French Court decides on the sequel of Les Miserables

By EDRi · February 14, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

The French Cour de Cassation (the highest Appeal Court in France) has taken
a decision regarding a sequel of the famous French book Les Miserables,
that was contested by one of the descendants of Victor Hugo. The Court
has refused to ban the appearance of the sequel and has taken into
consideration the right of adaptation and not just the moral right of
integrity. However, the procedure is not over yet.

The case started six years ago when the great-great-grandson of Victor
Hugo, Pierre Hugo, considered that two books published and marketed by Plon
publisher as the sequels of the famous “Les Miserables” were breaching
the moral rights of the author.

Victor Hugo’s masterpiece is in the public domain, but, under the French
law, the moral rights of the author are considered timeless and are passed
on to descendants.

The Court of Appeal decided in March 2004 that Hugo’s heirs were right in
their demands and condemned Plan in paying a symbolic 1 Euro as damages.
The Appeal Court considered that no sequel could be made on such a
masterpiece as Les Miserables, without breaching the moral right of the
author, that thought that his work was complete. However, Plon appealed the
decision to the Cour de Cassation.

The Cour de Cassation has reached a different conclusion. It considered that
a sequel of a work is mainly related with the right of adaptation, which is
one of the limited rights of the author (seventy years after its
death) contrary to the moral rights that are timeless. Since the work is in
the public domain, anyone has the right to write a sequel of that work. A
different opinion would mean the extension of this limited right and a
violation if the freedom to create new works. Therefore the mere writing of
a sequel could not be considered a breach of the moral rights of a work,
irrespective of the work quality.

Consequently, the case was sent back to the Court of Appeal, where
different judges should consider if the twobooks are really infringing the
moral rights of the author.

Les Misérables, sequel or end ? (only in French, 2.02.2007)

Heir of Victor Hugo fails to stop Les Mis II (31.01.2007),,2002303,00.html