Can You Copyright Magic?The Famous magician named Teller, from the magic duo Penn & Teller filed a lawsuit against another magician, Gerard Dogge, for posting an imitation trick of Teller’s magic trick, Shadows, on YouTube.  Teller alleged that Dogge was guilty of copyright infringement.  While it is true that Teller both created the magic trick and registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office in the early 1980’s, magic tricks are not copyrightable under federal law.  However, lucky for Teller, pantomimes, even if they include magic tricks, are protected by federal copyright laws.

Pantomimes Are Protected Under Federal Copyright Laws, Says U.S. District Judge

According to U.S. District Judge James Mahan, magic tricks are not protected under federal copyright laws.  However, “dramatic works” and “pantomimes” are.  This grants the owners of “dramatic works” and “pantomimes” “exclusive public performance rights.”  Some of you may be wondering what pantomimes are.  According to a source, pantomimes are “the art of conveying emotions, actions and feelings by gestures.”  In his ruling, Judge Mahan stated, "While Dogge is correct that magic tricks are not copyrightable, this does not mean that Shadows is not subject to copyright protection."

Copyright Infringement Laws

Copyright infringement generally occurs when someone copies or illegally uses copyrighted information without the true owner’s permission.  Copyrighted information can include both published and unpublished products of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.  A copyright protects intellectual property, or the product of the human mind that includes ideas, brands, logos, inventions, patents, trademarks and copyrights.

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