounds that parody is allowable under Belgian and international copyright law.

An example of Ole Ahlberg’s work is below and his online gallery is here.

OleAhlberg

Source: Forbidden Planet