Nearly a year ago, we wrote about the disappointing news that Raymond Teller, better known as "Teller" from Penn & Teller (also as the silent guy in that act), was suing
another magician for copyright infringement for copying one of his tricks. This was disappointing on multiple levels. As we had discussed years ago, magicians are an example of a market that has been hugely innovative over the years, mostly without copyright
being used at all. In fact, it's not entirely clear that a magic trick can
be covered by copyright -- even if Teller successfully "registered" this particular trick. Copyright registration is basically a rubber stamping procedure, rather than any serious review.
The lawsuit has continued, but not without some challenges -- one of the large ones being that the magician being sued, Gerard Dogge (aka Gerard Bakardy), has tried to pull a disappearing act
to avoid getting served. And, it appears, he's been somewhat successful.
Defendant’s citizenship and current whereabouts are unknown, and have not been known
since the commencement of the action. On April 30, 2012, plaintiff hired a private investigator to locate defendant
in Belgium and serve defendant with the summons and complaint. Additionally,
plaintiff retained a top Belgian law firm to properly effectuate service upon defendant. To date, defendant has evaded personal service and cannot be located in Belgium, Spain, or
in any other country in Europe.
Nice trick. Except... it didn't work. The court notes that Dogge is clearly "intimately knowledgeable of the details of this lawsuit," in part because he sued Teller in Belgium for defamation over
the lawsuit. Oh yeah, even while trying to avoid getting served, Dogge has filed his own filings in the existing lawsuit, which is generally not a good way to suggest you don't know that the lawsuit is happening. Also not helping Dogge's case is that he appears to be... a bit wacky, based on his filings. For example, filed an undescribed bit of porn -- and then asked for it to be filed under seal. The court rejects this request, and also tells him: "Defendant shall not file any pornographic material with this court as a sealed exhibit or otherwise."
Oh, and then he asked for a jury made up entirely of magicians.
In general, it sounds like Dogge's "legal" arguments are somewhat close to nonsensical as well:
For example, defendant states “[m]agicians are like clowns, they only
serve to entertain. Obviously stealing from each other is out of the question, and this has not
The court does reject one of Teller's motions, seeking to effectively bar the Belgian case from moving forward, even while saying that the lawsuit "has a vexatious flavor," but that's not enough to block it.
In the end, it's unfortunate that Dogge appears not to be handling the case particularly adeptly. There are some important copyright principles at stake here, and he seems to be treating it like a joke. I can understand why
someone would choose not to respect copyright laws like that, but it means that a good chance to actually explore the legal issues is likely to be wasted or (worse) create a bad legal precedent.