Teller, half of the magician duo of Penn & Teller, has “just pulled off a feat that is without equal among his peers. He has prevailed in a lawsuit against another magician who put up a copycat illusion on YouTube,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq., reports.
While magic tricks can’t be copyrighted, pantomime, or the art of conveying emotions and actions by gestures, is protectable under copyright law, the story notes. Teller’s illusion, called “Shadows” was described as an illusion where he uses a knife to sever petals and leaves from the shadow of a rose.
Teller registered the act with the U.S. Copyright Office in 1983, the piece notes, and the judge noted that there’s evidence that he’s the creator.
But Belgian entertainer Gerard Dogge posted a YouTube video of a similar illusion, and offered to disclose the secret behind it for $3,050. His video’s caption references Penn & Teller’s performance.
“While Dogge is correct that magic tricks are not copyrightable, this does not mean that ‘Shadows’ is not subject to copyright protection," U.S. District Judge James Mahan wrote in his ruling. "Indeed, federal law directly holds ‘dramatic works’ as well as ‘pantomimes’ are subject to copyright protection, granting owners exclusive public performance rights. The mere fact that a dramatic work or pantomime includes a magic trick, or even that a particular illusion is its central feature does not render it devoid of copyright protection."
The case is now likely to go to trial to figure out what damages will be awarded, the story adds.