In an update to this story, about the copyright lawsuit filed by magician Raymond Teller (of Penn and Teller), there is a resolution and it is good news for magic artists.
Teller is widely known as a great magician, but he 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.
Belgian entertainer Gerard Dogge posted a YouTube video of an illusion called The Rose & Her Shadow and offered to reveal the secrets for $3,050. The caption on his video said, “I’ve seen the great Penn & Teller performing a similar trick, and now I’m very happy to share my version in a different and more impossible way for you.”
That’s what led to the lawsuit, and before it got to summary judgment ruling this week, Teller went to lengths to punish Dogge for copyright infringement. Literally. Teller had to hire a private investigator to locate Dogge to serve papers to him, and for a while, Dogge evaded service in Belgium, Spain and other European countries. So Teller did a neat new trick. He emailed the court papers to Dogge and managed to convince the judge that his imitator had opened them. It was enough for the judge to allow the lawsuit to proceed.
When this incident first came to light, I wondered how someone would have the audacity to so boldly challenge Teller. He is incredibly smart and he will find you. Once he pinned down Dogge, the judge agreed this was a valid case of artistic theft. It will now likely go to trial to determine damages.
If a jury finds Dogge’s misappropriation to be willful, Teller will be entitled to up to $150,000 in statutory damages. If not willful, Teller might get up to $30,000. Besides copyright, Teller also has an unfair competition claim, and the judge is throwing this to a jury as well to determine whether Dogge’s YouTube videos were likely to cause confusion as to Teller’s involvement with Dogge’s commercial activity.
Having seen Teller do the ‘Rose’ performance in person and being left with my jaw on the floor, mesmerized, I can totally understand why it needs to be protected.