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Magician Suing For Copyright Over Magic Trick

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the trick-for-treats dept.

The Courts 296

Fluffeh writes "Teller, the silent half of the well-known magic duo Penn and Teller, has sued a rival magician for copying one of his most famous illusions. The case promises to test the boundaries of copyright law as it applies to magic tricks. 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 — then started selling a kit — including a fake rose, instructions, and a DVD — for about $3,000. Teller had Bakardy's video removed with a DMCA takedown notice, then called Bakardy to demand that the magician stop using his routine. Teller offered to buy Bakardy out, but they were unable to agree on a price. So Teller sued Bakardy last week in a Nevada federal court."

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296 comments

Vegas huh? (4, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#39726283)

I'm sure Penn and Teller know "a guy" who can make this deadbeat...[poof!]...disappear into a hole in the desert.

Re:Vegas huh? (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39726503)

i wonder if teller will be called to testify? that would be a first! seriously though, did teller copywrite the work? this sounds like another step in a business negotiation than an actual lawsuit.

Re:Vegas huh? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726635)

There's plenty of footage of Teller talking, giving interviews, etc.

Re:Vegas huh? (2)

EvanED (569694) | about 2 years ago | (#39726639)

i wonder if teller will be called to testify? that would be a first!

It is easy to find videos of Teller talking.

seriously though, did teller copywrite the work?

No. But he did copyright it, as TFA said, in 1983.

Re:Vegas huh? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726655)

Not really a first, Teller doesn't speak on stage, but he does speak. There's a few candid videos floating around. And yes, from TFA, he registered copyright on the trick in 1983 [archive.org]

Re:Vegas huh? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39726951)

That's what's puzzling me... how can you copyright a magic trick? Doesn't copyright law still say a work must be "affixed in a tangible medium" so that you can't copyright a dance, but you can copyright a movie of that dance?

Can someone explain this please?

Re:Vegas huh? (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | about 2 years ago | (#39727031)

You can copyright a performance that has its steps written down, improvised performances must be recorded, etc.

Re:Vegas huh? (1)

Al_Lapalme (698542) | about 2 years ago | (#39726981)

If you go to Vegas and see their show, you'll likely meat them afterwards on your way out. Teller speaks then, and both do photos and autographs for everyone. Truly an amazing experience!

Re:Vegas huh? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39727047)

you'll likely meat them afterwards

Cannibal!

Re:Vegas huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726991)

It's not even true that Teller doesn't speak on stage. It's just that you typically don't know it's him speaking, when he does. Which he does in pretty much every stage show they've ever done.

Re:Vegas huh? (1, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#39726545)

Using something for 'commercial' gain can and should be prosecuted as Teller is doing.

However, the feel good, good guy reputations Penn & Teller enjoy, just might take a trip to the deserts of Nevada to the hole you mention.

Teller can be 'right', or he can be a human being and appeal at that level publicly to show he's human and then use his bully pulpit of fame to shame the guy if no deal is reached. But going to lawyers only shows you're going to be a douche about it.

The 'value' of his reputation (with Penn) VASTLY outweighs any amount of damages he could possibly claim by filing this lawsuit.

Re:Vegas huh? (5, Interesting)

DC2088 (2343764) | about 2 years ago | (#39726765)

So then why should performers and content generators even register copyrights for things at all if pursuing the legal action that is associated with violating that copyright is going to "devalue their reputation"? I don't think one iota less of Mr. Teller for pursuing legal action for the violation of copyright. I wouldn't think less of him for not pursuing it either, but he is. It is his prerogative by the law and not remotely harmful to his "reputation" in any way that is not superficial. If he were patent trolling that would be one thing, but this is another thing - a legitimate application of copyright law - altogether. So, yknow. Relax.

Re:Vegas huh? (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39726967)

It would only be a douche move if he went strait to lawyers. He has tried being polite. So now he is using the last recourse, the courts.

That said, I have to agree with the article in that it will depends on how close it resembles tellers performance of the trick.

If it is simple a guy making a rose fall apart while cutting a shadow, then teller will probably loose. If the performance of the trick is the same, teller may win.

Good luck. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726299)

You'll need it. Or, as Teller might say, " ."

Reminds me of this awesome show I watched before.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726317)

Lawsuit sounds like Bullsh!t to me :)

Re:Reminds me of this awesome show I watched befor (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39726459)

I thought the 1960s original HUMBUG! was better. The next generation show was never quite as good, and has aged poorly. (imho)

check what he's suing over (5, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | about 2 years ago | (#39726897)

Teller is NOT suing over the technical aspects of the trick (how the rose petals are actually made to fall). They are not copyrightable, and indeed are not described in his copyright registration. Rather, he is suing over the dramatic presentation; essentially he is claiming coypright in a short (2-minute) theatrical performance.

I don't think Teler would have protested his competitor adopting the trick itself (magician interacts with shadow on screen but affecting the physical object casintg the shadow) -- he'd have expected credit ("This trick was invented by Teller") but wouldn't have claimed legal ownership. But Teller should be able own the theatre he creates.

Re:Reminds me of this awesome show I watched befor (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#39726977)

what a horrible show. they're so full of their namesake, it's worse than mythbusters. when they do get it right it's because they're a broken clock, not because they have any clue what the scientific method is.

If he manages - you know what the next stage is (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39726319)

If he manages - you know what the next stage is. Patent trolls patenting tricks that someone might think of a way to do - so when they proudly show some illusion that has taken a year to perfect someone will say "I have a patent on making large objects appear to come out of Uranus" and demand most of the profit.

Re:If he manages - you know what the next stage is (1)

Loughla (2531696) | about 2 years ago | (#39726435)

And what's wrong with that? It's perfectly legal, well practiced, and has many precedents. So there shouldn't be a problem with that type of behavior. Right?

God, I wish there was a sarcasm font.

Re:If he manages - you know what the next stage is (5, Funny)

paazin (719486) | about 2 years ago | (#39726643)

God, I wish there was a sarcasm font.

Comic Sans?

Re:If he manages - you know what the next stage is (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39726995)

See sig.

That said, the copyright, not patent, is on the performance of the trick, not the mechanics behind it.

Re:If he manages - you know what the next stage is (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39726483)

To patent it, you must publish it. A magician does not reveal his secrets.

Re:If he manages - you know what the next stage is (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 2 years ago | (#39726533)

To patent it, you must publish it. A magician does not reveal his secrets.

Modern patents don't tend to publish much in the way of specific information on how something works, they're pretty vague (which is why a patent holder can sue anyone with something that looks even vaguely similar). Actually fully implementing something described in a modern technology patent using just the published information is pretty much impossible these days.

Re:If he manages - you know what the next stage is (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726761)

You certainly could patent a trick, but not the idea of a trick, it has to be an actual, specific, working implementation of a trick. If you have a working implementation of a good magic trick, you'd be much better off performing it or selling it to someone who will than you would be patenting it. Magicians aren't that desperate for tricks, and your patent registration would more likely inspire someone to think of a different way to implement the same trick than encourage someone to license it from you (although magicians do buy tricks on a regular basis).

In any event, all of this is offtopic, as Teller is not claiming patent violation on the implementation of the trick (and Teller will almost certainly never admit that this guys implementation is the same as his), he's claiming copyright ownership of the actual routine. Basically, Teller is saying that any magician is free to do the trick, and the actual "magic" behind it can even be exactly the same as his (if you can figure out what that is). What you can't do is copy is performance, basically the choreography and staging of the routine. The video of this guys routine was taken down, so I haven't seen it, so I can't say if it's a direct knockoff of Tellers routine, so I don't know how good a case he has. But if the routine itself was copied verbatim, I don't really think Teller's complaint is illegitimate.

What bullshit (4, Insightful)

ryanvm (247662) | about 2 years ago | (#39726321)

I'd like to see them cover copyright law on their show...

Re:What bullshit (1)

helix2301 (1105613) | about 2 years ago | (#39726431)

Speaking of shows I wonder if Penn will win the apprentice never realized how good of a business man he was until the apprentice.

Re:What bullshit (2)

pcfixup4ua (1263816) | about 2 years ago | (#39726495)

Since they work for the CATO Institute, they would be on the side of the corps saying Piracy is BULL#@)(&!

Re:What bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726961)

Oh no... not the dreaded Bull, Shift + 32097!

How will the world survive!

Re:What bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726907)

Live performances are subject to copyright. Copying a portion of the act in a similar fashion would make it a derivative work.

Bullshit. (1)

Draque (1367509) | about 2 years ago | (#39726337)

I calls 'em like I sees 'em, Teller. Backward engineering a trick and selling the solution is legit.

Re:Bullshit. (1)

Troyusrex (2446430) | about 2 years ago | (#39726451)

I'm about as big a Penn and Teller fan as it's possible to be, but I agree that reverse engineering a trick and selling it is legit. It happens all the time in software. Perhaps the rules are different in magic, but I doubt it.

Re:Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726693)

It will be up to a jury I suppose but there are some misunderstood implications. While the techie community cries foul every time some company slightly mishandles personal information or claims ownership over it; the moment a performer or company gets it's "secrets" or "identity" borrowed or stolen comments like "fair use" and "copyrights are a shame" pop up. If part of a Magician's professional identity is his magic tricks and those are free-range to be copied, how different is the data that makes up your "professional identity" or even your personal identity? At what point is something really your "own" if the moment someone simply sees it you cease to own it as yours? This is where I see massive hypocrisy in the tech industry.

Re:Bullshit. (1)

anyGould (1295481) | about 2 years ago | (#39727043)

I'm about as big a Penn and Teller fan as it's possible to be, but I agree that reverse engineering a trick and selling it is legit. It happens all the time in software. Perhaps the rules are different in magic, but I doubt it.

Especially when you consider that P&T made their bones doing exactly that.

My understanding here is that he's copywritten the specific performance, and this guy is stealing and selling that. The difference between showing someone how to do the cup and balls, and someone doing it *exactly* the way Penn does it (with the potato and everything).

Re:Bullshit. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39727065)

If it was* true that you are a fan, you would have had the courtesy to read the article toi find out what it's about.

Hint: it's not what you think it is.

*were true???

Re:Bullshit. (3, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 2 years ago | (#39726687)

Copyright vs patent. The claim is copyright infringement and not a patent issue.

If the copy-cat magician had used a daisy instead of a rose or had done it with scissors instead of a knife......probably wouldn't have had a case.

Re:Bullshit. (3, Interesting)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#39726721)

The problem as I see it is that he's explicitly using the Penn & Teller brand in his marketing efforts. That YouTube video is an ad. He is selling stuff off the back of Penn and Teller. So maybe he should really be going after them for abuse of trademark, and get a forward injunction on future sales based on the argument that the initial breach of trademark law is directly responsible for the level of publicity received and the future sales potential of the trick.

One question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726341)

Is Teller going to testify in court?

Probably an interesting phone call... (5, Funny)

jdbuz (962721) | about 2 years ago | (#39726347)

Bakardy: Hello? Teller: . Bakardy: Heelloo? Teller: . Bakardy: Goodbye. Teller: !

For this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726359)

Magic is serious business you know.

Don't get on the bad side of that Magic Circle, they will have you terminated in the night.
Why else does the Masked Magician revealer wear a mask?!

Re:For this. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#39726699)

Why else does the Masked Magician revealer wear a mask?

Um, marketing maybe? 'ooh this is so secret I have to wear a mask' is going to get a LOT more viewers than just some 2 bit magician laying out how tricks work.

Re:For this. (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#39726753)

The masked magician took his mask off 14 years ago. His name's Val Valentino.

Re:For this. (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#39726953)

The masked magician took his mask off 14 years ago. His name's Val Valentino.

For the record, that was one of my favorite shows growing up. It was always cool to see how the tricks were being done.

Teller a copyright thug?! (4, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#39726369)

So... Teller's bite is worse than his bark?

Re:Teller a copyright thug?! (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | about 2 years ago | (#39726807)

lol "Thug"? What's with this attitude of "how dare he legitimately pursue action according to copyright law"? It's not like he's patent trolling magic tricks here, this was a pretty direct violation of copyright and they did try to pursue matters out of court.

Very sad (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726375)

I assume this must be a strong test on Penn and Teller's partnership, considering just how hardcore of a libertarian Penn Jillette is. Most libertarians don't support overly strong copyright laws, and many of them do not support any copyright laws at all. Using the DMCA would certainly be against any libertarian's agenda of ensuring everyone gets full and fair rights to a trial and that nobody should need to prove themselves innocent.

Re:Very sad (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726449)

just how hardcore of a libertarian Penn Jillette is

Or at least we'll figure out just how hardcore he is, or if he's the kind that he's ok with getting rid of the government as long as it's not making him personally richer.

Re:Very sad (5, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | about 2 years ago | (#39726453)

Penn has spoken in defense of Teller on this. And apparently the copyright claim was made in 1983. I assume they've copyrighted a few of their tricks as performances this way, and have for years.

Teller knows you can't copyright an idea. He has copyrighted the performance itself, and you can copyright a specific pantomime routine. His claim is that by performing the exact same steps, you are infringing on a copyrighted pantomime routine.

There is legal precedent for that, but I can see this going either way.

Re:Very sad (1)

StikyPad (445176) | about 2 years ago | (#39726689)

Dance and pantomime arguably shouldn't be copyrightable either. If anything, this would fall under patent law since it's an invention, but of course they don't want to file patents and disclose how it works, which makes it a trade secret and subject to reverse engineering.

Re:Very sad (4, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | about 2 years ago | (#39726741)

Why would a dance performance be covered under patents when all other artistic performances are covered by copyright?

Re:Very sad (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726789)

"Teller knows you can't copyright an idea. He has copyrighted the performance itself, and you can copyright a specific pantomime routine. His claim is that by performing the exact same steps, you are infringing on a copyrighted pantomime routine."

This sounds insane to me. I can't believe copyright law is intended to give someone monopoly rights over e.g. dance steps, skateboard tricks, or other non-published forms of expression. When will our society (really Congress) wake up and say "BS, you can't copyright/patent stuff like that"?

Re:Very sad (3, Informative)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#39726549)

There are a wide spectrum of libertarians in the world. Some do believe in IP. I don't myself.

IMO if you can't keep it a trade secret, that is your tough luck. You can't rest on your laurels in this world.

Libertarian my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726751)

Penn is only "a libertarian" when it increases his profits and the profits of his buddies at the Cato Institute. Whenever something reaches into their wallets (or dominates a market and they aren't able to break into it), they cry foul and demand that the government do something about it (case in point, the "Cheerleading" episode of Bullshit).

Seen this trick before (4, Funny)

mseeger (40923) | about 2 years ago | (#39726389)

Just some bogus claim, lawyer behind a smoke screen and some copyright waving in a trick to confuse a judge..... Larry Ellison does this routine a hundred times the size before breakfast ;-).

Re:Seen this trick before (5, Funny)

deciduousness (755695) | about 2 years ago | (#39726469)

GOB: Illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money. [GOB notices children in earshot] ... Or candy!

Re:Seen this trick before (1)

mseeger (40923) | about 2 years ago | (#39726531)

Ah, nicely done, english language. Tricked me into turning a trick into a missunderstanding ;-).

Re:Seen this trick before (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#39726729)

no no a 'trick' is a massive Global Warming conspiracy...or just vernacular that nobody wants to actually take the time to understand... ;-)

Re:Seen this trick before (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726521)

if you're wondering why no one has modded you up, its because you are a moron.

As much as I like Penn and Teller (4, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 2 years ago | (#39726395)

This is insane. By all means call the guy a hack, tell everyone he stole your trick, but in the end he's not reproducing your image or any literal representation of something you did. He reverse engineered the trick. What if he changes the rose to a posie? Or makes some other minor change? At what point does the "concept" of your trick become something that's unique and that you "own"?

Re:As much as I like Penn and Teller (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726709)

If he's doing the exact same performance, what's the difference between plaigarizing Tellers act, or Lady Gaga's, or performing any other copyrighted dramatic work? If I went out and performed Louis CKs routine, word for word, I'd expect to have the hammer dropped.

I haven't seen this guys video. If he's selling a video of him doing the exact same routine, same setup, same moves, same 'punchline', but claiming it as his own - fuck him.

I don't see anything about Teller claiming he owns sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors, etc.

P&T tend to be on the 'intelligent' side of most issues. They tend to like to exploit bullshitters, and scam artists - like a guy selling a 3000 video explaining one of their tricks, and pretending to have created it.

I'll wait and see how this plays out.

Seems to Be a Performance Copyright (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#39726727)

Not sure but I think this is not a filing over how it's done but rather a filing over whether or not the performance is a copy of or derivative of Teller's 1983 copyrighted description [justia.com]. I don't know how this trick works but I'm guessing if Bakardy had chosen a different flower, a different cutting device, a different setting, etc and changed it just superficially enough so that the mechanic is still relayed to the viewer he might escape the copyright. But it seems Teller has written this out like a play and it will be up to the courts to decide if Bakardy is infringing on that copyrighted material. You'll notice that this is about copyright and performance, not a patent and methodology.

If this lawsuit is over how it's done, I agree with you. I see it similar to software patents where I see a program that does something -- say manages all ID3 tags of your library through HTML table interactions -- and I want to make something behave the same way. Even though I don't have the source code, I figure it out one way or the other. Maybe it's the same way your patent describes, maybe it isn't. It doesn't matter, I've never seen your source code and I'm not infringing on the graphics and layout so why should you be able to sue me when I write something that does (perceptually) the same thing? People who are smart enough to figure out their own solutions shouldn't be prohibited from employing that intelligence ...

Re:As much as I like Penn and Teller (4, Interesting)

Halo1 (136547) | about 2 years ago | (#39726745)

A theatre play also falls under copyright, regardless of whether it involves spoken words or not. Changing minor details does not change that, just like changing the names in the Harry Potter stories would not be sufficient.

There is no exact definition of when something stops being a derivative work and becomes a new/independent work. The reason is, as you sort of touched upon, that it is simply not really possible to write a strict definition for something like that. As a result, either both authors come to an agreement, or a judge decides after their and expert witness testimony.

Re:As much as I like Penn and Teller (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | about 2 years ago | (#39726857)

If he actually changed the work after reverse engineering the trick, it might not have been a violation, and yes, you can own and copyright pantomime routines such as this given certain elements. The law on it is a little vague, of course, thus the "testing the waters of magic trick copyrights" sort of language here. I'm curious as to how this is insane, really.

Re:As much as I like Penn and Teller (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39727123)

Without digging into it too much, I agree it seems inconsistent with the copyright laws.

It's my understanding that you can't copyright an idea. You can copyright the description of an idea but it does not protect the idea itself. This is because copyright is meant to protect unique works of authorship.

The concepts are spelled out here:
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html

Slashdot user suing geek.net for spelling mistakes (3, Funny)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#39726397)

A Slashdot user, known for his misspelings in his bad analogies, car analogies, and Soviet-era Russia jokes has sued Slashdot's owner, geek.net.

The user alleges that the editors saw him use these corny techniques for replying to Slashvertisements, and they copied the technique for use in their own story summaries.

Geeknet offered to buy him out, but negotiations came to a standstill when the user also demanded that the company buy his "in Korea, only old people read email" technique. The 23-year old negotiating for Geeknet had responded, "What's email?"

i play magic tricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726399)

on copyright: now you see it, now you don't!
just like the US economy: patented to destruction...

Not about copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726407)

I think the problem here isn't that he's doing P&T's magic trick, it's that he's making a profit out of it. I think P&T would be fine if anyone would do one of their tricks for fun, to show off to friends or wtv. But when you blatantly take their stuff and sell it, like it's you that invented it then yes there's a problem there.

tldr: This dutch guy is like the carlos mencia of magicians.

Re:Not about copyright (1)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#39726781)

Saw this guy once - he balanced stones one of top of the other. Very impressive. Does that mean he could own the worldwide rights to doing that? Does that mean that NOBODY but him can ever make money from that because he was the first?

How about jugglers? Acrobats? Gymnasts? Yo-yo'ers? Trick cyclists? "Hustlers"? Derren Brown? Dancers?

Just because you have an act, doesn't give you exclusive rights over that act for ever and ever and ever. That's NOT what copyright is for. He's basically suing a guy because he wants to be the only person in the world allowed to perform that trick.

Now, if he's suing because the guy used his speil, word-for-word, or because the guy took Teller's video and photoshopped his own head over it, then you'd have a copyright case. As it is, he's saying that nobody may copy what actions he performs. That's like a dancer saying you can never dance like he does, ever, without his permission.

And just as stupid. Sorry Teller, I swear I used to think you had a brain in there somewhere. A *copyright* takedown over a magic trick? Damn, the guy had better copied your speil word-for-word or something because you're going to fall flat on your face otherwise, and if you don't, the world will still hate you anyway.

Re:Not about copyright (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 2 years ago | (#39726805)

Agreed, the commercial nature makes it a legitimate (as opposed to a legal suit, which both non-commercial and commercial would be as well).

However, Penn & Teller are some of the most popular magicians out there. And the beating their reputation could take over being seen as legal assholes vastly outweighs the small damages the guy might be causing them. And THAT is what they should be thinking of.

They have the bully pulpit of fame to destroy this guy with their unique brand of biting social commentary, get the word out that they're human about it and ask him to stop in a very public way. When he doesn't, you then have you reputation intact and destroy him legally, but by going straight to lawyers...they may be 'right' but long term it might not be the best thing for their careers...

How is this... (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 2 years ago | (#39726413)

... not something I could cook up in two hours with a small electromagnet and a bit of ferrous metal embedded in the leaf stem?

I take PayPal if anyone wants to pay $3000 for detailed plans, sketched on the back of a used bar napkin.

Obligatory Gob (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726457)

They're called illusions, Michael!

Lawyers getting paid (1)

hansamurai (907719) | about 2 years ago | (#39726465)

How fast did their lawyers find that video that it only had 14 views on it when screenshotted, impressive.

Tesla's machine is at work... (5, Funny)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#39726553)

What you don't know is that Bakardy hired Tesla to create a machine which performs the trick. And, every night after the performance, workers have to remove large boxes full of drowned flowers, secretly out through the stage door and into a warehouse...

Yoga, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726555)

Reminds me of this where someone tried to copyright a yoga pose: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-12/yoga-pose-copyright-bid-too-big-of-a-stretch-regulator-says.html

Actually important case (5, Interesting)

Xunker (6905) | about 2 years ago | (#39726563)

So, yeah, it's easy for us to point and laugh at this and say it's just a useless farce.. but this effects us all actually.

The brief filed states that Teller is suing because the rival's trick supposedly violates a 1983 Copyright he filed for the trick. What is important here is that the Copyright filing DOES NOT describe how the trick functions, but instead HOW IT LOOKS. On those ground, Teller is suing.

I believe this is important. Why? Because I think it is similar to SOFTWARE PATENTS.

Of course, obviously PATENT != COPYRIGHT, but the similarities in this case are still apparent. Unlike every other kind of working patent, software patents generally describe the outcome/result of something instead of the actual mechanism (patents of physical things are based on the WAY it works, not what it produces, SW patents are generally based i the end product).

If suit is upheld it means software patents *could* have an extra life, and indeed if a vendor wants to squeeze out competition they could simply file for a COPYRIGHT on the visible result of the software too.

IANAL, but food for thought.

Re:Actually important case (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726775)

No, you are not a lawyer. You are an idiot, though.

Oh noes, he copied him!!!! (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39726597)

Imitation is a form of flattery. He should take it as such, or simply decide to not show off what he doesn't want people to copy. Magicians have been figuring out how other magicians do their tricks for centuries. Unless the secret was actually misappropriated (which means he would have actually broken the law to acquire it), the copier has done absolutely nothing wrong here.

Oh.... and you can't copyright an idea.

Re:Oh noes, he copied him!!!! (1)

Babbster (107076) | about 2 years ago | (#39726743)

"Imitation" would be one thing. If this guy was just doing the illusion on stage, Teller likely wouldn't bother suing. This guy, however, offered expensive kits for sale so that others could do it, and they don't have to go to the trouble of figuring it out for themselves or even appreciating Teller's part in its creation.

I don't know if the suit can be won, but writing this off as sincere flattery is a mistake.

Re:Oh noes, he copied him!!!! (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 2 years ago | (#39726793)

Except that he does have a copyright on the trick's performance. So.... it really doesn't matter what you say.

Re:Oh noes, he copied him!!!! (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39727109)

It doesn't matter what he says... what matters is what copyright says. What matters even more is what a judge says.

I like Penn and Teller, but personally I'm rooting for this guy. Not just because he's the underdog in this case, but because what he is doing is absolutely no different than what other magicians have been doing to eachother for hundreds of years.

Wasn't FOX sued over magic secrets revealed (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#39726605)

Wasn't FOX sued over that magic secrets revealed show?

Re:Wasn't FOX sued over magic secrets revealed (4, Informative)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39726783)

The claim against FOX was with respect to violation of the magician's code of honor to not reveal how their tricks are done.

This code enjoys no legal protection, however, and the lawsuit against FOX for that show failed.

Nonetheless, magicians could actually enjoy some legal protection for their tricks under trade secret status.

However, trade secrets do not enjoy any protection at all against being reverse engineered by somebody who did not know the secret.

The only allegation that would have had even the slightest chance of succeeding was to show that the masked magician in FOX's show had misappropriated trade secrets he did not own for broadcast.

How libertarian (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726629)

to sue for government protection of your ideas. I'm sure litigation over reverse engineering of a performance something very near to the heart of free men everywhere.

anyone notice the bookmark bar (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726725)

Nice link to mantube for the world to see. Well-done.

It comes down to The Magician's Code (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726739)

It's the code of ethics professional magicians agree to - it's kept Magic interesting over the years, and really forced Magicians to come up with their own routines.

Take a look:

On May 8, 1993, the International Brotherhood of Magicians Board of Directors approved the following Code of Ethics jointly with the Society of American Magicians. This was the result of a cooperative effort to work together for the betterment of magic.

All members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians agree to:

1) Oppose the willful exposure to the public of any principles of the Art of Magic, or the methods employed in any magic effect or illusion.
2) Display ethical behavior in the presentation of magic to the public and in our conduct as magicians, including not interfering with or jeopardizing the performance of another magician either through personal intervention or the unauthorized use of another's creation.
3) Recognize and respect for rights of the creators, inventors, authors, and owners of magic concepts, presentations, effects and literature, and their rights to have exclusive use of, or to grant permission for the use by others of such creations.
4) Discourage false or misleading statements in the advertising of effects, and literature, merchandise or actions pertaining to the magical arts.
5) Discourage advertisement in magic publications for any magical apparatus, effect, literature or other materials for which the advertiser does not have commercial rights.
6) Promote the humane treatment and care of livestock used in magical performances.

Re:It comes down to The Magician's Code (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#39726931)

And how does Penn and Tellers "let's do the trick with transparent cups/walls/sheets" fit with that first one?

That trick puzzles people? (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#39726823)

It doesn't seem hard to do. You just need piano wires threaded up the rose stem, which are withdrawn to make parts of the rose fall off. Either some mechanism under the table or an assistant is pulling the wires.

This illusion puzzles people? It's an elegant performance piece, but easy to figure out.

Is Magic Useful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39726849)

The US Constitution grants Congress the power to legislate patents and copyrights "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".
Are magic tricks a science or useful art? I think not.

Pot meet kettle (1)

heptapod (243146) | about 2 years ago | (#39726923)

Penn and Teller revealed secrets of tricks in many of their shows and televised specials. Not really getting why Teller's all bent out of shape and claiming copyright. Did the duo get permission from other magicians to reveal their stunts to audiences which makes it okay?

Right (1)

alphred (1920232) | about 2 years ago | (#39726941)

And so I suppose that Teller has never ever ever performed a trick that someone else developed and everything he has done is truly original work.

The actual claim seems a bit dodgy (1, Insightful)

Rui del-Negro (531098) | about 2 years ago | (#39727033)

Here's the problem with Teller's claim:

"As a direct and proximate result of such unfair competition, Plaintiff [Teller] has suffered, and will continue to suffer, monetary loss and irreparable injury to his business, reputation, and goodwill."

I give him the last one; his goodwill definitely comes out of this injured, but how exactly has Teller suffered "monetary loss and irreparable injury to his business [and] reputation" ? Teller wasn't selling a kit with the trick, so he's not going to lose any "potential sales". No one seriously believes that people planning to go see or hire Penn & Teller will change their minds and hire Gerard Bakardy instead, and Bakardy made it perfectly clear that his trick was inspired by Teller's, so there's no damage done to Teller's "reputation", either (i.e., there's no suggestion that Teller may have copied Bakardy).

In other words, this smells like a pure "copyright troll", trying to deny someone else a chance to do something similar even though that person is in no way a competitor or a threat.

I thought this was fine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39727121)

...up until here.

started selling a kit — for about $3,000

Performing a trick is one thing, but selling something you didn't even come up with?
Only Apple can get away with that.

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