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Inner circle
Kalamazoo, Mi.
2537 Posts

Profile of Jaxon
Ok, so you saw someone do a trick. Either in person or maybe on a video. You like the trick and you'd like to do it yourself. So you ask that performer, "Can you teach me that trick"? or maybe you bluntly say, "How did you do it?".

I get emails and private messages every week. Sometimes a few times a week. Asking questions like this and I gotta tell you it can be a bit annoying at times.

Before I continue let me say this. I'd love to help my fellow magicians when ever I can. I'm usually quite honored when they, for what ever reason, feel I might know the answer to the question they seek. So I'm in no way saying I'm annoyed by requests for help or advice. If I know the answer I'll usually give it. If I don't I'll either try and figure it out or maybe think of someone else who might know it and point you to them.

I decided to write this not as someone who is getting annoyed by these kinds of "Can you teach me" questions. I'm writing this because after talking to some fairly new comers to magic I realized that many just haven't learned what's wrong with these kinds of questions. So I hope I can explain the ethics behind the topic of these kinds of questions.

OK, lets say someone saw the video of me performing Fearsons floating cigarette on line. They Email me and ask, "Can you teach me how to do that?".
To this question my answer will always be a big NO!. Why? Simply because it's not my trick to give away. I payed for it just like anyone else "Should".

If they asked me, "Well then will you trade the secret for (This or that) trick that I have"?
My answer would be an even bigger NO! to this one because like I said, it's not my trick to share, sell or trade and the trick you want to trade me for it isn't yours to trade either.

Now, if someone saw the video of one of my effects such as Outsmokin and asked, "Can you show me how it's done?". Guess what my answer will be. Obviously it would be No again. Yes, it is my trick to give but I'm selling it. Why would I give it to you just because you asked when it's up for sale to you and everyone else who wants it. Wouldn't you expect them to pay for it if it was your trick you where selling? Something you put a lot of time and effort into?

Now, you maybe thinking, "Well, how can I let them know I'd like to do that trick?". I'll tell you exactly how.

How to get the trick is to first find out who's it is and if it's available anywhere. So when you see someone do something you like that you're interested in that effect. Let them know you're interested. let them know you like it. let them know it's something you feel others would like because it is a good trick.

This doesn't mean you'll always get it, but if it's available you'll more in likely be able to find out how to get it. If you just say "how did you do that" you'll probably never find out.

Don't ask for anything for free and never spend something that isn't yours to spend. you may feel that you payed for a trick, prop or manuscript so you can do what ever you want with it, but that just isn't true. When you buy a trick, prop or manuscript you are not buying the right to reproduce or resell it. you are buying the material (Props) and the right to perform it.

So, in closing let me reverse gears for a moment and maybe you'll see it from both sides. If I ever see you perform something and it's something I'd love to add to my shows. I'll be sure to let you know how much I appreciate you're work and product. I would give you al the credit you deserve for the performance. Even if it isn't yours I'd have to be impressed with your presentation or I wouldn't be interested in it. If I let you know all this would you tell me how it's done? Or would you let me know where I can get it?

Now, what if I just came up and said, "Show me how to do that".

Ron Jaxon

After regaining my ability to hear after 20 years of deafness. I learned that there is magic all around you. The simplest sounds that amazed me you probably ignore. Look and listen around you right now. You'll find something you didn't notice before.
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Profile of Katmando
Hello Ron,

How would you feel if some came to and asked for personal training and where willing to pay for that training.

Most of the videos and books on magic I own show routines not by the one that owns it. Yes most of the give credit where credits is due but that did not stop them from showing the secret. I am mean does the inventor of the double lift have the right to be paid by everyone that uses it?

Just interested in your thoughts.

I will have to check out your site since I live just north of you in GR.

Later <><
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Nothing clever has ever been said in my
400 Posts

Profile of bigchuck
Why is it that any discussion of ethics like this always becomes a validation of stealing using the inventor of the double lift as an example?

What is being discussed are commercial effects that are available, and generally speaking, a lot of the people who do show others' secrets in print or tapes/ DVD's have some form of permission from the originator -- of course, not every one does -- just the ones who do the right thing do.

Since I have never seen the creator of the double lift marketing anything or complaining about our overuse of it... I feel it is safe to say we ALL can feel free to use it.
"The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact
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Kent Wong
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Inner circle
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2458 Posts

Profile of Kent Wong
I agree absolutely that we only purchase the props, secret and performance rights when we buy a trick.

However, the secret to a trick is very different than a simple sleight. In many instances, a sleight doesn't become a trick until it is used in a certain fashion. A person may know how to palm a coin but he can't make it magical without something more.

Whenever I teach magic, I don't know what tricks the student may own. So, I start by teaching basic sleights and showmanship skills. As time goes on, I get a better understanding of what effects they own, and I assist in the presentation and performance of those effects that we have in common.

If I don't own the effect, my assistance is limited since I never expect the student to reveal the secret, even to me. In those circumstances, all I can do is offer advice on presentation.

After that, I focus on routining, so the student can put together a nice, coherent program.

So, in a tutoring situation, the secrets of a trick are still maintained.
"Believing is Seeing"
Frank Tougas
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Inner circle
Minneapolis, MN
1712 Posts

Profile of Frank Tougas
Sharing is not wrong. Without it magic would have come to a grinding halt eons ago. While tell me how you do that is a very tacky question and probably should be answered NO, teach me that would you? is an entirely different matter. It seems to come down to semantics. Use the right lexicon and the door is opened. Sound like a magic groupie and the door remains tightly sealed.

I have gleaned much personal enjoyment and satisfaction from my involvement with magic over the past 30+ years, not to mention it paying the bills more than a few times. If I sense someone is truly interested in going down that same path I'll consider it rather than an outright NO!

I may have them show me some of what they can do. After all having done a miracle and being asked about it's workings by a magician whose entire repitore is the twenty-one card trick deserves a much different answer than by someone who has just shown me fairly decent sponge ball routine. Even if that routine is straight out of the package instructions.

I am always amused by those in what I call the "Magic Mafia" or the "mafia wannabes" who would never think to share tricks since they do not own them. They do in fact share, it's just that they call it sessioning. It is a way of semantic gymnastics that makes it okay. When it is done between an experienced magician and a newbie it is called mentoring - another nice way to make it okay to do.

Maybe a better question for new people would be to ask is "where can I learn that, it was great!" It is more likely to get you a mentor than a NO!

Do you own an effect you purchase - YES. I've had this discussion many times before, here at the Café and elsewhere. Magic mafia types will talk about performance rights, etc. but the fact is you own it when you buy it however if you don't want it to look like everyone else who owns it then get busy and put your own personality into it. The word for this is signature piece.

Oh and by the way if you see me at a convention and ask about a trick I may have done, it is likely I will show you.
Frank Tougas The Twin Cities Most "Kid Experienced" Children's Performer :"Creating Positive Memories...One Smile at a Time"
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458 Posts

Profile of thumbslinger
I can agree with pieces from all the previous posts. There's another aspect that comes up as well.

Some people want to know how something is done and the only time that’s really a problem is when 1- they either tell the secret to others spoiling the mystery or 2- they try to perform the effect without due rehearsal and botch it up enough to either reveal/tip a method or present it blandly enough that the effect loses its charm.

But, there’s also the sheer educational aspect of sharing, mentoring, sessioning–whatever one wishes to call it.

In my short past year of studying magic, I can already say I’m at the proverbial point of having forgotton more than I probably know. But, everything I’ve learned from every source is most certainly adding to my reservoir of knowledge which is allowing me to begin developing my own effects...not just storylines/patter/routines.

Stan Gerson and Vinny Marini are two great examples of magicians I know who are doing more for magic as an art and in spreading the wonder and fun of the field than many others that sometimes approach it as a commodity.

So, as mentioned above, sharing is important and can be approached completely as educational, but as Ron and Frank mentioned, for those who are new, a little tact never hurts.
Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and Tommy Emmanuel are all you need to study to learn to play guitar.
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Inner circle
Kalamazoo, Mi.
2537 Posts

Profile of Jaxon
Many good points have been made here, but I don't feel I did a good job explaining what I really wanted to say. It seems to have come across in a different way then I had planned. It seems to have come out as other points but the real point I wanted to make I think I failed to express.

Instead of writing another long post I'll just try to get right to it.

If you ever come up to me and you need help with a trick or move you learned and for what ever reason you know I also do that move. I'll help in any way I can.

If you just picked up a prop and you happen to know I use that prop too. If you have any questions you'll get the best answer from me I can give.

If you see me do something and you'd like to learn it. I'll surely tell you where you can get it if it's available. Or if it's mine I might even show you how it's done. That's kind of up to me though and I wouldn't want to be "talked into it".

If you need help with a move or trick that is public domain (Like double lift for example). Or a move that I can tell you obviously know the basics to but are just caught up on it somehow. you'll get all the help I can give on that too.

If you came up to me, or Email me and say, "Show me how to do that" or "Can you tell me how Blaine Levitated"? My answer will always be NO.

It's a lot more then secret keeping and sharing involved here. Even the question itself can often tell the more experienced magician that the one asking is a beginner or maybe even a secret seeker. There's is nothing wrong with being new to magic. We all where at some point. But if the question is about something more advanced, and it's asked in such a way that suggests the one asking the question is new to magic. At times the more experienced won't answer the question because it is probably too advanced for them. In this situation I'd more than likely point them toward some information regarding that question.

I said it won't be a long post but I was wrong.. Smile

Ron Jaxon

After regaining my ability to hear after 20 years of deafness. I learned that there is magic all around you. The simplest sounds that amazed me you probably ignore. Look and listen around you right now. You'll find something you didn't notice before.
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Special user
Bellevue, Nebraska
510 Posts

Profile of jcigam
I am thankful to all the magicians who shared magic with me. It got me to a point where buying the magic became important. On top of that I am grateful to all of the magicians who continue to share their magic. It is really the only way to propagate our small community. Unfortunately, there are a select few who take advantage of the good nature of others, but as Magicians are a unique group of individuals, the strong ones can shoulder this shortcoming.


"The mind has exactly the same power as the hand, not merely to grasp the world, but to change it."
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