Another interesting piece on the possibility (or not) that copyright law can protect magicians' intellectual property.
Jenny Small, The Illusion of Copyright Infringement Protection, 12 Chi-Kent J. Intell. Prop. 217 (Summer 2013). Here are the first few paragraphs of the article.
The schism between knowing and seeing may be magic's allure, but when the magician sees a fellow entertainer perform his signature trick, he wants to know that the law affords him protection. Law, like magic, revolves around expectations. Magic defies one's expectations, but law secures them. Yet, in the realm of copyright law, magicians' expectations for protection are unclear.
As a teenager, Raymond Joseph Teller, of Penn & Teller, envisioned an illusion never before seen. He perfected the trick, and it became known as his signature "Shadows." In the trick, a vase with a rose rests upon a stool and its shadow projects onto a wall. Teller, the "murderer," approaches the shadow $=P218 with a knife, and, as he cuts the petals of the shadow, the real rose petals fall. In 1983, after performing the trick for about seven years, Teller submitted it for copyright registration, using a cartoon-like diagram with a description of the setting, characters, and action. In copyrighting his illusion, he attempted to protect his labor without revealing the secret behind the act.
Until 2012, Teller was the only person to have performed this trick. In that year, however, the video "A Rose & Her Shadow" appeared on YouTube. In the video, Gerard Dogge (alias Bakardy of Los Dos de Amberes) used a knife to cut a projected rose's shadow. Dogge allegedly figured out the secret behind Teller's trick and either devised another way to create the illusion or used video editing to make an audience believe that he could perform the trick. Dogge concluded the video with an offer to sell the trick's secret for 2,450 Euros ($ 3,050). After a failed attempt to negotiate with Dogge, Teller sued him for copyright infringement.
Teller's case represents two emerging legal complexities--the struggle to protect the intellectual property of untraditional artistic creations, like magic and the growing difficulty of preventing artistic replication. This case includes many interesting facets such as Dogge's defamation countersuit in Belgium, issues related to moral and derivative rights, a failed negotiation, and a defendant who all but disappeared. The primary focus of this paper, however, is Teller's copyright infringement claim. Part I addresses the current law surrounding copyright protection of magic and the performance arts. Next, Part II lays out the facts of Teller's case. Finally, Part III discusses Teller's likelihood of success considering the case precedent he must overcome.
As you may know, Mr. Teller won in the U. S. District Court on March 21, 2014. Mark Tratos of Greenberg Traurig, Las Vegas, NV did a remarkable job of representing him in this case.