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Clifford the Red
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Inner circle
LA, California
1935 Posts

Profile of Clifford the Red
There is a distinction between ethics and rights.

I believe that unless you are referring to written lines which can be copywritten or a method that is patented (ie. Flying) then any discussion or granting of rights is simply imaginary and a misuse of terms. My view is if they sold the material, then their well wishes in your performance of it should be part of the deal. Trying to restrict you is absurd, unless it is a copyrighted or patented work. They want your money, but don't want you performing it because it will dilute the market. Well they should've kept the secret then instead of selling it, shouldn't they! Copyrighted work, for example, I use a poem that I wrote in one of my pieces. No one else can use that, I own the rights completely. They are mine to license as I see fit. The effect I use is NOT copyrighted, nor is it patented (which would be a horrific process for a card trick, which is why they are not. Owning a patent, I know!)

That said I believe it is unethical to use an author's material without supporting him. You are benefiting and robbing him of benefit. Unless of course the thing is in public domain. I think that goes for club libraries or whathaveyou. I mean how many tricks does one need anyway! So much that you can't buy the frickin book? If that is the situation, then there is a case for reducing your consumption! Take a look at it and if it is something worthwhile, go buy your own copy.

We wonder why people view magicians as less than artists and yet we often act less than artists.
"The universe is full of magical things, waiting for our wits to grow sharper." Eden Philpotts
Bill Palmer
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Eternal Order
Only Jonathan Townsend has more than
24306 Posts

Profile of Bill Palmer
I really love it when people who do not understand how copyright works, (particularly those who spell it copywrite or copywright), or how royalties are paid and/or collected or what has to happen for people to do "cover" recordings start making the comparisons to the things we do in magic. It is like comparing apples and jackboots.

Let me lay out these things for you.

If a performer plays a song in a lounge, bar, or other venue, besides a school or a church, the owner of the bar pays a licensing fee to a company such as ASCAP, BMI or one of the other licensing agencies. These agencies charge the various venues a flat fee based on seating, cover charges and other factors, and these fees called "performance royalties" are distributed to the various composers and authors through their distribution network. I'm a member of ASCAP. I get royalty checks from them for all sorts of things.

The same thing is true of recordings. When a performer records something that is copyrighted by someone else, he or she is required to file a "notice of use" which tells the licensing company that they need to collect for this. Usually the agencies that collect for recordings actually sell rights in blocks, so they don't have to fool with pennies and nickels.

When things are downloaded over the internet, then the RIAA serves the function of collecting the money. They don't have the finesse of ASCAP or BMI, but they are figuring it out.

Most magicians' material is sold with the understanding that all performance rights are granted unless otherwise specified in the actual publication. If there is a restriction, it usually will state "________ rights reserved without written permission of the author." If you like the routine or the material, write the fellow. Unless you are performing in the same area that he is, he will probably grant the rights without any question.

If you are a member of the Magic Circle of London, the rules are different. According to the Magic Circle Charter, if you want to use a piece of material that belongs to another performer, you must ask for permission. Is this inconvenient? Could be. Do people actually allow you to perform their material? Almost always. The exception would be "protected" items that are used by professional performers who have filed with the British equivalent of Equity.

Some performers become very attached to their routines. If you read Billy McComb's 25 Years the Wiser he has a discussion about the problem acquiring the rights to perform the half-dyed hank. It was sold with the intention of allowing amateurs to perform it in simple non-paid shows, but not to be performed on the big theatrical circuit or television.

In editing the latest Borodin book, I have had to ask some complete strangers for permissions to use some of their principles -- not the actual tricks, mind you -- the principles. They have been, by and large, very generous.

It never hurts to ask. Some guys are so surprised that they won't know how to answer at first.

Just to give you an example -- Van Cleve had a finger chopper routine that was funnier than you can imagine. It lasted almost 5 minutes. I decided that I wanted to use a similar idea for a head chopper routine. It wasn't identical, just inspired by it. So I called him and asked for permission. He was quite surprised. He said, "Go ahead and use it. Nobody else has ever asked before. They just did it without permission."

The first time I performed it at Scarborough Faire, I noticed a fellow in the audience who was a fan that usually came backstage after the show. He didn't this time. I didn't think about it, but the next week I knew why. He came up and said, "I called Cleve and told him you were doing his finger chopper routine with a head chopper. He told me he had given you permission to use it. Good show!"

So ask.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."
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