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Case detail



Directive article Article 5 1.
National ID Hof van Beroep te Gent 3 January 2011
Country Belgium Decision date 03/01/2011
Common name Decision type Court decision in appeal
Court Hof van Beroep te Gent Plaintiff(s) De Bevere-Blanckaert Fran├žoise and Lucky Comics S.A.
Court translation Ghent Court of Appeal Defendant(s) Dedecker Jean-Marie, Lijst Dedecker, and others
Subject unfair competition
Keywords intellectual property rights

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Headnote

Using an image, which is protected by copyright, without obtaining the prior approval of the right holders, constitutes an unfair commercial practice.

Facts

The plaintiffs are the right holders of the comic books entitled "Lucky Luke".

The defendants, a Belgian politician and the political party of whom the first defendant was the president (Lijst Dedecker), had used for a political campaign an image from one of those comic books depicting Lucky Luke, the hero, and the Daltons, four brothers which are the villains throughout the whole series of this comic book.

In the image, the face of Lucky Luke was changed in that of the first defendant, whereas the faces of the Daltons were changed in those of the leaders of several political parties in Belgium. The image was completed with a reference to the political party of the first defendant.

According to the plaintiff, the use of this image violated the plaintiff's copyright. In addition, according to the plaintiff, this use also constituted an unfair commercial practice.
 

Legal issue

Does using an image, which is protected by copyright, without obtaining the prior approval of the right holders, constitute an unfair commercial practice?

Decision

According to the judge, who mainly ruled on the copyright aspect of the case, the disputed image made use of the success of the comic characters Lucky Luke and The Daltons and the image they present, i.e. Lucky Luke as the hero who conquers evil and brings order, and The Daltons as the villains with not much intellectual capacities to speak of.

According to the judge, the expression of the ideas in relation to the hero and the villains are used for political purposes and more in particular to recruit votes. Doing this without asking permission of the right holders, constitutes an unfair commercial practice, so the court concluded on this point.
 

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Result

The plaintiff's arguments were followed both from the copyright and the unfair commercial practices aspect.

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