Illusionist fined for plagiarising trick

According to an Associated Press report, Hans Klok, a magician, was successfully sued by a former assistant, Magician Rafael van Herck, and fined €12,205 ($16,725) by a Dutch court for performing a routine in which he fights with a stubborn butler, first apparently reaching through his body to grab a glass of water off a tray, then smacking off his head momentarily.

Klok argued that the tricks are known, and had been performed by Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas. But the court ruled Van Herck’s combination is unique.

COMMENT

Apparently the grounds for the payment was copyright infringement.

Although a magician myself, I haven’t been following the international magic scene for some years now and don’t know either performer.

I find the case interesting as back when I was running the patent department of Seligsohn et Gabrieli, one of Israel’s oldest IP firms, I published a serious of articles in a monthly magic magazine, Club 71, now rebranded as the Magician, on how the various types of intellectual property; patents, designs, trademarks, trade-secrets and copyright, impact on the conjuring world.

Arnan Gabrieli, the head of the firm and a leading Israel litigator wasn’t sure that there was copyright in a magic routine. My position was that a magic routine (not the “how” but the “what”) was a dramatical performance and thus copyright protected. It seems from this case, that I was right.

Magicians have a funny internal code of ethics. Most magic shops won’t accept the return of a trick found to be unsuitable by the purchaser as they consider the purchaser now knows the secret. However, the secret is rarely a secret in any real sense, as it is generally published in books and magazines, some of which may be in public libraries or sold via regular bookshops. The secret was not the magic stores to sell.

I perform for family and friends, hospitals and charities, but have stopped attending magic society meetings, since I find the field stiflingly boring and magicians amongst the least creative people I come across. The dress codes and routines are all so retro. Very little seems to have changed since Hoffman.

That’s not to say that all people coming into the office for advice regarding their inventions have actually created something new.

Having mentioned Club 71, I note that the magic shop that put out the magazine, Repro, had a much fairer policy and would refund money for mistaken purchases, but not for used flash paper.

Magicians have been in the courts before. Ironically, a 12,000 Euro fine for a case that gets picked up by the associated press is good value for money.  It’s the sort of thing that both magicians could have collaborated on to get the publicity. Now there’s a thought.

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