Spanish artist Ricardo Jove Sanchez has been hit with a $21,000 copyright judgment in an infringement case involving Conan the Barbarian and other characters created by sword and sorcery comic author Robert E. Howard. Sanchez has been making small sculptures based on the characters created by Howard—including Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, Ironhand, Dark Agnes, and others—and selling them through Facebook and Kickstarter.
The judgment, delivered by Senior U.S. District Judge Frederic Block, went against the recommendation of a magistrate court judge, who had found that the Conan character isn’t distinctive enough to be subject to the copyrights and trademarks on Howard’s works, which are held by Conan Properties International LLC, which brought the lawsuit with co-plaintiff Robert E. Howard Properties Inc. Judge Block’s judgment hinged on the distinction between copyright and trademark claims to specific works and whether or not they should also cover characters in those works.
“Because the characters are elements of the underlying literary and graphic works in which they appear, plaintiffs’ copyright registration in the underlying works satisfies the requirement that they plead ownership and registration of valid copyrights,” Judge Block wrote in his judgment.
Howard created the Conan the Barbarian character in the early 1930s, and the muscle-bound Cimmerian warrior made his first appearances in Weird Tales pulp magazine in 1932. The character has since appeared in a range of comics, books, cartoons, video games, and films, perhaps most famously in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian, which starred a young bodybuilding champion named Arnold Schwarzenegger.