Disappointing: Teller Sues Other Magician For Doing The Same Trick
from the ownership-society dept
This is disappointing in a number of different ways. Years ago, we wrote about an academic paper that looked at how the magic community policed itself without having to resort to the blunt instrument of intellectual property lawsuits. As Tim Lee noted at the time:
Instead, the magic community uses social norms to reward those who discover new magic tricks and punishes those who disclose them to non-magicians. Because magicians rely so much on their professional network of other magicians to learn about new tricks, new equipment, and new performance opportunities, maintaining a good reputation within the magic community is essential to the career of a successful magician. A magician who uses another magician's trick without giving the originator proper credit, or who reveals secrets to non-magicians, is shunned by other magicians. That kind of ostracism can be a much better (not to mention cheaper) way of disciplining wayward members than getting the lawyers involved.Unfortunately, it looks like Teller has decided to go much further than that. While it is true that he registered a copyright on the trick, illustrated with the following amusing illustration, it's pretty ridiculous for a magician to claim "ownership" of a trick:
I recognize that magicians fear losing "the secret" to their tricks, but that's pretty silly. Magic is entertainment, and people like going to see it not because they're "fooled" but because of the showmanship of the entertainers. And, Penn & Teller's monstrous success has much more to do with the fact that their acts are incredibly entertaining -- rather than the skill of their tricks. Even if someone knew the secrets to all of their tricks, it wouldn't make the show any less enjoyable.
Furthermore, it's not even clear that there's actually infringement here. While certain specifics about the performance may be copyrightable, the basics of just doing a trick shouldn't be subject to copyright. It's much more narrow. If anything this seems like yet another attempt to abuse copyright law to stifle some form of "competition," rather than for any legitimate copyright-related purpose. It's just disappointing that someone like Teller would do such a thing.