German judge gives Pumuckl a love life

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MUNICH -- In a case of competing copyrights, a Munich regional court has refused to grant a temporary injunction to Ellis Kaut, creator of the famous German cartoon character Pumuckl.

The injunction request was filed against Pumuckl's original illustrator, Barbara von Johnson, who, along with a TV broadcaster, wants to sponsor a contest to decide what the goblin's girlfriend should look like.

While Kaut claims that Pumuckl has no gender -- much less sexuality -- Johnson points to several incidents in which the character was clearly referred to as male and talked about wanting to meet another goblin who would be his friend. After 43 years of causing trouble, Johnson said in court papers, Pumuckl has earned the right to get the girl.

The star of various films and TV series since the early '80s, Pumuckl was based on radio plays and books dating from the '60s written by Kaut and illustrated by Johnson. He was sole animated character in a live-action setting.

The figure has never gone entirely off the air, making the rounds of daytime programming throughout Germany's regional pubcaster system and becoming as much a part of Germany's childhood culture as Big Bird and Grover are in the U.S.

That makes the possibility of Pumuckl having a girlfriend not dissimilar from sending Ernie or Bert out on a date.

Johnson created Pumuckl's appearance in the '60s when she won a contest to determine what the radio show hero should look like. She subsequently received only a pittance as the illustrator for Kaut's books.

In 2006, a Munich court decided that Johnson would have to be paid licensing fees retroactive to the start of the TV series, based on a recent "best-seller law" that guarantees back payments should a project become successful beyond its initial expectations. A second suit to determine the total amount is ongoing.

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