Teller’s magical copyright



Teller, from Penn & Teller, is suing a Dutch magician for copyright infringement for taking one of his illusions.


A Dutch magician with the stage name Gerard Bakardy (real name: Gerard Dogge) saw Teller perform the trick in Las Vegas and developed his own version. Bakardy sells a kit—including a fake rose, instructions, and a DVD—for about $3,000. To promote the kits, he posted a video of his performance to YouTube and prepared a magazine ad. (With the video down, the link points to screenshots from the video filed by Teller in his lawsuit.)


I think the issue is the $3K DVD, and not so much the performance, but I don't know. Teller's had the copyright since 1983, and you CAN copyright magic apparently.

So what's left? According to New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann, copyright law protects pantomimes and choreographic works. So Teller may be able to claim the "Shadows" routine is protected under these categories. Teller describes "Shadows" as a "dramatic work."

Teller's case may hinge on exactly how similar Bakardy's routine is to Teller's. in a 1983 copyright registration, Teller describes the sequence of actions that make up his performance. Ars Technica was not able to find a copy of Bakardy's video, so we weren't able to determine how similar Bakardy's routine is to the one described in Teller's copyright registration.


Via Mudwerks / Kayfabe