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November 22, 2017

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Teller wins copycat lawsuit against European entertainer; Nathan Burton vs. Murray Sawchuck?


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“Tim’s Vermeer” by Rio headliner magicians Penn & Teller.

Penn and Teller 20th Anniversary at The Rio

Penn & Teller's 20th-anniversary performance and celebration at The Rio on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. The magic duo is pictured here with Launch slideshow »

Magician Teller, the “quiet one” of Penn & Teller at the Rio, has pulled off his own coup to silence a rival European entertainer for copying his incredible illusion “Shadows.” Teller registered his schematic with the U.S. copyright as far back as 1983 and has performed the baffling trick for nearly 40 years.

Nevada Federal Court Judge James Mahan ruled that Teller created the illusion and that it has a mystique to this day as an important part of his act. “Shadows” shows Teller “cutting” the image projected on a paper screen of a real rose in a vase lit by a spotlight. As the shadow’s leaves fall one by one, the corresponding real rose sheds its leaves in sympathy.

Teller went after Belgian-born Gerard Dogge — an appropriate last name under the circumstances — for posting his copycat “The Rose and Her Shadow” illusion on YouTube with an offer to sell the instructions for $3,000. Teller pursued the imitator for copyright infringement, hiring private investigators to track him down in Europe to serve lawsuit papers.

Judge Mahan turned down Dogge’s defense, ruling: “ ‘Shadows’ is subject to copyright protection as federal law directly holds ‘dramatic works’ and ‘pantomimes’ to copyright protection granting owners exclusive public performance rights.”

The judge’s decision now allows Teller to move forward to claim statutory damages of $30,000 to $150,000 and a shutdown of the YouTube video offer. Partner Penn Jillette said: “No one knows how ‘Shadows’ is done, and no one will ever figure it out.”

David Copperfield previously won a similar lawsuit against a French magician in a European court for copying his flying routine.

Teller is set to open a month’s run of his magical interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest’ in a theater tent on April 1 at the Smith Center downtown.

Meantime, the feud continues between Las Vegas magicians Nathan Burton at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops and Murray Sawchuck at the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory. Murray, who resumes his second-annual spring and summer run Monday, says Nathan had security escort wife and “Fantasy” dancer Chloe Crawford and him from Saxe Theater after he purchased two tickets for $12 apiece.

No comment from Nathan about the incident, but Murray said: “I thought at first it was a joke. I thought he was a friend.” Both magicians starred in separate seasons of “America’s Got Talent.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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