Question about the business of magic

Post topics about the business side of magic.

Postby Guest » 02/06/06 12:02 AM

Before I ask this question I want to make it clear that I am not intending to release, produce, or package anything. I am not going to lecture nor try to write a book etc.. I'm just curious. In all cases of my question it is assumed that all credits are given.

If someone wants to put an existing effect with their handling or what they consider a different angle on an existing effect what is the standard for its use? For example, Out Of This World is found in a number of books and in lecture notes. Is permission granted by the creator or his family? If not is there a period of time that transpires before such permission should be seeked? What is considered acceptable procedure in using others ideas?

In the question of 'tricks' what is the standard? Drugs are released for X number of years by the inventing company before others can release the same drug as a generic. Does such a period exist in magic? Lets use the Criss Angel coin to can, which I've never seen by the way, he and the creator released it this past year. When could someone release a version (assuming this hasn't been ripped off already) w/out facing the rage of the magic community?
Steve V

Postby Guest » 02/15/06 06:12 PM

Steve V,

That is a very good question that I have written about before but not published on Genii. Since I wrote it and own all rights to it, it is copied below with my permission for this exhibit only in The Genii Forum. It is not permission to republish.


Intellectual Property for Magicians
(Bob Sanders 2006)

Ideas come under the heading of intellectual property. Fortunately or unfortunately, they are very hard to protect. Here in the USA we have a U.S. Patent Office in the Library of Congress. In essence it protects a process in many cases but requires that the process be exposed in the establishment of that patent. Obviously it is meant to define what is specifically protected. Congress also will give patents on improvements to the protected process. Knowing the original process in the detail required to patent it gives the follower a valuable advantage.

For magicians, this gives little to no protection because once the secret is told, the trick is sold. If you are going to publish the process in public documents, it really leaves nothing to sell in many instances.

You can have a trademark for your products. That can be made exclusive. It rarely protects you against others who produce the same thing without your trademark. It really serves more as a manufacturers signature than anything else.

Thus, there are two methods left that magicians can use to gain some level of protection for originality. The strongest is copywriting the published media related to that trick. That would include recorded or reproducible instructions, patter, and routines. The other is documenting the actual performance of the effect (TV, Contests, DVDs, etc.) and hoping that the dates of origin can be verified by creditable sources acceptable in a court of law.

Still the strongest is not government related and that is the peer pressure brought by knowledgeable and influential members of the magic fraternity to give credit where credit is due. Thieves and cheats do not respect efforts to safeguard rights to the intellectual properties. Fortunately, integrity is something they cannot steal. Giving them full credit for their lack of integrity is about as good as it gets. The rest is simply the respect of your peers and the self-satisfaction of knowing how the process evolved.

Protecting intellectual properties of magicians is too far from the needs of the mainstream citizen to expect much relief. I hope you come up with a better solution. But keeping that for yourself will be a hard secret to protect too!


Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Intellectual Property for Magicians

Postby Guest » 07/01/07 10:52 AM

My post above is over a year old. That is not good news!

My sincere hope in that time was that the situation had improved.

With the new Congress, there is little hope of anything of merit being passed for the current terms of office. We really need Sonny Bono back! He was probably the last elected official in Washington D.C. that understood the needs of productive innovators. This is to be handled by the legislative branch of government. Currently, that is nonfunctional.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander

Postby Rick Ruhl » 07/01/07 12:29 PM

Well, if you could bring Sonny back, then you would be more of a legend than you already all.
Rick Ruhl
Posts: 630
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Tampa, FL

Postby Guest » 07/02/07 05:41 PM

With the availability of cheap scanners, cheap mass storage devices, and the Internet, for the non-corporate creator of Intellectual Property, copyright is worthless.

There are two bit torents that together contain over 500 magic books from Corinda to Chuck Hickok to ten titles from Stephen Minch...just about everything you'd need....thousands of dollars worth of material, available for a free download to anyone with an Internet connection.

I've spoken with the local head of the FBI squad in charge of copyright enforcement. He was quite candid. For the FBI to become involved the loss would have to be in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.

Since all the victims are small publishers all over the US, Canada, the UK, etc., the losses are spread out, diluted to the point that the FBI cannot bother with the case. The agent told me that if I worked in a bank and managed to steal under $200,000 it was unlikely that the FBI would become involved, so these cases are well below the radar.

So, figure there's little to no protection for anything you produce either in print, in video or audio. It can all be digitized and spread around the world for nothing in a matter of seconds. Sad, but now a fact of life.

Postby Guest » 07/02/07 08:00 PM

Dear David,

You said it. Alas.

I run a small not-for-profit organization dedicated to publishing Yiddish literature. In the 60 years of our existence, we've developed a catalogue of well over 200 titles, 90% of which are in stock (boy, are they in stock).

A large "national" center recently took up the business of preserving Yiddish books (ironically, with a grant from none other than Stephen Spielberg) and "preserved" almost our whole catalog, much of it still under copyright. They have the financial backing, the membership and the advertising to do this and sell the books at over double our prices. But we can't get anyone interested in pursuing the case. An ominous letter got them to put a "currently not available" tag up for about a year; but they're already back in business selling new copies of books we've got up the ying yang.

The digital age is, I guess, wonderful for the individual who just wants to be heard. But it presents a separate set of problems and challenges for small organizations and niche businesses who want to protect what they've sweated over for lo these many years.

I don't know what the answer will be.

Postby Guest » 07/02/07 11:23 PM


Having owned and run a small publishing company I feel your pain. If you own the reprint rights then I would think you would have a solid civil case. If this is public domain material, you're probably out of luck.

This is all about the "Golden Rule" - Those who have the gold make the rules.

Postby Guest » 07/11/07 08:27 PM


Find a good IP lawyer and get him to take your case on contingency. Several years ago, many of the publishers of church music who had been afraid of suing the Catholic Church successfully won a case against one of the larger diocesan establishments. They all got together and did it. The settlement was over $3 Million.

You just need a really good IP attorney.

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