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Topic: Ownership rights versus ethics
Message: Posted by: espmagic (Jun 17, 2002 10:38AM)
First, I am sorry to repeat-post this, but I wanted a wide variety of replies...
The situation: Magician "A" sees an advertisement for a trick, or a presentation, and, without buying the trick, invents his own version of it, which (co-incidentally) is *significantly* less expensive than the marketed version while doing the same effect of the marketed version. What are the ethics and responsibilities of this? Please include comments and observations regarding sales, gifts-to-friends, etc.
Second scenario: Using a home computer I designed a presentation for an age-old effect that we are *all* familiar with; I sent a few test versions of it to those better versed with knowledge, and found out that my "new" version was actually used back in the '30's or '40's. Question: what length of time is attached to "royalty rights", since my version is not currently being marketed?

Thanks for your help and input!
Message: Posted by: Ray Haddad (Jun 17, 2002 06:55PM)
Items from the 30's and 40's usually have no rights associated with them any longer.

The ethical question has to be answered by you, and you alone, for more modern, protected effects. Trying to ask for ethical permission here will only salve your conscience for a little while. As you grow and mature in this industry, you will develop your own ethical standards and be known by them.

Rules of thumb for MY ethics are as follows and will be very different for you or others.

1. I will build anything I wish for my own purposes as long as I don't resell or use it for profit either in terms of money or notoriety.

2. I will build anything from a book or plan which I own for my own use either private or in performance but not for resale or to give away to others.

3. I will negotiate to build and resell any item for which I can do so with the originator or the current holder of rights to the item.

4. I will search the world over for a book or reference to any item which I build for any profit to myself in any way. Once I own the book or reference, I assume myself to be in possession of proper premission to build an item.

5. I will attribute the rights to the proper originators of all effects and ideas whether publicly or within my own workbooks for ethical and historical purposes.

6. I will never deliberately recreate another person's work for profit. Coincidental independant or concurrent development does happen and I will always make every attempt to contact and negotiate with someone who has had the same idea as I.

These are not the complete set of ethical rules I abide by but they form the framework for allowing me to sleep soundly without wondering if I have done the right thing or not.

Developing magic becomes much easier when you know he workings that we always use. In fact, there may be fewer than 100 truly unique workings in magic that are applied in different sequences or physical constructs. By building a way to do something you have seen done, you teach yourself the magic way, an important tool for developing magic. But, use that item without fitting it into your own ethical standard and you may find yourself regretting its use in the future.

Again, you have to develop your own ethics system and if it matches someone else's system, you are comfortable with them.

Best Regards,
Message: Posted by: Marduke Kurios (Jun 17, 2002 08:21PM)
Hi Lee,

If someone sees a trick advertised, and proceeds to build it, then he isn't 'inventing' it himself. If he sells it to others he would be infringing on the manufacturing rights of the inventor. He may be setting himself up for a lawsuit if the originator chooses to push the issue.

As far as creating a presentation for an effect, the creator of the presentation would have a copyright on his presentation only. The inventor of the trick or prop itself has full rights to his invention.

On Copyrights:

"The term for which copyright shall subsist shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by this Act, be the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year." (CDN Copyright Act)

I believe American Copyright Law is similar in effect.

Ethics can be a touchy subject. I think the creator of an effect deserves full recognition AND compensation for their invention. If we choose to build our own 'improved' version of it AFTER we have purchased one for ourselves, go for it (this applies to building it for ourselves and not for sale).

I recommend visiting your Government's (on-line) Database on Copyright, Patent, and Trademark Law for full information.

Without Prejudice.
Message: Posted by: Ray Haddad (Jun 18, 2002 04:04AM)
Most magic is copyrighted only so far as the written instructions go. The words used to describe the workings are copyrighted and so are the drawings, if any. The actual item has no protection under copyright.

To patent something is often too expensive for practicality when profit margins and the number of customers is so small as it is in magic. So, many items also go unpatented.

This leaves the final and only option, ethical concerns.

If you are known within the magic community as one who lacks ethics, you will find it hard to enter contests, buy from some dealers or even get access to a convention. Don't take my word for it, though. There are plenty who have found out the hard way that copying someone else's idea or effect may not be illegal but does have serious consequences.

That being said, I rely on my internal ethics system to keep me out of that legal versus ethical quagmire.