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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Right or Wrong? » » What constitutes stealing? Concept of ownership of original material (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Jonathan Townsend
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When I asked about material that is his invention, I was sometimes given permission to explore BUT not around magicians. Those who simply copied what they saw were confronted and if they did not cease, avoided and not shown new discoveries.

As a policy, though not formalized at that time, it would probably be that the inventor is the only person to share/demonstrate their ideas. At the time is was simply being respectful of the wishes of the inventor as a courtesy which seems a small price for getting to see things newly invented and not even scheduled for publication.
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garcia00
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On 2006-08-11 13:25, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
When I asked about material that is his invention, I was sometimes given permission to explore BUT not around magicians. Those who simply copied what they saw were confronted and if they did not cease, avoided and not shown new discoveries.

As a policy, though not formalized at that time, it would probably be that the inventor is the only person to share/demonstrate their ideas. At the time is was simply being respectful of the wishes of the inventor as a courtesy which seems a small price for getting to see things newly invented and not even scheduled for publication.


I think we are in agreement, but are you saying that if I figure out a new sleight that someone has shown me (but did not expose it to me) I can use the move/subtlety/sleight on laymen, but not show how it works to other magicians.

I agree with that.

Keep in mind, I am not talking trick/routine/patter/presentation. I am talking a new sleight to reverse a card. If the guy does it so ineptly that I figure it out, then I feel it is fair game. I will perfect it so it is not exposed, or I will not use it as it is imperfect in my hands. In either event it is not mine to teach to others, nor publish in any way.

I can see an argument against doing the sleight for profit, so let's say not for profit. Just for laypeople for free.

I am not talking about gimmicks/gaffs and the such either. Just sleights. A way to vanish a coin with you bare hands. A way to reverse a card. Utilities.

There seems to be a lot of trouble in narrowing this down to a discussion of basic sleights and moves. That is the very narrow topic I am attempting to address.
Jonathan Townsend
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We are getting close Garcia00.

I asked about the material and he made his wishes known about it. For counter example, I asked a coinman about how he produced a the first of four coins in one of his routines and he wanted to keep that for himself. It's still not in print as far as I know, so I'm not going to even say how it looked here.

This is also why I don't discuss things like Nowhere Palm applications, even though the concealment was outed by others.

I would offer you that same respect as regards your material if you performed it in my presence and encourage others to adopt this policy of asking for permission.
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garcia00
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On 2006-08-11 14:14, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
We are getting close Garcia00.

I asked about the material and he made his wishes known about it. For counter example, I asked a coinman about how he produced a the first of four coins in one of his routines and he wanted to keep that for himself. It's still not in print as far as I know, so I'm not going to even say how it looked here.



I agree. What if he performs the sleight so ineptly that you determine how that first coin was produced. Can you modify and improve the faulty technique without his permission. What if your hands are better, and you can do it undetected while he cannot, using the exact same faulty method he said you could not use?

There is a tough shading of the issue (I won't waste time with easy ones!)
Jonathan Townsend
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As it happens I did understand the sleight and have never seen this guy do a sleight ineptly.

If it's something I can do well, I can ask and sometimes get permission to go ahead with an item.
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garcia00
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I am asking a hypothetical, not concerning the guy who tips you.

If you are unconfortable answering the hypothetical, that is OK. It is a tough one.

I think an exposed new sleight, that the originator cannot do, is fair game for those that witness and can use it without detection.

I also think you should not use a sleight until it can be done 100% without detection.

I think running a video tape over and over to figure it out is stealing.
Jonathan Townsend
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Why copy a work in development without asking?

Is being copied supposed to be a punishment for getting feedback from magicians?
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garcia00
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On 2006-08-11 15:09, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Why copy a work in development without asking?

Is being copied supposed to be a punishment for getting feedback from magicians?



You changed the fact pattern. If you are testing a move on other magicians, then they should treat it as the creators and leave it alone.

I talked about a person PERFORMING the sleight which is exposed. In other words, you see a performer bar hopping in vegas, see him do something to reverse a card, and it is obvious. Is it in public domain at that point?

For use, not publication.

I do not know the answer myself. I tend to think it is. I would tend to decide based on the complexity of the sleight. The more complex, the more likely it is the original creation and property of the creator. The more simple, the more likely it is merely a new application of an old method.

Remember I am not talking trick/routine/patter or presentation, which are exclusively the creator's. I am talking a single sleight.

I guess the confrontation would be along the lines of, I know you can tell how I reversed that card, but you can't do that move, it is mine.

Keep in mind, it continues to be my contention that there are few if any new sleights created anymore. They are all derivations of other moves, or moves lifted from texts few have seen. I myself have collected a number of these texts which seem to be pretty rare. I am constantly finding little nuggets which I can apply to a new situation. Jay has excelled at this. I think Dill did it for his box. I knew what he did immediately the first time I saw it performed, because I had read the theory behind it years ago from some text I had forgotten. Same with his necklace trick. A modification of an old theory. A modernization. Changing wax to tape, ect.

Is the modification/modernization of an old method or theory protected? That I do not know.

Posted: Aug 11, 2006 3:46pm
Actually, following up on modernization, my son asked me to watch chris angel last night. He did a chain through neck thing. Could have easily worked just like nana's necklace.

If so, was that stealing?

I am glad we seem to be able to have this discussion without spinning out of control. I am interested in the ethics end of this.
Jonathan Townsend
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Let me see if I understand the basic situation in question

A sees B do a trick using some move X which is done so poorly that A sees exactly what is going on. A then discovers that they can customize the move to make it work as a functional secret sleight.

Is this the situation you wish to discuss, the ethics of B laying claim upon that "fixed up" move? Perhaps even calling it Y now?
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garcia00
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On 2006-08-11 16:11, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Let me see if I understand the basic situation in question

A sees B do a trick using some move X which is done so poorly that A sees exactly what is going on. A then discovers that they can customize the move to make it work as a functional secret sleight.

Is this the situation you wish to discuss, the ethics of B laying claim upon that "fixed up" move? Perhaps even calling it Y now?


Remove the "laying claim" part, and you have it! I would have no interest in claiming the move as my own, and if one desired to, they should cite the person with the defective version as inspiration.

I would tend to say that the originator would have no right to bar use, but every right to expect attribution.

It's just me, but I don't believe many, if any, "moves" can be owned. Tricks/routines/patter and presentation can be owned. No one owns the bottom deal.

It would take a lot of work to convince me that a simple sleight is something new or original. However, the more complex the sleight, the more likely it is that it is original, and I would deem it protected.

Sort of like, no one owns middle C, but the use of middle C in an original composition is protected. Similarly, the tweaking of middle C to a slightly different frequency cannot be claimed as one's original creation.
chrismatt
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Quote:
On 2006-08-11 09:35, Nosher wrote:
"A raw sleight or move belongs to anyone who wishes to use it"

Does it really? Imagine three guys with video cameras surreptitiously and simultaneously recorded Mickey Silver from 3 different views and worked out the mechanics of his highly regarded sleights.

If they subsequently performed and/or sold the methods - apart from rightfully earned opprobrium, what would the consequences be?

Would Mr. Silver have any legal recourse if they claimed independent invention?


The answer is no. Furthermore, I'm afraid the case would be laughed out of court. Despite what you might believe is right or fair, no one "owns" a sleight, no matter how complicated, novel, beautiful or elegant. A sleight is an "idea" that belongs to no one and to everyone, to paraphrase J.N. Hofzinser. Newton didn't own the infinitely more profound idea of gravity just because he discovered it.

I'm glad the discussion has turned away from legality and towards ethics.

P.S. On the first page of this thread, I wrote: "There is so much misinformation and pseudo-legal opinion [about this subject] that it would take a long dissertation to sort it out." In his post above, aiki very succinctly and accurately states the key points.
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Philosophry
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There were several well know comedians who had there act stolen but there was nothing they could do about it.


When I worked in comedy this happened all the time. The guys in the middle get done by the guys at both ends. New guys, working 10min spots for free, steal some gags from a guy they heard in another club. They're too knew to realise all the acts have heard all the other acts 100s of times already and immediately recognise the material. Word gets around quick and this guy gets warned off. Not much fun for me though, if half my act's just come out the mouth of the open-spot five minutes before I go on.

At the other end of the scale, you turn on the TV and there's some guy on the screen with your words coming out his mouth. Try performing that act in any of the clubs now. Not much fun for me.

The point isn't a legal one, it's an ethical one. Stealing my material harms me in that I now have to go on stage unable to use my best material. This, in turn affects how the audience perceives me, which affects my career. Comedians (modern one's at least) generally don't steal each other's acts because it makes work impossible.

Having said this, if someone watched my show, copied down the material word for word and then performed it for his friends, for a local show, at work - anywhere except on stage in a comedy club or on TV, radio or internet - I can't see what complaint I can really have.

With regards to magic, I've seen professionals performing stuff straight off Bannechek and Osterlind DVDs word for word. I don't think it's unethical - they certainly aren't going to be taking work of Bannechek or Osterlind. It does show a lack of imagination.
George Ledo
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I've been following these threads for quite a while now, and I have to say I'm totally confused...

If I publish an effect (as in show how to do it), whether it be in a book, a magic mag, a DVD, or whatever, I'm doing it so others can use it. I'm not giving away "ownership" -- i.e., I'm not placing it it in the "puiblic domain" -- but I'm basically making it available for others to use. I have to expect that others will use, it, adapt it, and so forth. It would be silly of me not to.

If I were to prepare and sell a DVD with my act and call it a "performance only" DVD -- that is, "look but don't touch" -- it would be very naive of me to think that others aren't going to distill it, reverse-engineer it, or outright steal it. However, the only reason I can think of for publishing my act this way would be to make money, which is exactly why recording artists publish their material. If the money (or the glory) is more important to me than keeping the material to myself, then I'll sell a DVD with my act on it and say bye-bye to the act.

By the same token, it would be very naive of me to do my latest creation at the local magic club and go home thinking that nobody is going to use it without my permission. Back when I started in magic, that was never an issue; nowadays, it's going to happen. So the question is, if I want to keep an "original" effect to myself, why do it at the local magic club at all, instead of just doing it for a general audience?

I don't know... so many of these discussions seem to imply that we want to have our cake and eat it too...
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Philosophry
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I don't think it's 'we' who want our cake and eat it.

A small but noisy minority demand excessive protection for people selling magic. This minority seem to be made up of people who don't create and publish any magic but buy other people's books, DVDs and downloads.

It seems to me, that these people want to buy their cake and eat it. And if anyone else wants a slice they can p*** off and buy their own d*** cake.
garcia00
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I agree totally with Ledo above. If you publish something for performance only, you are looking for compensation, and you had better accept that part of that is losing control of your act.

If you perform something out in public, and are good, your methods will not be discovered. However, you are going to get people too lazy to come up with their own special something lifting concepts. To get worked up over this inevitable outcome seems almost a sign of mental illness. The person should just accept this will happen, and hone the routine so it becomes his own, identified with him, so that a performance for peers is impossible. Because in the end, that is all the matters.

An top notch example would be Neilson's floating violin. Or Burton's dove routine.

In another realm would be Josh Jays remote. I know he is selling it, but it does not interest me in the least. Because it is his, not mine. I should find some other place to make the card appear, and craft a routine around it. It is not all the hard, if you think about it. But not as easy as just copying someone elses.

Why worry about what 5th tier performers do at school assemblies? It does not impact your performing at all. The odds of a spectator overlap is about nil.

Of course, in smaller markets, there might be competition between marginal players doing the same material. Again, skill and marketing determine the person who gets the bookings. It has always been that way.

Coming from a 7th tier fringe nonplayer.......
ttorres
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All the big names in magic Copperfield, Angel, Burton and so on have writers and consultants. The reason for these people is to create effect and patter for the performer. Now when these performers perform the effects and patter created by the people they pay to create for them are they being lazy? If I buy a book, video or DVD and perform what I paid the creators for am I being lazy?

Is there a difference?
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George Ledo
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Interesting question, and one that will surely get differing opinions.

The names you mentioned, and lots of other entertainers since forever, are not being lazy: they're being smart. They're smart enough to realize that their strong point is performing, and that there are other people whose strong points are being creative. But every single name you mentioned, and most of the others, are very much involved in the process. Bob Hope had several writers creating his "spontaneous" gags, but it was his delivery talent and personality that made the jokes funny and made him a star.

If you buy a book or video that was intended as a teaching tool (i.e., one intended to show you how to do an effect), you're not being lazy. That's what the books and videos are for.

Being lazy is watching someone else's act and copying the stuff, or the presentation, or the delivery, outright and without permission. Being lazy and underhanded is copying the other guy's stuff, but changing it just enough (and falling back on the language and legal technicalities in the copyright laws) that you then claim it as different and therefore as "your improvement."

However, if you see a guy doing a published effect (say out of Tarbell or a DVD), and you want to do the same effect, the accepted practice is to buy the book or DVD, or whatever, and then feel free to do it. And, if the guy uses the exact moves, patter, and so forth, in the instructions, you can use them too because that's how they were published.
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newguy
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A few important points to add:

Title 17 of the US Constitution protects the creations of artists and inventors (so the founding Fathers thought this stuff was important, like freedom and voting)

The idea of copyright and patent protection is to grant the inventor/creator a limited period of Monopoly for the eventual greater good of Society - If you are clever, instead of hiding your invention or discovery forever, tell us about it by applying for patent or copyright protection. In return, we, society, agree not to use it for a statutory period of time (13 years, 17 years, Life of the Author plus 50 years) so you get to reap the benefit of your ideas (monetary profit, artistic uniqueness) for a while, then all of Society gets to use it. That is how it works.

Yes, magic seems to have other rules from time to time, but here is a great rule of thum: if your inspiration was in print - perform to your heart's content (within the limits of the copyright of the writer)

But,

If your inspiration was something you saw in the act of another performer, let your heart and mind be inspired, but lay-off doing "your variation" - it's not inspiration, its plagerism.

The reality is, play with anything you want at home. Lock the doors and do Ricky Jay's entire show, with patter, poems and fake beard. Beyond that, just be happy there is a Ricky Jay to elevate our Art in the minds of the public.

Why are creative folks so touchy about sharing, ownership and performance rights? Because the smart ones knew that David Copperfield and David Blaine weren't the only ones doing magic for a wider public audience.

First it live theater (audiences of hundreds or thousands) then television (audiences of millions) then add cable and You-Tube and now everyone has access to an audience of global proportions.

Cyril got famous around the world because of You-Tube, so protecting ideas matters, there is a giant machine that eats programming and the few who can develop new and attractive ideas need to keep control of their ideas.

A real (And really creepy) example:

There is a kid performing in NYC who does a one-man show on Monday nights. He tries to speak like Ricky Jay. Much of his material is so "inspired" by Ricky Jay that it might as well be stolen. The kid closes his show with something he took right out of Mr. Jay's show. When confronted, he argued that "Putting the pieces together" the same way as Mr. Jay was not stealing.

He admits he saw Ricky do it on stage in NY first (even before the kid "thought of it" for his own show) In a news article the kid cites Ricky Jay as an "Inspiration" and a "Hero" of his.

This guy is just a self-deluded creep and a thief. If you see his show, there is NO comparison, this guy is a hack trying to be someone he is not. One day he will wake-up and realize how awful he has been to another artist, the Art and himself. He has wasted his own time and some of his own effort. And he will never be able to redeem himself within the Art.

Awful.
garcia00
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On 2006-08-12 23:17, newguy wrote:

A real (And really creepy) example:

There is a kid performing in NYC who does a one-man show on Monday nights. He tries to speak like Ricky Jay. Much of his material is so "inspired" by Ricky Jay that it might as well be stolen. The kid closes his show with something he took right out of Mr. Jay's show. When confronted, he argued that "Putting the pieces together" the same way as Mr. Jay was not stealing.

He admits he saw Ricky do it on stage in NY first (even before the kid "thought of it" for his own show) In a news article the kid cites Ricky Jay as an "Inspiration" and a "Hero" of his.

This guy is just a self-deluded creep and a thief. If you see his show, there is NO comparison, this guy is a hack trying to be someone he is not. One day he will wake-up and realize how awful he has been to another artist, the Art and himself. He has wasted his own time and some of his own effort. And he will never be able to redeem himself within the Art.

Awful.


This is not the only example, of that I am sure.

As for the post about paying someone to write you patter, I think that is a lot different than reciting, verbatim, patter written in a book you have bought.

Difference being, one is personalized, one is generic.
George Ledo
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Every now and then I see a series of posts on originality: "I adapted this, so it's mine," "I came up with this ten years ago..." blah blah blah.

I'm in the theater business, and I can't figure out why this "originality" thing is so important. Do actors (live theater, TV, movies) write their own scripts? Do comedians write their own material? Do concert pianists write their own scores? Do ballet dancers create their own choreography? Do singers write their own songs?

A very few do, and an even fewer are very good at it. The rest -- the vast majority -- are smart enough to realize that they are performers, and focus on the performance. They get their material from people who are very creative at coming up with material but leave it for others to perform.

There is nothing wrong with using published material. There's enough published material in magic right now to go around for a few hundred years, if people would just use it instead of getting hung up on "doing their own improvements."

And here's where this whole "originality" thing is such a joke to me, given what I do for a living. I can sit there and watch the auditions for, say, Hamlet, and listen to eight or ten guys doing the "To be or not to be" soliloquy, or the Yorick speech, and every one of them will do it slightly different, adding their own personality to it, their own twist, their own pauses. They will use exactly the same words that Willie wrote five hundred years ago, but each one will add his own dimension to it.

Some of these guys studied Olivier, or Branagh, or someone else, in school, and maybe they copied the delivery exactly to get the hang of it, but when it came to getting out there and competing (auditioning) for the role, they put their own personality into it. Yet the words were exactly the same.
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