The mystique of magic depends on hiding the technique of the original trick, and no legal steps
the secrets behind the tricks. Since the be- can be taken to keep it secret.
ginning of modern stage magic, organizations On the other hand, if the aforementioned bullet-such as the Society of American Magicians and the catching routine relied on a special mechanism to
International Brotherhood of Magicians have enforced perform the trick, a patent could be issued. Inventions
codes of ethics and oaths of secrecy, to prevent the such as levitation harnesses, magic hats, or anything
willful exposure of secrets to the public and, maybe that constitutes a “conjuring device” are eligible
even more importantly, to recognize and respect the for patents, and can be successfully protected. But
ownership rights of magic effects inventors. then, of course, the patented invention is no longer
Unfortunately, some knaves will break these a secret, and a clever person will be able to create
codes in order to steal a particularly astonishing an effect just different enough to fall outside the
effect. This means magicians must resort to copy- claims of the patent.
rights and patents to protect their inventions. The tradeoff between protecting an effect and
Copyrighting a magic trick can protect the holder, revealing the secret behind it wasn’t too bad until the
but only so far. For instance, say an illusionist had web began linking to patent databases. But today,
a big dance number that involves a new bullet- the gimmicks behind countless tricks are available at
catching technique. The entire routine could be your fingertips. For some examples of secrets behind
copyrighted and no other magician could legally well-known tricks, go to google.com/patents and
reproduce the act. But copyrighting doesn’t protect search for the patent numbers provided here.
Saw a Person
This 1923 patent by
Horace Goldin was the
first for sawing a woman
in half, and although
it was not the last,
it did a lot for boosting
this trick’s exposure.