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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Teller Gets $545,000 in Magic Fight

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A federal judge ordered a Belgian magician to stop selling a magic prop that infringes on a trick created by Raymond Teller, of Penn & Teller, and awarded Teller $545,000 in damages and costs.

Teller prevailed in a copyright case that accused Gerard Dogge of stealing his "Shadows" magic trick and selling it online.

Dogge also goes by the name Gerard Bakardy. He demonstrates the trick-designated as copyrighted by him - on a YouTube clip called " The Rose and Her Shadow ." At the end of the 9-minute clip, Bakardy offers to sell the props needed to perform it.

Teller claims that his own magic trick, called "Shadows," uses a "spotlight trained on a small vase containing a single flower, a rose, which is set on a table. The light falls in such a manner that the shadow of the rose is projected onto a white screen" and "the magician enters the otherwise peaceful scene with a knife and proceeds to use it to dramatically sever first the leaves and then the petals of the rose's shadow on the screen.

"Slowly, correspondingly, one by one, the leaves of the real rose casting the shadow fall to the ground, breaking from the stem at exactly the point where the magician severed the shadow projected on the screen."

U.S. District Judge James Mahan on March 20 granted Teller's motion for summary judgment on copyright infringement liability but denied his motions for unfair competition and damages.

Mahan said Dogge did not participate in pretrial procedures and refused to attend the trial in person, so Teller asked the court for a default judgment against Dogge for willful infringement and unfair competition, a permanent injunction and attorney's fees.

Mahan found that a " default judgment is appropriate 'when a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend." On July 9 he adopted the magistrate judge's recommendation to impose sanctions in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 16 and 17.

Teller also sought statutory damages, which Mahan said could range from $750 to $150,000.

Because Teller sought a permanent injunction, Mahan said, the maximum statutory amount is "unnecessary to deter" Dogge's "further violations."

"It is unclear whether defendant sold any of the offered illusions," Mahan found. "Because this court may award damages 'even for uninjurious and unprofitable invasions of copyright,' the court finds damages in the amount of $15,000 appropriate."

In approving a permanent injunction , Mahan said Teller "is likely to suffer irreparable injury" because Dogge's "infringement is likely to continue."

Teller asked for $989,568 in attorney's fees.

Mahan found Dogge to be "exceptionally difficult and unresponsive, necessitating numerous motions and responses" to force his cooperation.

Mahan awarded Teller $30,000 in costs and $500,000 in attorney's fees for a total judgment against Dogge of $545,000.

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