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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Ethic of copying effects? (19 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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RC
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This is an old thread & I agree with much that has already been said, but I wanted add to it anyhow. If I like a routine and it's being sold, even if I know how to do it & have the means to re-create it, I will buy it to support the magician as an artist. If I see a routine and like a certain phase or even sometimes a joke (and it's not for sale), I will message the magician and ask permission. What amazes me is how awesome magicians are when you reach out to them. I'm pretty sure I've always received a response. With all that being said, I'm big a fan of creating new material or taking old material and creating 'new' original routines. It's priceless when you can make people smile with something original.

Recently, I messaged Pop Haydn about his interactive linking rings. I liked the interactive part and his line, "that's show business". Am I going to copy his routine? No, but I know having now seen his routine, it will have an influence on me because I can already feel it. It's that feeling you get when watching something. It's like you already know it's having an impact on you. So I thought I'd jot him a message and he was extremely kind with his response. Another example is Jimmy H's "Siri-Ously". I have the means to generate my own version using Siri, which I have done (only because it fits my style better). However, I got the idea of presenting the classic routine using Siri from Jimmy H, so I went ahead and purchased the trick from him anyhow out of respect.

About 10 years ago, I messaged Jeff McBride about his mask routine. I thought it was so cool. (Keep in mind I messaged him as a young magician still trying to find my style.) Jeff McBride responded so graciously, which took me by surprise. I couldn't believe he would just reply to someone not known in the magic community. Anyways, he explained how that routine was his trademark and positively encouraged me to find my own path. Now, 10 years later, having put in the hours to become my own magician, I've definitely passed this advice on to others finding their way as well. I actually forgot about this interaction until recently when I noticed on youtube a video of some guys performing "miser's dream" on a talent show similar to America's Got Talent. Obviously, there are little bits & pieces everyone does of the miser's dream that are similar, but there are certainly ways to make it your own. The performer's on the talent show started out displaying the coin pail while tapping a wand repeatedly to it; while also letting people from the crowd try until they successfully found their volunteer. I remember when I first saw Jeff McBride do this routine. I thought it was sweet and such a great way to set the magical tone. At the same time though, I wouldn't 'dream' of doing it without his permission, That's not a move or a sleight. It's his act. Did he do it perfect, yes. Should it be repeated? In my opinion, only with his blessing, which these guys on the show definitely did not have considering the first 2 comments on the video are from Jeff McBride and his wife voicing their displeasure. There's also a guy out there dressing up like a dragon and doing the exact routine of "Piff the Magic Dragon", which is definitely taking copying to the extreme.

In my opinion, we should create as much as we can & definitely find a style that is authentic. In response to music. People don't mind cover bands because it is generally well known who the original artist is. However, artists' have big issues with someone stealing their material and claiming it as their own original work. Those lawsuits seem to hit the news from time to time, and it's often a tough call because everyone influences one another. To sum this rant up, I think the best we can do is to be true to ourselves and seek to be original; and to always keep the giants shoulders, from which we stand on, in mind. Although I might have an original cup and ball routine, I'd like to think there's a little Wonder, Gazzo, Malini, Ammar, Vernon and recently even Alan involved it somewhere. Smile
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Great comments. The sad (not unethical) part of using paid material out of the box is that you have given nothing of yourself. While the routine works, you are missing an opportunity to give of you. There must be some part of "you" that you can share. Even if it's one aspect of your life and experience that shines through. My opinion certainly should not hold as much weight as you pros, but to me "outta the box" seems a little sad and utilitarian gray. There must be a dash of you to add, right?
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John C
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I don't believe ethics are involved here. If you purchase an effect complete with patter etc there is no ethical dilemma with duplicating it. Often times with young performers this may be the best way. Then later they can break away a little as they find, "you know this particular phrase isn't really something I would say." so as a result they eliminate it and try something else. Eventually the entire routine evolves into becoming their own.

Now if you see Darren b in a youtube video and study and go copy his performance now there is an ethical issue.
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RC
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On Jun 19, 2016, John C wrote:
I don't believe ethics are involved here. If you purchase an effect complete with patter etc there is no ethical dilemma with duplicating it. Often times with young performers this may be the best way. Then later they can break away a little as they find, "you know this particular phrase isn't really something I would say." so as a result they eliminate it and try something else. Eventually the entire routine evolves into becoming their own.


I agree. When first starting out, it's good to pull from anything that inspires you, especially proven routines that will get your confidence up and motivate you to keep going. Eventually, I would think most become their own mold over time after considerable trial and error. I almost liken it to kids emulating Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Eventually, they figure out their own style. I remember trying to copy MJ's moves on the court growing up... never quite got the slam dunk from the free throw line down though! (Or dunk at all for that matter!) Smile

Here are the copycat routines on youtube:
Jeff McBride Miser's Dream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRNRKmQbQjY
Piff the Magic Dragon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNbjlJFDM00
Tom Jorgenson
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Assimilate. Masticate. Eliminate. What's retained is what is vital.

If no one ever built on what has gone before, the field would be a static bore. Others take off on your contributions, they do the same as you have done. Where would we be if creators didn't keep the effect but change methods? Keep the methods but change effects? Change the Mitox? It s these changes and progressons that keep the field going.

Virtually none of us could invent squat strictly on our own. We need what's gone before, it feeds us. I'd say no guilt unless you're actually stealing another's thang...and you know very well when that's happening.

The process of making it your very own can be a long process...stick to it, don't rush it...and fer gawd's sake, don't stop thinking too soon. Far too many stop thinking at the first sign of a spit-polish. Keep thinking, because that's the very point that others continue the creativity: at that point where you stopped. Got it going good? Keep thinking.
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MagicalEducator
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If it's in print, DVD or a published trick then by all means you can use the script provided as a starting point. Hopefully your work will bring you to a point of having an original script and some refined handling to meet your specific needs. Some effects are simply complete for the originator and tinkering with it seems to make it less than it was. The question then becomes one of does it match your character/show? I've seen Jeff McBride perform effects of Eugene Burger's almost word for word. This tells me that as original and creative that Jeff is he still sees the value in the work of other masters such as Eugene. Over the years I've worked with Eugene (as one of his students) when I have scripts that I feel need his touch. These tend to be work that has a fairly serious tone.

If instead you simply see a performance and take it then you are an unoriginal thief who has no place in magic. It takes people literally years to perfect a routine, a script or even to find the right opening or closing line. Given all of this why do so many people think it's okay to just steal it? It's wrong and way too prevalent in magic and mentalism. Do the right thing and don't be part of the problem. Perform only magic that you have the right to, know the origins/history of each of the pieces you do, and make them your own through years of performance and careful reflection.

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I think there is at least one instance in which it is unethical, or at least highly disrespectful, to use another mentalist's routine and script, even though they've been published and sold.

That's when a performer does the originator's routine at the same venue in which the originator is performing. This has happened to me a couple of times at the Magic Castle. Unpaid performers working downstairs in the museum and the Hat & Hare Pub have sometimes performed my material word for word, knowing full well that I was currently playing in one of the main showrooms.

These were members who knew full well that I was working that week. One of them even came to my show the same night and, afterwards, asked me for some performance advice. The advice I gave, unfortunately, is not suitable to be repeated here.

But, after I was done, he acted astonished and said, "What's wrong with me doing your stuff? It's all in your book."

Was he right or wrong?
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On Jun 20, 2016, mastermindreader wrote:
I think there is at least one instance in which it is unethical, or at least highly disrespectful, to use another mentalist's routine and script, even though they've been published and sold.

That's when a performer does the originator's routine at the same venue in which the originator is performing. This has happened to me a couple of times at the Magic Castle. Unpaid performers working downstairs in the museum and the Hat & Hare Pub have sometimes performed my material word for word, knowing full well that I was currently playing in one of the main showrooms.

These were members who knew full well that I was working that week. One of them even came to my show the same night and, afterwards, asked me for some performance advice. The advice I gave, unfortunately, is not suitable to be repeated here.

But, after I was done, he acted astonished and said, "What's wrong with me doing your stuff? It's all in your book."

Was he right or wrong?


Bob,

That's just unbelievable that someone would do such a thing. I've been in shows where the creator of an effect I use has been performing. Obviously they would have first choice should they choose to perform it. With other shows I might not do an effect that has some feel of sameness to it. A good friend of mine does wonderful work with photos and images and so I would avoid doing anything close to that. It's just common sense really. Some show organizers don't even ask what you'll be doing and it's left to the performers to sort out so they don't have duplicatioin of effects. That they did this to you is one thing. That they asked for feedback is just beyond belief.

jeff
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Ray Pierce
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Is a Shakespearean actor still an artist even though he is speaking someone else's words? Laurence Olivier? Sir John Gielgud? Sir Ian McKellen? Were they hacks because they didn't write their dialogue?

Ok, that was to make a point but we need to understand that as performers of "cabaret acts" is that we have to play many roles. Writer, builder, director, performer, advertising executive, frequently sound and lighting designer, musical director, etc. Some of those we might do well but usually not all. Most people start when they are young by mimicking other performers. I know many comics that grew up copying entire routines off of older comic's records. Eventually if they want to work they need to find their own voice and point of view. In music you can perform professionally without never having written one piece of music. Do players in the Los Angeles Symphony write their own parts? No, yet their job as an artist is to bring the composer's thoughts to life with feeling and passion.

I think the important thing is to be fair with what creators are selling and what we as performers are purchasing. If they provide a script (or patter), some performers will be fine if they can bring that to life and make it seem like their own. If they want to be more creative, they can also create their own presentations and even effects and methods. If someone performs an effect "as written" and does it well, that's fine. If they want to hire a writer to sculpt the presentation, they do it. Do you think all of these illusionists out there write all of their own material? Jim Steinmeyer has written more material for illusionists and magicians than most will ever know.

If you perform everything well, I don't care who wrote it as long as it isn't stolen. If you don't perform it well... again I don't care who wrote it.
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MagicalEducator
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Great post Ray...I would encourage people to seek out the help they need so that they can achieve to their full potential. Script writing, sound, a director you trust that shares your artistic vision all can help you move your act along to the next level. Finding yourself, your character is something magical that can't be stolen. Find this and you'll create real theatre that people will want to see.

Jeff
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Philemon Vanderbeck
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Unfortunately, it's come to the point that if you want to deter people from copying your routines, you must not publish them. And by "publish," I also mean posting on YouTube or performing on TV. Even with these measures, there will still be folks who copy anything they see you perform in public.

The only material I've released in any form is stuff that I no longer perform (nor intend to do so in the future). I can't protect myself from "fellow" magicians who come to see me perform, but I can deter them by not allowing recordings to be made.

Sadly, there have always been hacks, and there always will be.
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The Hermit
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The history of magic is one of people stealing other's acts - wholesale. Chung Ling Soo vs Ching Ling Foo. Sawing a woman in half. The 1000 different 'dinis' . If you put your act on DVD and sell it, how can you be upset if they do it? At least with books they have to have some imagination. It's the same in comedy - stealing jokes is a given. If you ask me it's better now. Mainly because the demand is so low for mentalists/magicians. If demand was high, people would be stealing Derren Brown's act to get booked.

I get Mr Cassidy's point about the same venue. That's bad form.

In most cases it's a moot point. If someone steals your act, they're probably not getting a lot of bookings for it. If they are and they are doing better than you, they know something you don't.

Stealing an act is one thing. Some steal whole personas. There are 2 other Max Mavens that I know of on other continents and they must be making bank. Mainly because they are in different locations. When Henning was popular, how many magicians grew their hair and ditched the tails? Magicians and mentalists are mostly lazy and unoriginal. They grab whatever the market is buying from someone else and rarely go anywhere with it. Only a few figure out how to be successful by making the magic fit their persona.
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I prefer that people not change the routine or patter of my published routines without sufficient and defensible reason. Changing a magic routine simply in order to be different is criminal in my opinion.
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Pop, can you elaborate on that? What would be a defensible reason in your opinion?
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Any reason is okay: Need to make it play in the round. Need to adapt it for children, need to fix a problem in the routine. Need to adapt it to your character.

No reason not okay: Just change it to be different.

I think when someone has spent more than a number of years performing a routine and improving as much as possible--working for each exact word--then it seems capricious and callous for someone to change it without a good deal of thought.

Vernon said that "...magic is the only profession that encourages amateurs to paint over masterpieces."
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Years ago, I read the rather wonderful advice of a professional to practice your presentations as different famous actors or characters would do them. I was most amused mentally to think of Jimmy Stewart doing Pop Haydn's linking rings routine. Mind you, I was thinking of the exact same words and moves, but with a very different style of speech. This was shortly after watching Harvey again, so it was really Stewart playing Elwood Dowd that I was thinking. As I imagined it, this would be very different from how Pop performs it. (And then I remembered this when I read the James Stewart issue of The Jinx!)

A year or so later, I finally purchased the video of Whit Haydn doing the routine and it was word and move the same as how Pop Haydn does it, but with a very different vibe and energy, due to different character on stage.

Two people may play MacBeth equally well and be very different interpretations of the same words. Is Olivier's Henry V better than Brannaugh's? Both are masterful, both use the same words, but they are certainly not the same.

All this is to say that a masterpiece may be performed well by someone other than the original artist and be just as good while feeling rather different in another's hands. And in the art world, it is not uncommon to learn to paint by copying the work of the masters.

But I also agree with Bob. Purchased or not, doing another person's current material at a venue where he is also performing the same material is not pookah.

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On Dec 21, 2016, Pop Haydn wrote:
Need to adapt it to your character.


Which is what every professional performer needs to do.
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Alan Wheeler
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On Jun 19, 2016, RC wrote:
Here are the copycat routines on youtube:
Jeff McBride Miser's Dream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRNRKmQbQjY
Piff the Magic Dragon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNbjlJFDM00


Great creators often steal from the works of others--whether celebrating a genre or satirizing a style or invoking a theme or building on a form...

However, these copycat acts are horrifying, just horrifying...
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RC
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Quote:
On Dec 21, 2016, Pop Haydn wrote:

Vernon said that "...magic is the only profession that encourages amateurs to paint over masterpieces."


Good quote.
MagicalEducator
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On Dec 23, 2016, Alan Wheeler wrote:
Quote:
On Jun 19, 2016, RC wrote:
Here are the copycat routines on youtube:
Jeff McBride Miser's Dream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRNRKmQbQjY
Piff the Magic Dragon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNbjlJFDM00


Great creators often steal from the works of others--whether celebrating a genre or satirizing a style or invoking a theme or building on a form...

However, these copycat acts are horrifying, just horrifying...


I note that Rynku viceroy has stolen Jeff McBride's routine. It's clear from watching it that he doesn't understand what the routine is all about. I sent him a message and hope that he responds to me. I would encourage others to do likewise whenever they see performers do this. It's wrong and people who insist on doing this should be ostracized from our community.

Jeff
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