Canada: Le Père De Passe-Partout Culbute, Saute Et Tourne En Rond : Prise Deux Dans La Saga De Passe-Partout

Last Updated: March 26 2014
Article by François Larose and Amy Dam

Dans Lachance c. Productions Marie Eykel inc., 2014 QCCA 158, la Cour d'appel du Québec a récemment confirmé la décision de la Cour supérieure  (rapportée ici) rejetant l'action de Laurent Lachance (appelant) contre Marie Eykel et Jacques L'Heureux (intimés), deux acteurs de la série-culte québécoise Passe-Partout, dans laquelle M. Lachance réclamait un droit d'auteur sur l'Suvre ainsi que des redevances sur les ventes des coffrets de DVD de la série.

Les faits

M. Lachance travaillait au sein du Ministère de l'Éducation du Québec à titre de chef de projet dans le cadre duquel il a participé à la conception et la production de 283 épisodes de la série télévisuelle Passe-Partout entre 1977 et 1998. Il serait considéré dans le milieu comme étant le « Père de Passe-Partout ». Cependant, il n'avait jamais revendiqué auprès de son employeur quelque droit économique en lien avec la série. Les intimés ont obtenu de Télé-Québec en 2006 une licence pour commercialiser les 125 premiers épisodes de la série sous forme de coffrets de DVD. 

Pour la première fois en 2007, M. Lachance prétend être auteur de la série et revendique la titularité du droit d'auteur. Il réclame 15% du prix de vente de tous les coffrets de DVD vendus à ce jour et ceux qui le seront à l'avenir.

Les intimés sont plutôt d'avis que M. Lachance n'était que le directeur de projet embauché par le Ministère de l'Éducation pour rédiger un devis pour la création de la série. Les intimés allèguent l'application de l'article 13(3) de la Loi sur le droit d'auteur (LDA) qui prévoit que le droit d'auteur dans une Suvre créée dans l'exercice d'un emploi revient à l'employeur et que, par conséquent, M. Lachance ne peut obtenir de compensation monétaire pour l'exploitation de la série.

Décision de la Cour supérieure

Le 15 mars 2012, la Cour supérieure conclut que la série Passe-Partout est une Suvre originale au sens de la LDA et que M. Lachance est un des auteurs de l'Suvre car il a, entre autres, participé à la création de la série, était l'auteur des devis et a créé le nom des personnages. La Cour ajoute que la série est une Suvre « collective » dont les différents intervenants sont les rédacteurs, pédagogues, réalisateurs, compositeur, et créateurs de marionnettes, costumes et décors. Toutefois, la Cour conclut que M. Lachance ne pouvait être titulaire des droits d'auteurs dans l'Suvre car il avait participé à la création de l'Suvre en tant qu'employé du Ministère de l'Éducation. Même s'il bénéficiait d'une latitude professionnelle, M. Lachance était subordonné à son superviseur qui lui imposait le cadre général de son travail, l'évaluait annuellement et parce que M. Lachance était salarié. Ainsi, la Cour conclut que M. Lachance n'avait pas droit aux redevances réclamées.

Appels rejetés 

En appel, M. Lachance prétend qu'une interprétation restrictive de l'article 13(3) de la LDA est de mise puisqu'il s'agit d'une dérogation à la règle générale prévue au premier alinéa du même article qui prévoit que l'auteur est le premier titulaire de l'Suvre. 

La Cour d'appel est d'avis que la juge de la première instance a correctement appliqué les critères d'application de l'article 13(3) de la LDA. Elle confirme que l'employeur est titulaire du droit d'auteur dans l'Suvre créée par son employée lorsque les 3 conditions suivantes sont remplies :

1) une Suvre est créée dans le cadre d'un contrat d'emploi; 

2) l'employé l'a créée dans l'exercice de cet emploi; et 

3) il n'y a pas de stipulation contractuelle à l'effet contraire.

Qui plus est, M. Lachance a concédé à plusieurs reprises pendant son témoignage que seul son employeur avait le droit sur l'Suvre et qu'il n'avait jamais discuté avec ce dernier la revendication de quelque droit que ce soit.

L'avocat de M. Lachance a soutenu, en se basant sur certaines sources de droit comparé, qu'il fallait reconnaître certains droits économiques à un auteur qui, en tant qu'employé, se trouve dans une situation semblable à celle de son client. La Cour a statué que cette argumentation, « bien que séduisante à plus d'un titre, et peut-être de nature à susciter une intervention législative » ne tient pas la route face à l'analyse qu'imposent les dispositions législatives pertinentes. 

Enfin, la Cour d'appel rejette l'appel incident des intimées, qui reprochaient à la Cour supérieure de ne pas avoir octroyé les dépens, et ce, sans justification. La Cour d'appel rejette cet appel car la mise en cause, Télé-Québec, aurait financé le litige pour les intimées, ces derniers n'ayant donc rien eu à débourser.

Conclusion

Cette décision est d'intérêt à plusieurs égards. Elle réitère les critères d'application pour déterminer la titularité du droit d'auteur dans le cadre de l'exercice d'un emploi. Elle précise aussi que la créativité exercée par l'auteur ou la destination de l'Suvre ne sont pas pertinents à l'application de l'article 13(3) de la LDA.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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François Larose
Amy Dam
 
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