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Lawsuit over Magic Trick Ownership
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A lawsuit over ‘who owns that magic trick’ is pretty rare, and more so in the 21st century. But such a lawsuit has been filed in the federal court in Las Vegas by Teller of the Penn & Teller magic and comedy show. At issue is Teller’s copyrighted illusion called “Shadows.”

The complaint filed on April 11, claims that Gerard Dogge, also known as Gerard Bakardy, a Dutch entertainer, posted a video on YouTube performing Teller’s copyrighted magic trick, and naming the show “The Rose & Her Shadow.”

At the end of the video, Dogge offers to sell the trick for $3050. The complaint also alleges that Dogge threatened to place print advertisements for selling the trick.

  
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Teller learnt of the video on March 15 and asked YouTube to remove it. After a week, Teller phoned Dogge asking him to stop his marketing and even offered to pay “as it could be more efficient than filing a lawsuit.”

However, Dogge asked for an exorbitant sum and threatened to sell the secret of the magic trick if Teller did not “come to terms soon.”

The lawsuit seeks permanent injunction upon copyright infringement by Dogge with damages. According to the complaint, “Shadows,” is “the oldest, most venerated piece of material in Penn & Teller’s show.”

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The trick consists of a spotlight on a vase containing a rose, whose shadow is projected onto a white screen. Teller then cuts the leaves and petals of the shadow with a knife while the corresponding leaves and petals of the rose in the vase are severed. The illusion was copyrighted in 1983 by Teller.

The copyright certificate mentions that “This gothic pantomime has been performed by its creator over 1,100 times since 1976.”



Dogge, who performs with his wife at a hotel in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands could not be reached for comments.

The case is Teller v. Dogge, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada, No. 12-00591.



 

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