Nick Rodwell is a lawyer and the second husband of Fanny, the widow of Hergé, the world-famous creator of comics icon Tintin. As such, he’s the manager of the Tintin estate. He’s also, it seems, a frustrated control freak who is fanatical about controlling all things Tintin, especially in advance of upcoming films.
Cory Doctorow reports on Rodwell’s successful suit against Tintin fan Bob Garcia. Garcia published five essays about Tintin and distributed them on a non-profit basis, but included a few piece of art from the comics in them. As Doctorow explains, in the US this would probably be fair use, but Britain has different copyright laws.
Nick Rodwell, the plaintiff, was accused by Garcia of “a ruthless drive to kill off their harmless and not-for-profit passion in his bid to keep exclusive control of the Tintin brand.”
Britain’s “fair dealing” offers less protection to fans and scholars than does the US’s “fair use” (itself a complicated doctrine). Combined with a litigious copyright owner, it’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to free speech, scholarship, and fan activity.
This is far from Rodwell’s only war with other Tintin enthusiasts. In August, the FPI blog wrote:
In his blog on Tintin.com, quite aptly titled “Nick’s Blog”, Rodwell considerably upped the ante in a row with a select group of journalists that has been going on for years. Hugues Dayez, the author of Tintin Et Les Heritiers (Tintin And The Inheritors), a very critical view on the way Moulinsart is curating Hergé’s legacy, is also the creator of a documentary film that proved, amongst others, that Moulinsart keeps a black list of journalists and Tintin specialists who are to be discredited at all times. Rodwell succeeded in having the RTBF broadcast blocked by the court, but that didn’t seem enough.
In one case Rodwell has suggested that one critic who had a beef with him did so because his son was autistic, and “If you have a passion for something, such as Tintin, you want to share that with your son. If that turns out to be impossible, you become frustrated and you start looking for a scapegoat.”
Garcia has started a Facebook support group, and other Tintin fans are supporting him, and even writing to Steven Spielberg for help.
Coincidentally, it happens to be Fair Use Day, so let’s all appropriate some content for historical purposes!