Hocus Pocus and IP Law: Teller of Penn & Teller Seeks to Protect Copyrighted Trick

Teller of Penn & Teller fame is suing Dutch magician Gerard Dogge for allegedly stealing his copyrighted magic piece called Shadows. According to the copyright infringement lawsuit, Dooge performed a similar illusion called The Rose & Her Shadow in a YouTube video, which offered to reveal the “magic” behind the trick for $3,050.

After discovering the video, Teller’s attorney sent YouTube a DMCA takedown notice and contacted Dooge to work out a financial settlement under which Dooge would agree to stop selling and performing the illusion. After the two parties could not reach an agreement, Teller filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and unfair competition.

The lawsuit is possible because Teller registered the magic trick with the U.S. Copyright Office in 1983. Under U.S. Copyright law, magic tricks are copyrightable as “pantomimes.” The primary requirement is that they be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed.” In this case, Teller submitted a written description of the trick as well as a detailed picture.

Of course, Teller will still have to show that Dooge’s illusion infringes upon the presentation and stylistic elements of the Shadow. If only he could wave a magic wand to make the alleged infringer go away.

Source: Hollywood Reporter


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