Tell us, Teller

Great profile of Teller in Esquire. His first name used to be Raymond but that’s been legally dropped. Reading quotes from him is weird because I’ve never heard his voice. I think I posted about Teller’s lawsuit before, and he’s got a copyright on the trick in question. But I didn’t know Houdini used to write his tricks into one act plays so they could be protected. And here’s this on the magic of restraint.

It’s actually Penn who best explains the power of magical restraint in his autobiography, God, No! Penn was once a student at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Florida. There, he learned a way to distinguish professional clowns from amateurs: the red makeup around their mouth. A professional clown stops his makeup at his top lip. He won’t paint where his mustache might be, because he knows that too much makeup actually obscures his expression rather than enhances it. Amateur clowns assume that more makeup equals more expression, and they paint from the bottom of their nose to the point of their chin. Professional clowns refer to this phenomenon as the “busted asshole.”

On the case? It hasn’t gotten going yet.

But then Bakardy pulled a pretty nifty trick that was all his own. A lawsuit like Teller’s has to be served to the defendant; a physical copy must be put in his hands. And over the last several months, a server has tried and failed to deliver those papers to Bakardy at addresses across Spain and Belgium. On May 8, Bakardy uploaded a video to YouTube that featured only blaring accordion music, gaudy text, and a photo of a rose in a Coke bottle. It promises a great reveal, the true story — as well as “The better than in Las Vegas trick… . ” He also sent a short, cryptic e-mail declining to be interviewed for this story. (“Not now. Soon you’ll see why.”) That’s all anybody has seen or heard of him in the months since Teller’s lawsuit became public. Gerard Bakardy has vanished.

Tell us, Teller

Hank Lee’s Magic Factory

I happened upon this story of Harry Levy, the owner of Hank Lee’s Magic Factory getting sentenced for credit card fraud and I really had to know what Hank Lee’s Magic Factory was. Turns out it’s a fairly well-known magic store in Medford that has been sketchy for year. My curiosity lead me to this story from March when Levy was first charged. What’s awesome about this is there are 30 comments from magicians around the world weighing in with opinions. I don’t know why the idea of a comments section filled with magicians fascinates me, but it does.

Andrew Dakota

12:48 am on Saturday, March 31, 2012

I’ve warned countless other magicians not to do business with HANK LEE’S MAGIC FACTORY. This company has stolen money via consistant misleading advertising practices. I learned my lesson and stopped doing business 25+yrs ago and have never regretted having done so. This story proves one of my favorite adage’s… No one gets away with ANYTHING!!! WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD and p.s
Sincerely, Andrew Dakota

Hank Lee’s Magic Factory

Teller’s magical copyright

Teller, from Penn & Teller, is suing a Dutch magician for copyright infringement for taking one of his illusions.

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. Bakardy sells a kit—including a fake rose, instructions, and a DVD—for about $3,000. To promote the kits, he posted a video of his performance to YouTube and prepared a magazine ad. (With the video down, the link points to screenshots from the video filed by Teller in his lawsuit.)

I think the issue is the $3K DVD, and not so much the performance, but I don’t know. Teller’s had the copyright since 1983, and you CAN copyright magic apparently.

So what’s left? According to New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann, copyright law protects pantomimes and choreographic works. So Teller may be able to claim the “Shadows” routine is protected under these categories. Teller describes “Shadows” as a “dramatic work.”

Teller’s case may hinge on exactly how similar Bakardy’s routine is to Teller’s. in a 1983 copyright registration, Teller describes the sequence of actions that make up his performance. Ars Technica was not able to find a copy of Bakardy’s video, so we weren’t able to determine how similar Bakardy’s routine is to the one described in Teller’s copyright registration.

Via Mudwerks / Kayfabe

Teller’s magical copyright