Bill Leak, the editorial cartoonist for The Australian, has been subjected to the threat of legal action by Moulinsart SA in Belgium, who own the worldwide commerical rights to Hergé’s Tintin. Leak has been portraying the Australian opposition leader Kevin Rudd in a Tintin style for several months, with most readers apparently finding his caricature of the politician as Tintin to be spot on. Less so Moulinsart SA who are not so amused by it and have demanded that he not “commercialise paintings and other cartoons reproducing parodied adaptations of Tintin and Snowy” and also pay “reasonable copyrights”.
“Rudd looks like the little bloke who is taking on the big adventure and who just might prevail in the end,” Leak explained, adding that he didn’t have to do much to make Tintin resemble Rudd, “All I did was add a bit of a chin to him. And sometimes a little bit of a firmness to the mouth.”
His editor, Paul Whittaker hoped an amicable solution could be reached and pointed out that these cartoons are not parodies of Tintin, they are parodies of the politician Kevin Rudd. I’m not sure what the legal situation is in Oz, but I thought satire like this was perfectly acceptable under the ‘fair use’ terms? Sticking with Bill Leak, he recently wrote a piece in the Australian discussing what a cartoonist looks for when planning a caricature: “The answer is shape. For instance, does this person have a big, square block of a head like Mark Latham’s, a soccer ball-shaped head like Kevin Rudd’s, or a Steeden football-shaped head like Petro Georgiou’s? Nick Greiner was one of those rare people whose head was like a horizontal football, the view you’d get if it was laying on a shelf.
The things you look for next are the things that stick out: funny noses especially bulbous ones like Peter Costello’s; weird ears (thanks again Costello); whopping great chins like Peter Garrett’s; silly little chins like Mark Vaile’s which looks more like a lump in his neck; jowls like a frigate bird’s throat like Peter Reith’s, or bottom lips that poke out so far you wonder how their owners don’t drown when it rains. ”
Bill goes on to add that following these rules may help caricature drawing but it also means the cartoonist should never, ever draw one of someone they know well because it will all end in tears… The Australian has a good online selection of cartoons from Bill and his colleagues available online here.