Steve van Dulken of the Patent Search Blog discusses patenting magic tricks, and ferreting out the secret to magic tricks via Google here. He discusses whether the particular trick he ferrets out is truly patentable, or whether it's just a technique.
By Gary R. Brown for American Heritage Magazine, this interesting piece on Horace Goldin and his attempt to keep his "sawing a lady in half" illusion secret. Mr. Brown discusses the limitations of using a patent to keep a magic trick secret. Mr. Brown is a lawyer/magician. He says in part,
Is it possible to own a miracle? Horace Goldin, a vaudeville-era stage magician, tried to do just that. He developed a technique for sawing an assistant in half—an illusion as closely associated with magicians as pulling a rabbit out of a hat—and then embarked on an extensive and costly legal campaign to protect his invention from competitors and anyone else who tried to exploit it. Yet the very measure that afforded Goldin’s illusion the most powerful legal protection—a patent—also turned out to be his undoing.
I also discuss Mr. Goldin and his problems with patenting his famous illusion in a prior post here.
CNN reports that many albinos living in Burundi and Tanzania have gone into hiding after the numbers of attacks on them have increased. Some people living in the area believe that body parts belonging to those individuals suffering from albinism have special powers and are useful in the practice of witchcraft. Recently, a court in Tanzania sentenced seven people to death for killing persons suffering from albinism and harvesting their body parts for use in witchcraft. Al-Jazeera reports that persons convicted of similar offenses in Burundi have received prison sentences.
Remember the lawsuit brought by a library employee against the Poplar Bluff Public Library over "Harry Potter Night"? Deborah Smith did not want to work the night that this event was scheduled, raising religious objections, and claimed that she eventually ended up losing her job at the library over her objections. She filed suit and was represented by the local ACLU chapter.
Prosecutors obtained a plea deal with a Chesco, Pennsylvania, woman who was originally charged with violating the state statute against fortune telling, a third degree misdemeanor. Instead, April Seven Uwanawich pled to the lesser charge of criminal mischief and made restitution to the woman who had brought the complaint. Ms. Uwanawich also escaped prosecution on a number of other charges. Read more about the case in the Pottstown Mercury here.
Here's the text of the Pennsylvania statute (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 7104), which reads as do many other state laws on fortune telling.
§ 7104. Fortune telling. (a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree if he pretends for gain or lucre, to tell fortunes or predict future events, by cards, tokens, the inspection of the head or hands of any person, or by the age of anyone, or by consulting the movements of the heavenly bodies, or in any other manner, or for gain or lucre, pretends to effect any purpose by spells, charms, necromancy, or incantation, or advises the taking or administering of what are commonly called love powders or potions, or prepares the same to be taken or administered, or publishes by card, circular, sign, newspaper or other means that he can predict future events, or for gain or lucre, pretends to enable anyone to get or to recover stolen property, or to tell where lost property is, or to stop bad luck, or to give good luck, or to put bad luck on a person or animal, or to stop or injure the business or health of a person or shorten his life, or to give success in business, enterprise, speculation, and games of chance, or to win the affection of a person, or to make one person marry another, or to induce a person to make or alter a will, or to tell where money or other property is hidden, or to tell where to dig for treasure, or to make a person to dispose of property in favor of another. (b) Advertising as evidence.--Any publication contrary to this section may be given in evidence to sustain the indictment. (c) Competency of witnesses.--Any person whose fortune may have been told shall be a competent witness against the person charged with violating this section.
Notice that one of the elements of the offense is acceptance of payment ("for gain or lucre"). See also comments on Legal Juice here.
Suffolk County (New York) police arrested a Florida woman on a number of counts last month after she tried to convince an eighteen year old that the teen was suffering from a curse; for $1250, the woman said, she could rid the girl of the problem. The teen had alerted police, who were watching the exchange, and pounced on 22-year-old Tiffany Evans. In New York, the relevant penal code section prohibiting fortune telling is § 165.35 which reads:
A person is guilty of fortune telling when, for a fee or compensation which he directly or indirectly solicits or receives, he claims or pretends to tell fortunes, or holds himself out as being able, by claimed or pretended use of occult powers, to answer questions or give advice on personal matters or to exorcise, influence or affect evil spirits or curses; except that this section does not apply to a person who engages in the aforedescribed conduct as part of a show or exhibition solely for the purpose of entertainment or amusement. Fortune telling is a class B misdemeanor.
The BBC Trust has decided not to open up its six-day-a-week segment Thought for the Day, broadcast on Radio 4, to non-regilious commentators, as requested by humanist, secular and atheist organizations. However, it has agreed to handle complaints about content of the program in a different way, apparently acknowledging that management has been somewhat insensitive. The Trust is maintaining its position that content for the Thought for the Day program is a matter of editorial discretion, and is intended as religious programming, not merely commentary. However, the committee examining the question noted that when commentary extends to issues of the day "from a faith perspective , the BBC runs a risk that a Thought for the Day contributor might go beyond reflection – in colloquial terms, stepping out of the pulpit and on to a soapbox".
Priests worried about the spread of swine flu have been shooing their flocks away from fonts normally full of holy water, saying say blessing oneself with H20, like shaking hands and other rituals, might exacerbate the catching of the disease, so what to do? Well, Italian inventor Luciano Marabese has come to the aid of Catholic churches and their flocks everywhere. He's come up with an "electronic holy water dispenser." It comes with a sensor that lets out a measure of the water when the parishioner waves his or hand under the device.
Other religious organizations concerned about the spread of H1N1 are changing their rituals as well; see here in a Daily Telegraph article and here in a CBS News story.
From CBS Sunday morning, more on that neuroscience and magic article from last year. Because we sometimes find it difficult to differentiate the evidence of our eyes from what we know scientifically must be true, our eyes can lead us into error, a problem that can get us into trouble in the courtroom--or the legislature.