[Updated 9 June 2015 as more information has been made available.]
Moulinsart, the Belgian company that controls the artist Hergé’s estate, sued a small Dutch fanzine (called Hergé-genootschap) that circulates news/etc. about the young Belgian comic book reporter, Tintin. During the lawsuit, the fans produced a 1942 document that proved that Moulinsart doesn’t actually own all the rights to Tintin—Hergé signed away those rights to his publisher, Casterman, a long time ago.
“It appears, from a 1942 document… that Hergé gave publishing rights for the books of the adventures of Tintin to publisher Casterman so Moulinsart is not the one to decide who can use material from the books,” said the court’s ruling according to AFP.
A Dutch court ruled in favour of the fans, and now Moulinsart has lost Tintin’s publishing copyright in the Netherlands. In order for this to have more widespread consequences, Casterman would, in theory, now have to assert those rights elsewhere (Belgium, France, etc). As of now, this decision only applies to the Netherlands. It would be time consuming to sue in other countries, but at the very least this means that Moulinsart won’t be going after fanzines for a while.
Lesson: Don’t mess with fans; we’re obsessive.
This is only the beginning.
See a full English article on Comic Book Resources.
See a Belgian French article.
Also see: Tintin’s racism controversies.