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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Right or Wrong? » » A little insight on "borrowing" routines? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Head Case
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A buddy and I were discussing this topic the other day about "borrowing" ideas from other magicians routines. 90% of all the magic you know whether it be sleights, patter, routines, were all developed or created by someone else, then published in books, videos, magazines etc. So, lets say you wanted to make a stand up comedy act. And you wanted to take ideas from other magicians routines. (The Amazing Jonathan's Hand is quicker than the eye gag, or his Linking rings, these ones are already linked so we can move on with that. Or Michael Finney's card on forehead routine.) This is considered wrong to use other magicians patter, routine, or effects. My buddy says that as long as your not making an instructional video of someone elses work (without their permission), it's completely fine to use others ideas for his own routine.

This was being talked about while I was trying to help him come up with a comedy stand up act. Neither one of us are too good at making comedy bits. So we started watching other magicians routines to get some inspiration, and that's how the topic came up, from him saying, "Why don't I just do this whole bit?" (referring to Michael Finney's card on forehead routine.

We already had a few drinks, so obviously the discussion turned to more of an argument. So that's why I'm here to see what others think about the topic.

So feel free to leave some input.
Steven Youell
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Quote:
On 2010-12-08 16:10, DCMagicEnt wrote:
This is considered wrong to use other magicians patter, routine, or effects. My buddy says that as long as your not making an instructional video of someone elses work (without their permission), Its completely fine to use others ideas for his own routine.

My opinion is that your buddy is dead wrong. If it's in print or on an instructional video, it should be fair game unless there's a specific statement reserving performance rights-- Bruce Cervon and Michael Weber have taken this approach with their books "LifeSavers" and "Ultra Cervon". Jokes and lines are an integrel part of the act and should not be considered trivial enough to appropriate. There are, of course, jokes/lines that have been used in various form by many magicians and those are boderline cases for me.

SEY
Adam1975
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Surely performing rights is a nonsense...if this is the case, why publish???
Ive upped my standards.Now,up yours!
Head Case
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Quote:
On 2010-12-08 16:36, Adam1975 wrote:
Surely performing rights is a nonsense....if this is the case,why publish???


The material being published or not is besides the point...

Here is an example.

So your saying that if I were to do... lets say..., David Copperfield entire duck routine at my local playhouse for a paid gig.

That would be completely OK? I mean after all, it's not like he is ever going to get mad at me for doing his routine at my local playhouse. It's not like he is every going to book a $300-500 gig there anyway. Right?


Or lets say I do all of Michael Finney's card on forehead routine at my local comedy open mic dive bar. - Would this situation be OK in your eyes?

You agree with this???
Adam1975
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But if said performers published there material, surely you have paid to use it,your not ripping them off, like I say, why publish ? Am I missing something here?! Seems like common sense to me!
Ive upped my standards.Now,up yours!
Will-Ace
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Material Published is the point.
Performance rights, seem something these guys made up when they wanted to make money on their routines without letting anyone use their presentations.

Performing styles is just something that other magicians will care about. If you don't want magicians being mad at you, create your own presentation. If not, you can do whatever you want.
Head Case
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Haha I was in hope to get some reply's that I could use to convince him to create his own routine, not just copy someone elses. I don't think ill be sending him the link to this thread. lol

Thank you for your input though. Smile - didn't want to start a flame war or anything. And didn't mean to call anyone out.

Cheers.
BarryFernelius
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I remember a Ricky Jay story about this topic. I think it's instructive.
---
Many years ago, Jay had an encounter there [at the Magic Castle] that he describes as typical.

"A guy comes up and starts telling me he's a fan," he recalls. "I say thank you, that's nice to hear. He says he used to see me perform in Boulder, Colorado. That's nice, too, I say. Then he starts talking about this wonderful piece I did with a mechanical monkey-really one of the most bizarre routines I ever worked out-and I thank him, and he says, `Yeah, I get a tremendous response when I do that. Audiences just love it.' And I say, `Let me ask you something. Suppose I invite you over to my house for dinner. We have a pleasant meal, we talk about magic, it's an enjoyable evening. Then, as you're about to leave, you walk into my living room and you pick up my television and walk out with it. You steal my television set. Would you do that?' He says, `Of course not.' And I say, `But you already did.' He says, `What are you talking about?' I say, `You stole my television!' He says, `How can you say that? I've never even been to your house.' This guy doesn't even know what a metaphor is. People ask me why I don't do lectures at magic conventions, and I say, `Because I'm still learning.' Meanwhile, you've got people who have been doing magic for ten months and they are actually out there pontificating. It's absurd."
---
(From "Secrets of the Magus" by Mark Singer, published in New Yorker magazine. If you're interested, you can find the rest of this excellent article online.)
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

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Steven Youell
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Unfortunately there is often a big difference between what is ethical and what is legal. Let me give you an example.

If I look exactly like Barry Fernelius and decide I want to duplicate his entire act, I can do so as long as I bill myself as "Harry Dinopolis". The legal test here is the same one that the Supreme Court used in a case started by Charlie Chaplin. As long as I am not purposely deceiving the public into believing I am Barry Fernelius, it is legal. By the fact that I've billed myself as a different person, this shows a lack of determination to deceive the public.

So although it's not *ethical*, it's still legal in the United States.

In a recent case regarding Bette Midler, an advertising company was found liable for using an artist that sounded exactly like Bette Midler-- however -- there was a large amount of evidence that demonstrated it was the intent of the advertising company to make people think the artist was Bette Midler (documents, emails, witnesses, etc.)

Currently in the United States, there are only three options for protecting intellectual property: Copyright, Registered Trademarks & Patent. So unless something is protected under one or more of those means, it is legal to use in your own act. Legal, but not ethical. I do not know the implications of using bits, jokes, etc., from printed material or videos. Although they may be copyrighted they are obviously intended to instruct... If memory serves me correctly, I remember an attempt to copyright a Sleight of Hand Sequence as a Choreography but I don't know if it was successful or not.

I am not a lawyer so please do not consider this legal advice. I actually clerked in a Law Office when I was just starting out in magic and had the time to research this stuff.

As to performance rights, regardless of what you think the fact is that if a person originates material then he sets the rules for it's use. Period. To me, that's not only ethical, it's also fair. This, or course, is from an ethical viewpoint, not a legal one.

SEY

P.S. All of the above refers to what is legal in the United States, not any other country.

Quote:
On 2010-12-08 16:56, Adam1975 wrote:
But if said performers published there material,surely you have paid to use it,your not ripping them off,like I say,why publish ? Am I missing something here ?! Seems like common sense to me!


The way magic works, if you show a routine/trick to just a few magicians, it's only a matter of time before a lot of people are doing it in their shows. Not to mention people making minor changes and publishing it under their own name.

Publishing but restricting performance rights allows a very strong record of credit to the originator. In the case of Michael Weber, he only restricted "paid" performances. Cervon's was a bit more restrictive but basically the same.

SEY
Mr. Mystoffelees
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From what I have read of late, it is open season on everything that is not nailed down legally. I have heard often that (1) there are no secrets, (2) exposure is the hobgoblin of little minds, and (3) there is nothing anyone can do about it...
Also known, when doing rope magic, as "Cordini"
Donal Chayce
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This is yet another reason why it's good to have a written script for one's performance pieces. Unlike so much of what makes up TTWD, our scripts can be copyrighted. So while we may not be able to keep anyone from performing "our" tricks (assuming we have a legitimate creation/ownership claim to them, which for most of us is not the case), we can legally prevent them from misappropriating our presentations.

I make it a point to copyright all of my scripts. It's a simple and relatively inexpensive process, and it can even be done on line.

http://www.copyright.gov/
Pakar Ilusi
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I think it is all for naught, ethics in Magic? Smile

They will do whatever they please. They have and always will. (Whoever "they" may be...)

I wish it wasn't so, but wishing doesn't make it so.

So... I just keep on keeping on.

The cream rises to the top right?

At least that's what they tell me.

Smile
"Dreams aren't a matter of Chance but a matter of Choice." -DC-
Jonathan Townsend
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Magic is the land of do-as-you-please.
I hope folks understand that the law of threefold returns works in magic
And that magic tends to attract those who have very long memories.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
JasonEngland
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Quote:
On 2010-12-08 16:56, Adam1975 wrote:
But if said performers published there material, surely you have paid to use it,your not ripping them off, like I say, why publish ? Am I missing something here?! Seems like common sense to me!


Quote:
On 2010-12-08 16:59, Will-Ace wrote:
Performance rights, seem something these guys made up when they wanted to make money on their routines without letting anyone use their presentations.



Will - Ace and Adam,

The two of you clearly have no idea what was actually written in (and therefore reserved in) the copyright notices of Bruce's Ultra Cervon or Michael's Lifesavers.

There is an all-too-common misperception in magic that these men essentially said, "You can only read these tricks, you can't actually do them" in their respective copyright notices. Both of you seem to have fallen into this misconception too, whether you've read the actual notices or not.

Let me clear the air for you.

Cervon's notice makes it plain that all he's reserving is television rights (don't do his material on t.v. without his permission), video tape (don't put out a video of you doing his stuff), lecture (don't teach material that isn't yours) and first person performance rights (if you and Bruce share the same bill - unlikely at this point - then Bruce gets to do his own stuff before you do).

That's all that he reserved. In other words, 99% of all the performances that you'll likely have are NOT affected by his copyright notice. You can use them for friends, you can use them at your local magic club, and you can use them for any and all paid performances with the above restrictions.

That's a fairly reasonable stance in my opinion, especially considering that Bruce was a professional performer still very active in his local markets when Ultra Cervon was originally published. He wanted to share his material, but didn't want to have to deal with the above issues, so he held them in reserve. Of course, now that he's gone, you don't have to worry about first person performance rights, but you should still respect the wishes of Linda Cervon (his wife) and get permission before teaching one of Bruce's tricks in a lecture or videotape, and in my opinion, to be safe, before performing anything out of the book on television.

Now let's look at Weber's copyright notice.

Some similar things here: Don't perform the material from Lifesavers on television or film, (or radio -- good luck), or on stage or theater settings. Well, again, there goes about 0.01 % of magicians' performance venues that have been affected. The other 99.9% are fine. He closes with this:

"You are hereby granted full permission to perform any and all of these routines with or without the accompanying patter and or presentation anywhere on this planet and in the universe (Jason's note: that last part was for Richard Garriott), twenty-four hours a day, for whomever you please in any improvisational setting."

Guess what? That basically means you can do the material virtually anywhere, at any time, as long as you're not in a real theater or on television. Pretty restrictive of that Weber fellow, huh?

Of course, none of this takes into consideration the fact that both Bruce and Michael simply wanted people to ask for permission before doing any of their material outside of the explicitly granted performance rights. Maybe they'll say yes, maybe they'll say no, but reserving that microscopic segment of performing situations isn't too much to ask in my opinion.

The bigger lesson here is, don't denigrate or dismiss things you obviously don't understand.

Jason
Eternal damnation awaits anyone who questions God's unconditional love. --Bill Hicks
Andrew Zuber
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I guess I don't understand WHY this guy's friend would want to just take someone else's bit and do it? Aren't we in this because we want to be creative and original? And if not, shouldn't the fear of being found out (i.e. an audience member saying they saw someone else do the same bit) be enough to stop someone from doing this? I know that laughs and reactions are great, but it sure is lame to do it at the expense of taking someone's material. Ricky Jay's point is a good one.

There are some exceptions, like Tom Mullica doing Red Skelton's bits, but that's the whole point of his show. He knew Red, and got permission from his wife to do the show as a tribute to him. However, if your goal is to just go on stage and do another person's stuff verbatim, then you've let someone else do all the work, and more often than not, you're not doing it justice the way the originator does.

I once was working a comedy club in Seattle and we saw a ten-year old kid go on stage and do material from Jerry Seinfeld's DVD word-for-word, action-for-action. Observational stuff that no ten-year old would ever legitimately do. It was ridiculous. You don't learn to be a comic by stealing material, and I would say the same thing about magic. Learn routines and sleights, study performers, read, watch DVDs...but make the material your own. There's nothing wrong with starting off imitating what you've learned, but I think that should only be used as a foundation, rather than your actual performance. Write your own patter and cater the routine to what YOU would do.
"I'm sorry - if you were right, I would agree with you." -Robin Williams, Awakenings
Whit Haydn
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Ethics are the basic rules of proper behavior accepted by a group. I have no idea what most magicians, especially today, think is ethical. That is why I don't feel the kinship with magicians I once felt. Today, they don't all share the same values. I don't consider myself a part of that group.

But the magicians I hang with are all very clear about what is proper behavior.

Anyone who violates what we believe is right and fair will not be hanging with me or my friends. Steven is one of my friends.

I think that is what the older magicians are saying. There is nothing to argue about. You can do whatever you want. If you want to join the society of magicians who believe in the ethical rules that have guided magic for many years, you have to be willing to follow the rules of the group. There is no reason why we should have to change our rules to let people in. If you don't care about associating with us, there is nothing I can do to make you follow our rules.

You want to hang with the professionals and responsible amateurs, you will need to share our manners. Otherwise, we don't really want you around.

Sound exclusive? I certainly hope so...
Andrew Zuber
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I must say, I've had the pleasure of having lunch at the castle with folks like Pete Biro and Whit at the table, and that's not an opportunity I would ever give up for the sake of a few good reactions I might get from stolen material.
When you're in the company of folks like that, you don't need to steal anything. Just sit, listen, and learn. It's the kind of knowledge you won't get anywhere else.
"I'm sorry - if you were right, I would agree with you." -Robin Williams, Awakenings
Mr. Mystoffelees
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Lord, I feel like I've just come home!
Also known, when doing rope magic, as "Cordini"
Dick Christian
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Quote:
On 2010-12-09 17:00, Andrewzuber wrote:
Aren't we in this because we want to be creative and original?


Ah, if only that were true. The fact of the matter is that while that may be what the serious working pros strive for, they comprise but a tiny minority of the magic community. The overwhelming majority are amateurs and hobbyists who don't give a rat's patootie about creativity or orginality. They are often the ones who can't sing, dance, play the piano or tell jokes but nevertheless would like to be the center of attention and life of the party so they believe the ads in the magic magazine that proudly proclaim the three most dangerous words in magic "no skill required."
Dick Christian
gaddy
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Quote:
On 2010-12-08 16:47, DCMagicEnt wrote:
Or lets say I do all of Michael Finney's card on forehead routine at my local comedy open mic dive bar. - Would this situation be OK in your eyes?

You agree with this???
One of the major differences here is that if you were to swipe a working comedian's bits you'd probably booed off the stage by a knowledgeable crowd, blackballed from the comedy circuit and possibly beaten up by the comedian or a few of his friends...
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
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