Courtroom Victory Not An Illusion

One of the reasons I like my job, besides the fact that they let me do a blog, are the interesting people I get to work with. One of the most interesting is Richard La Jeunesse:

Besides being a great real estate/environmental lawyer, Richard is a talented magician. I’m talking one of those “how did he do that” caliber guys. So, I couldn’t help but think of Richard when I saw this case

A federal court in Nevada awarded judgment in favor of Teller, half of the comedy/magic duo “Penn and Teller”:

Apparently, a Dutch magician named Gerard Dogge created two YouTube videos in which he performed a magic trick “strikingly similar” to one of Teller’s tricks. The illusion is called “Shadows” and it’s been part of Teller’s act for over 30 years. Dogge also offered to sell props used in his trick. Teller sued for copyright infringement and a violation of the Lanham Act. Here it is:

The case dragged on for two years, largely because Dogge refused to cooperate. And finally the court awarded Teller a default judgment. Teller didn’t get as much money as he wanted – the court awarded $15,000 in statutory damages. But he did come away with a permanent injunction prohibiting Dogge from performing the infringing trick. Teller (and it’s interesting, in the caption of the lawsuit, Teller is identified only by that single name) also asked the court to prohibit Dogge from selling the props. Teller argued that purchasers could themselves perform the trick and continue the infringement. But the court wasn’t willing to go that far. Apparently props don’t infringe copyrights, magicians do.

I have to say, I’ve not seen a copyright suit over a magic trick before. But given the intent of the copyright law is to protect the creative process, it makes sense. I’m not sure if the first rabbit pulled out of a hat ever sued anybody!?