There have always been lawsuits, lawsuits and lawsuits over copyright issues, but this case is special because what is being defended now is an author’s wish for his character to die with him.
André Franquinthe creator of Gaston Lagaffe (1924-1997) said at the time that he did not want his character to survive him and handed over the moral rights to his daughter, Isabelle Franquin, to ensure that his wish was fulfilled.
The publishing house Dupuis, which owns the publishing rights, announced “Le Retour de Lagaffe”, the return of Gaston in an album with new stories to be released in October, and in April began to circulate a preview of the character’s cartoons. Isabelle Franquin considered this project “illegal” and then applied to the courts for the immediate suspension of any publication, and the Belgian courts suspended publication of the new Gaston Lagaffe comic until 2023.
Reminder: on 17 March 2022, in Angoulême, during the International Comic Strip Festival, at a press conference, Mr Stéphane Beaujean, editorial director of Dupuis (Média Participation group) announced the resurrection of Gaston, under the pencil of the Canadian Marc Delafontaine, alias Delaf.
On 17 and 18 March, illustrations (“Me revoilà!” “Noo!” replies Prunelle falling into Fantasio’s arms), a sketch of the album cover and a full plate of this Gaston project were published in Le Vif L’Express, Le Soir, Spirou, Le Monde, Libé (Libération) and other Belgian and French media.
Mr. Beaujean acknowledges that Mrs. Isabelle Franquin, the sole heir and legitimate owner of André Franquin, who died in 1997, did not want to take over her father’s character, but claims that this right would have been granted to Dupuis, despite his opposition.
This is not true.
Mrs. Isabelle Franquin is the only one entitled to exercise moral rights on behalf of her father, i.e. to enforce the author’s fidelity and his wishes. Moral rights are inalienable. During his lifetime, André Franquin always expressed, continuously and repeatedly, his wish that Gaston would not survive him under the pencil of another artist.
This is why Mrs Isabelle Franquin applied the arbitration procedure imposed by the contract for the transfer of the economic rights to Marsu BV (Mr JF Moyersoen), which transferred them to DARGAUD-LOMBARD (Média Participation group) in March 2013.
Faced with the announcement of the pre-publication of a weekly instalment of Gaston by Delaf in the Journal de Spirou from 6 April 2022, Ms Isabelle Franquin applied to the President of the French-speaking Court of First Instance in Brussels for the urgent and provisional suspension of all pre-publication of these illustrations and comic strips pending the arbitration ruling.
This summary procedure, introduced on 25 March, was argued at the hearing on 16 May 2022.
The companies Editions Dupuis and Dargaud-Lombard have undertaken not to publish anything before the end of the arbitration: neither the plates, nor the extracts of plates, cartoons and drawings of Gaston by Delaf, until the arbitration award is rendered!
Under these conditions, only the question of costs in this case remains to be decided in the summary proceedings. The order is expected in early June. The main thing is agreed: the companies of the Média Participations group will no longer violate André Franquin’s moral rights over his work pending the court decision.
Mrs Isabelle Franquin will defend the respect of her father’s will to the end.
Isabelle Franquin, 16 May 2022.
According to some estimates published in various media, 1.2 million copies could be sold if published.
The legal/moral dilemma is being played out. On the one hand, the publisher is supposed to be able to make use of the legitimate rights it enjoys, but it remains to be seen how these rights collide under the law with the moral rights acquired by the cartoonist’s daughter in which she expressed her desire to “kill” Gaston Lagaffe.
The publisher’s lawyers argue that these moral rights that André Franquin left to his daughter as a legacy allow her to oppose certain publication projects for ethical or artistic reasons directly related to the content of the new cartoons, but not to the publication of new cartoons in general.
Be that as it may, this will be a case to follow because it will be an interesting battle between what is usually called “the industry”, in its purely mercantilist sense, and the more personal, sentimental and artistic sphere of the author.
A final judgement is expected in September, and it is expected that we will then know for sure.