Piracy Jeopardises Tintin's Entry to China
16 June 1999
The effort to bring Tintin into China has been plagued by legal problems, caused largely by China's inability to crack down on piracy.
Tintin books were once legally published in Chinese in the late 1970s by Epoch, a publishing house in Taiwan.
Epoch's "The Adventures of Ding Ding" (Tintin) were never officially exported to China due to the political rivalry between Taiwan and China.
Since the 1980s, several editions of "The Adventures of Ding Ding" (Tintin) have surfaced in China, with the Wen Lian and Qinghai editions being the most well known. First published in mid-1998, the Qinghai edition books are still found in book shops throughout China.
Angered by the Chinese publisher's blatant disregard of copyright, Casterman issued a protest and threatened legal action against Qinghai People's Publishing House.
Qinghai People's Publishing House responded to Casterman's threat by claiming they had been mislead by a Beijing-based book dealer who had told them that Hergé had been dead for over fifty years and therefore his work was in the public domain. To show their innocence and good faith, Qinghai promised Casterman that they would recall and destroy all unsold copies of "The Adventures of Ding Ding".
Meanwhile, at least three other Chinese publishers have expressed interest in acquiring the rights to publish the Tintin series in China.
In May, the Executive Director of Casterman went to China to select the next new official Chinese Tintin publisher. And just as Tintin was to be given the passport to China, a new scandal arose: it was discovered that in April, a new series, "The New Adventures of Ding Ding", published by Haitun, had begun to appear on the bookstands. To make matters worse, the supposedly recalled Qinghai edition books were still widely available. Outraged, Casterman immediately suspended discussions with the prospective licensee and began to pursue Haitun and Qinghai.
Qinghai have kept their "we-are-as-much-a-victim" stance; and Haitun have claimed that their "The New Adventures of Ding Ding" series is actually the official Chinese edition of Willy Vandersteen's "Bob and Bobette".
To Casterman's objection of Haitun's use of the name "Ding Ding", which Tintin is known to the Chinese, Haitun's response is tongue-in-cheek: they argue that by adopting the name "Ding Ding" for their Bob and Bobette books, they have helped to reduce sales of pirated "Ding Ding" (Tintin) books. By releasing their series as "The New Adventures of Ding Ding", Haitun claimed to have steered fans of Herge's "Ding Ding" (Tintin) away from pirated books to their new and legitimate books. In other words, Haitun are saying they have been doing Casterman a favour.
Casterman will likely sue Haitun and Qinghai for damages. The case with Qinghai is a simple one of breach of copyright. However, the trouble with Haitun is complicated: Haitun have registered the use of the name, "Ding Ding", with the Chinese copyright authorities; this means even if Tintin gets his passport to China, he may need to be called "Ting Ting" or some other name, for the name "Ding Ding" is now the collective name, in Chinese, for Bob and Bobette!
Notes: Original Flemish title Suske en Wiske. Bob et Bobette in French and Willy and Wanda in English.
Sources: Zhao Chenyu: Trouble with the Chinese Passport, Zhonghua Dushu bao, 16 June 1999.