Magic Tricks and Copyright
How Can A Magic Trick Be Protected?

Magic Tricks and Copyright

How Can A Magic Trick Be Protected?

Creating something new requires plenty of time and effort, especially when it is being done for the first time.

However, once the ice is broken and the product launched, it takes only a fraction of the original duration to create a second copy and probably even lesser time for subsequent avatars.

When this logic has proved successful in case of an atom bomb, what chance would a mere magic trick stand?

As magicians around the world would tell you - practically nil. Magic tricks and copyright are a tough mix.

Over the decades there have been innumerable cases wherein a magician took years to develop an illusion, hone it to the point of perfection and make it compatible with scientific principles only to realize subsequent to its release that someone else has copied it.

Bicycle deck with cup, ball and wand

While this might be a little difficult to digest, something that hurts even more is the fact that after producing the exact imitation, the originality of the magician is not acknowledged at all.

And what about a magician's skill set and talent? Well, that goes unnoticed and unapplauded too.

Magic Tricks and Copyright

From this point onwards, the most pertinent question that arises is whether it is possible to patent magic tricks just like songs, theatrical acts and scientific inventions.

While some magicians are in favour of this step, a vociferous argument against it states that patenting in itself is hardly protective of the creativity of the magician.

By building a patent, magicians will be required to reveal the modus operandi of their tricks and this in itself will lead to rampant copying owing to this form of entertainment being completely bereft of any controls.

However, something that can be patented is the act surrounding the trick, for example, jokes, speech, the type of misdirection that is used and the overall choreography.

In fact there have been two cases involving renowned magicians David Copperfield and Teller in different incidents wherein their enactment was imitated verbatim without prior permission.

David Copperfield sued his imitator in France and was awarded justice, with Teller charging his Dutch copier with the same offence and winning the case too.

But there is a catch in this situation too and magicians acknowledge and realize it. It pertains to the fact that the line demarcating enactment of the trick is blurred in some cases, like in terms of props and the manner in which the trick is handled.

Cup and balls have been copied over again

Some magic tricks call for mandatory usage of certain props, meaning there is no other way in which the trick can be performed.

Therefore, with the equipment being the same and the mannerism a replica of the original owing to lack of flexibility in the trick, on what grounds can the copyright issue be applied? Magic tricks and copyright just does not work as well as it could!!

So what can and should be done to protect and safeguard innovation? One of the ways entails internal policing in the form of making magicians more conscientious towards their brethren so that there is much mutual respect to negate and discourage copying of tricks.

Another way, as advocated by David Copperfield, entails constant innovation which calls for constant reinventing so that every time there is a new aspect to the trick which was not there before.

Protecting a magic trick in its entirety is impossible but definitely can be made plausible just the way in which magic tricks themselves are not impossible but plausible.

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