Las Vegas magician Jan Rouven charged fellow Las Vegas magician Criss Angel swiped his “Bed of Death” illusion for Mr. Angel’s new Spike television series, BeLIEve. Mike Weatherford detailed Mr. Rouven’s claims in May 17th Las Vegas Review Journal column.
Mr. Angel claimed the inspiration for the stunt was Clive Barker’s film “Lord of Illusions.”
Mr. Rouven said Mr. Angel’s version of the escape differs from the film and more closely resembles Mr. Rouven’s version. In the film, a magician needs to escape falling swords. The version Mr. Rouven performs in his show at the Riviera has an audience member choose the order of the falling swords.
Mr. Angel denied the accusation flatly. “They’re in a glass house,” he said.
Mr. Weatherford reported that Mr. Angel alleged Mr. Rouven performs illusions without the inventor’s permission. The Rouven camp denied those charges.
“I go out of my way to get people’s permission,” Mr. Weatherford quoted Mr. Angel as saying. “I deal with this on a much larger level than any of these people. … Do you think I would really need to do something like that?”
Fast forward to Robin Leach’s Strip Scribbles column one week later.
The peripatetic columnist for The Las Vegas Sun reported that California’s Malloy Modern Magic claims Mr. Rouven is performing two of their “exclusive illusions” in his Riviera show. Mr. Leach said Malloy Modern Magic sent an email (to whom, he does not say) in which they promise to take action. “We will be pursuing all our legal rights in connection with the use of our Subspiker and Prediction chest illusions that he does without our permission or approval of our rights. We had an exclusive fabricator deal to create these, and he has failed to obtain our permission.”
The intellectual property lawyer part of us (the part that pays the bills) wonders what cause of action Malloy Modern Magic could bring against Mr. Rouven — assuming their claims are accurate. It is unfortunate that the theft of magic secrets by itself is generally not a tort. On the other hand, the false claim of theft may be considered slanderous or libelous.
It may be distasteful and not nice, but unless there is a patent or a specific contract restricting the alleged thief’s behavior, there is nothing for a court to do. Of course, we do not know the facts or even the accuracy of the claims so we are not providing an opinion whether a cause of action exists or should exist. How is that for a lawyer’s disclaimer?
It is clear that the claim of theft is a very serious charge in our business. It is interesting that the non-magic media apparently thinks so as well.