Penn and Teller take magician to court over trick


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The Independent Online

Two magicians at crossed wands are heading to court over the rights to an illusion and the very principle of the secrecy of magic.

Raymond Teller, one half of the hugely successful duo Penn and Teller, is suing Gerard Dogge, a Dutch magician, claiming that he copied a trick called Shadows.

Dogge, whose stage name is Gerard Bakardy, is accused of posting a video of a trick called "Rose and Her Shadow" on YouTube. He was also said to have offered to explain how to do the trick to anyone willing to pay $3,050 (£1,918).

After asking the site to take down the video, Teller said that he contacted Dogge and offered him money if he stopped performing and offering to sell the trick. Dogge allegedly asked for more money, which was rejected. Now Teller is suing and seeking damages in his native Nevada.

The trick itself involves a vase with a flower in it being placed on a table on a stage between a spotlight and a white screen, so that it casts a shadow onto the screen. The magician then takes a knife to the shadow, which appears to "trim" both the silhouette and the flower in the pot.

Teller claims to have created it as a teenager in his bedroom. In the lawsuit he describes the illusion as having an "iconic quality" and as the "oldest, most venerated piece of material in continuous use" in Penn and Teller's show. His partner, Penn Jillette, has described it as "probably the best bit in our show".

Jason Alexander, one of the stars of the comedy Seinfeld, is a fan of Penn and Teller and an admirer of the trick. He once told a television documentary about the magical pair that he had seen them perform Shadows "at least a dozen times".

"The first time I saw Teller do the shadow illusion, I actually cried," Alexander said.

There are a number of magicians' circles around the world. Often these groups insist that their members do not share the secrets of their works with non-magicians as it would break the so-called "magician's code".

More binding, however, is the US law, under which tricks can be protected as "pantomimes", something Teller appears to have done in 1983.