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The Comédie-Française wins its case in the affair of Molière’s “Original Tartuffe”

The Comédie-Française won the lawsuit brought against it by two Molière specialists for copyright infringement, according to a judgment of which AFP obtained a copy on Thursday.

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The Comédie-Française wins its case in the affair of Molière’s “Original Tartuffe”

The Comédie-Française won the lawsuit brought against it by two Molière specialists for copyright infringement, according to a judgment of which AFP obtained a copy on Thursday. The procedure concerns Le Tartuffe ou l'hypocrite, a reconstruction of the possible first version of Molière's famous play by the academic Georges Forestier and the literature professor Isabelle Grellet.

Molière had signed a version in three acts in 1664, performed at Versailles before Louis XIV but quickly banned by the king, who found it subversive. Then the manuscript was lost. The version in five acts from 1669, less biting, with more characters, entitled Le Tartuffe ou l'imposteur, has long established itself as the only one known and represented.

Le Tartuffe ou l'hypocrite, the text of which was published in 2021 by Éditions Portaparole, was one of the successes of the Comédie-Française in 2022. The direction by Ivo van Hove was praised and broadcasts in Pathé cinemas, then a tour in Hamburg, Montpellier, Lyon and Athens were acclaimed by the public. The theater, heir to Molière's troupe, did not pay royalties, believing that the author is Molière.

Entered into this dispute at the end of 2022, the judicial court followed this interpretation. Neither Georges Forestier nor Isabelle Grellet “can claim copyright protection for the play Le Tartuffe ou l’hypocrite,” concluded the court in its judgment rendered on Wednesday. Four verses written by Isabelle Grellet in the style of Molière did not even convince the judges of the character of an original work. “It’s a judgment that I find very harsh,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jean-Paul Carminati, told AFP. “The structure of the play has been completely changed, its dramaturgy revised... And, even if we consider that it is a question of scientific research rather than literary creation, copyright also protects scientific writings ".

The plaintiffs, ordered to reimburse their opponent's legal costs, must still decide whether to appeal. “The Comédie-Française is naturally satisfied with this decision but it does not intend to comment on it,” the defendants' lawyer, Julien Guinot-Deléry, told AFP.

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