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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The workshop » » What's OK and what's not? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
11158 Posts

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I really did not want to get involved here because there is going to be more gray area than a comparison of state by state definitions of common law marriage. In short, I think this is a case by case situation.

I am not going to speak at this time to any specific items. The reason is, I think there are far too many hairs being split (not speaking about this thread) in an attempt to define what is what. Partially, this is the result of decades of the magic industry imploding on itself. More and more effort is expended selling to and trying to impress other magicians, than to the non-magician public. Turf wars are generally the most violent and focused on petty issues when the population outgrows its boundaries. It's mighty crowded in here, isn't it?

I think that "raising the bar" should at least be a significant result of added improvements (thinking of the example of Growth of Flowers gradually degraded in the name of "improvement" into Botania, as pointed out by Tommy Wonder). But then, this is surely another gray area. One man's trash and all that. I might not consider a blue box with yellow polka dots to be an improvement over one of polished Walnut. But if I was a clown, my thinking might be different.
~michael baker
The Magic Company
Dr_J_Ayala
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Inner circle
In search of Vlad Dracul and his
2167 Posts

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I also was not going to get involved in this thread, but as a performer that made my living by being an illusionist at one point (and from time to time, helping a well-known builder with building illusions as well), I figured I would throw in a few comments.

Michael really hit the nail on the head, so to speak. There are many gray areas in things like this, and the laws to vary from state to state. When you purchase an illusion from a licensed/official builder, the price includes performance rights for that particular illusion. Those rights are protected as part of the trademark in some cases, and if there are particular words/actions/etc., under copyright law. When I was still doing my illusion shows, I wanted to build most of my own. I had contacted other builders and work with them to come up with an agreeable fee that I would pay so that I could build my own version of protected illusions and have the right to perform them. It worked just fine and it saved a lot of money. On the other end of this, some of the Osborne illusion plans that were put into books were not his to publish, but it happened anyway.

As far as illusions like Zig-Zag, the Sword Basket and Find the Lady, they have been around so long that nobody holds exclusive rights to them. In some cases, a specific mechanism or way of doing it may be patented and protected. As Michael said, a trap on a box is a trap on a box and it does not matter where you put it. If it looks like a rose and smells like a rose...

As far as taking an effect and "raising the bar" with it - again, as Michael said, is something that should significantly improve the working of it. If I were to take a Card To Wallet and add a pocket or compartment to the wallet - that is not significant. If I were to change the way it worked entirely (eliminating a guide or any p***ing work), that is significant. If I were to take the Modern Art illusion and change the shape of the doors and the direction in which the sections slide, that is not significant. If I were to build a Modern Art and make it where it can be done with no cover, that is significant. Of course, for things such as Modern Art, which is a protected piece, you should have express permission to make and perform it. Either way, credit for the inspiration and/or the original handling should still be given where it is due. That is ethics at the basic level.

As far as the gray areas are concerned, I have noted that in some places in this world, you will get a patent on something just because you have applied for it and one (a patent) did not already exist for whatever it is - even though the item was already in existence for a long time. As far as copying a protected piece of intellectual property, there are far too many gray areas in regards to the legal and moral aspects of it. Personally, I know what I would and would not/should not do - that does not mean others follow the same line of thought.

This is my take on these aspects and I hope I was clear enough to be understood.
gimpy2
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Pete,

Heres a something on Deans type box.

A few years back an idea struck me of a simple box to do ring and rope effects.I built the proto type with no moving parts and some secrets added to the outside of the box. The box had no bottom so you could tip the box and show the inside and put one hand inside. Two small holes on each side and a odd shape holes in the top so you could do sveral rope and ring effects.It could also double as a chop cup and at least a dozen other effects. However the strongest effects were pretty much like a deans box.

I showed it to several magicians. A few thought it was just to close and might be called a rip off. I don't wish to take that chance so it was put on the shelf for good.

A little over a year ago I met up with a well known magic builder that I have great respect for. I told him of the prop and came to find out he had come up with the exact same idea. The only difference was his had a arrow head shape cut in the top mine was a pony shoe shape. He came to the same conclusion,that the prop was just to close to the grey area to move forward.
MuleePete
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Loyal user
272 Posts

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I'd like to thank Sealegs for starting this thread. For me it has been a thought provoking and plesant exchange of opinions from folks I respect. Thank you all for some excellent guidance.

Realistically, I doubt I will ever be a "innovator". And I am not interested performing large illousions. That still leaves a huge field of avaliable 'public domain' to work from. The Learned Pig, and Lybrary.com has provided that.

See you at the next thread.

Pete
leapinglizards
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Inner circle
1254 Posts

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Utility Patents, where they exist, protect an idea for 20 years. The Inventor of an ORIGINAL idea can patent that idea. To do so, you must prove originality and usefullness. The invention must not be obvious.

Design patents (Like the expired patent on the Origami Box) ONLY protect the design of a thing, the look- not what it does or how it works.

If you get a utility patent on an item, you have 20 years of exclusivity and then it is public domain BUT prior to that it is public record. This is why one can view the entire mechanics of many famous illusions on the US patent website. So, while I am not advocating stealing someone's ideas in any way shape or form, I do think that people need to be honest with themelves and their claims (And sometimes threats of legal action)when they start talking about claiming exclusive "whatever" rights to something that is 20 years or more old.

Currently Copyrights last the life of the author PLUS 70 years after their death in the case of anything copyright AFTER 1978 in the USA. This covers books, magazines, audio and (I believe) video but only the specific expression of the ideas- NOT the ideas themselves. http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm shows you the sliding scale of what is public domain thereafter.

As I have said many times, the magic business is a gentleman's business (And Ladies- no sexism intended) and as such we do largely police our own. Sometimes I think we BULLY our own out of a false understanding of the laws involved, though in those cases I would say the intent there is still trying to protect the honor os someone or other- not hostility.
Leaping Lizards!!! Who knew it was possible.
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<BR>www.LeapingLizardsMagic.com
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