Castle Grievance filed against Bill McIlhany by Rich Cowley

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Postby Jim Riser » 10/30/10 01:31 AM

This could be easily settled. Rich Cowley could withdraw his grievance, express how sorry he is (in more ways than one), resign from whatever "duties" he performs for the AMA, leave The Castle (and Magic), and never come back.

Why do petty individuals always seem to seek a position of "power" - never realizing that they can not handle it? Jon Townsend, perhaps you can enlighten us on this puzzle.

I take this opportunity to express my thanks to Bill for all he has done to preserve a visual record of magic history.
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Postby Terrence » 10/30/10 11:14 AM

The Ethics and Grievance committee has been around a long time, and is rarely invoked -- I have a very high regard for all of our members, and this committee exists solely to ensure that we have a body separate from the Board of Directors that will give any member brought up on a grievance a fair hearing.

And yes -- recording is not allowed. Whatever happens there stays there. It's not there to put people in legal jeopardy -- it's simply there to dispassionately resolve disputes.

Robert -- make up your mind -- American English or British English! Get Organiszed!!!!!!!! :D
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Postby Robert Allen » 10/30/10 01:46 PM

"Robert -- make up your mind -- American English or British English! Get Organiszed!!!!!!!!"

Doh! LOL!
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Postby Terry » 10/31/10 11:51 AM

"Jim Riser - Why do petty individuals always seem to seek a position of "power" - never realizing that they can not handle it?"

They're called bureaucrats and they lack whatever it takes to succeed in life. By assuming "power" they feel they can establish their manhood and control over others.

When it's over all they prove is just how small they really are.
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Postby KirkG » 10/31/10 04:55 PM

Are you talking about Rich or just petty bureaucrats in general?
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Postby Magic Randy » 10/31/10 05:35 PM

Recently it appears that the MC Internet Committee and Management teams started deleting posts on the MC forum if they don't like the content.

So the content gets posted elsewhere, like the Genii forum that has a much higher readership than the MC forum.

So their censorship behavior has the opposite effect.

Ironic...
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Postby Terrence » 11/01/10 11:06 AM

I abhor censorship on our Forums, and I'd like to thank RK for continuing to sponsor our opinions out here.

In fairness to Rich, let me say this. He was not the only member to request that Bill's post be taken down.

As an IC member (who has himself been censored in the past), I had a problem with Bill's sub-heading:

"Libel of Bill McIlhany and Jim Starr by Rich Cowley "

This appeared on our Forum, and Bill did not repost that here.

Bill was therefore the first to put that accusation out there -- not Rich. (So does Bill believe he's been pre-libeled??????)

(Because of that sub-heading -- I voted to take the post down.)

Before we could talk it over with Bill, he stuck it back out -- perhaps he thought that his post was accidentally moved to the private moderators area. And so he was banned until things could be worked out.

And I'm sure we can work something out with Bill.

That's the gist from my perspective.
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Postby Roger M. » 11/01/10 12:48 PM

I abhor censorship on our Forums

Unfortunately your actions and statements simply don't back this up.

I believe it's called "lip service".
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Postby Bill McIlhany » 11/01/10 12:52 PM

It's very simple! Cowley libeled Jim Starr and me in the two letters he got Mark Felicetti to sign on 2008 and 2010. Then he libeled me in the text of his phony Grievance. So when I added that subheading, I was just following what you might learn from any dictionary! I did not libel anyone by pointing that out! You sound like you'd make a good politician, but don't assume anything about me!
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Postby Terrence » 11/01/10 01:17 PM

Bill -- I assume nothing about you or anyone else.

I think you're overreacting.

And BTW thank you for assuming that I would make a good politician. I wish I had thought of that myself. :)
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/01/10 04:56 PM

Hmmm...

Bill is being accused of improper behavior, has been censored, is expected to change his personal/business schedule to defend himself at the convenience of everyone else, and he is overreacting?

I don't think so.

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Postby houdini's ghost » 11/01/10 05:52 PM

To Terry Ellet,
You got a damn funny way of abhorring censorship.
You know it isn't hard to get an opinion or a diatribe from Rich Cowley, and I have heard him filibuster on the subject of McIlhany more than once.
It's time McIlhany fired back.
This should all have been on the Castle forum--not this forum.
I don't understand the two letters from Felicetti at all.
Mark Felicetti is warning Bill McIlhany of possible legal action?
Come on!
A Castle grievance! Let's see.
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Postby David D. C. » 11/01/10 06:52 PM

In the midst of reading this post about a grievance at the Magic Castle, I'm trying to figure what the purpose of the grievance is and why it escalated to this.

As a Castle member, it would seem the primary goal of any action of the AMA is the benefit of the AMA and the magic community. And that is only accomplished by its staff and volunteers willing to contribute to the organization. So from that perspective, I read this thread.

Some points I've taken from this:

1) Jim Riser, Bill McIlhany and Rich Cowley have been and do volunteer their time to the AMA, specifically to Castle video library, with or without compensation to do so, and to the point where , as the saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished". It is also clear that more than these three have contributed to the health and maintenance of the Castle archives. Just like Rich Cowley is, as Bill and several people voice, a "small man", no one person can claim any responsibility for the vast archives at the Castle: it has been years in the making.

2) Rich Cowley is not the Magic Castle. Seems a rather obvious statement, but based of the exhaustive back story Bill wrote, there are more players in this play than Bill and Rich. It involves Milt Larsen, Jim Riser, Diana Zimmerman, CBS studios, Tim Holly, Mark Felicetti a whole cast of characters, and these are just a few of the ones Bill mentions. They all had a part in the escalation to bringing a grievance to the AMA's grievance committee, which Rich Cowley does not serve on. This is the AMA's rules and regulations to address disputes and I can assume these rules were part of the Castle way before any of this took place. It is impartial and is used for the benefit of the AMA.

3. Forums are monitored and moderated. People are banned, threads are closed. Posts are removed. It could be considered censorship, but just as the Genii forums are moderated by Richard Kaufmann and others here for the benefit (and gratitude) of the Genii community, the Castle forums are moderated too, and for similar reasons: for the benefit and health of the AMA. That's the whole reason for the terms of use everyone must agree to before being allowed to post. So if someone was using the Castle forum to subvert established Castle rules, like the ability to air grievance through the grievance committee, but instead, rally to dissent, the AMA has a right to monitor and moderate. Just as the moderators here have a right to allow this thread to continue and exist.

4. Bill McIlhany, as a member of the Castle, has every right to argue his case. If he feels it is best for his case to argue to forums, fight for a grievance date he can actually attend, submit his side to people who can make a difference, clear his good name, restore order to the magic kingdom, he should. Considering his post here, and the quality of his case, it would be something that I would think he would put priority in. He could quickly solve this matter in 5 minutes, and Rich will be banished to magic purgatory to rethink his crimes to humanity. But for that to happen, he needs to argue his case to people who can can help. That's the AMA, and any decision made will be from the AMA and for the AMA.

5. And what is that goal? In this case, to track and maintain all Castle video archives. It seems the power to do so lies not in just Rich's hands, but Jim's and Bill's and anyone who has a part of the video archives. It's a big task, as Bill attests to.

6. This is a non-magic issue. It's a preservation issue. People can have varied opinions about the importance of these fellows in the world of magic, but the preservation of magic footage can be argued as more important. As long as this thread has spilled out to the Genii forum and/or other forums, the call to other magicians to help the AMA maintain their archives may be worthwhile.

Bill has posted this link from Rich (See, they can work together):

(A list of these missing tapes and disks can be found at www.Rich-Cowley.com/VaultDVD_FullCatalog.xls.)

And perhaps other people can help find a decent copy of missing footage, if it footage doesn't show up. Because if the point is to archive footage for the benefit of the magic community, one Bill acknowledges:

(We have similarly preserved the magic film collections of the Society of American Magicians, The Magic Circle and other private collections. Our contentment and reward comes, not from any praise or public recognition, but by that gift we could only give ourselves. In the future, if this rich film and video legacy survives for future generations, we will know that we made it possible.)

Then it would seem we have a mighty tool, the Internet, to do so.

7. Bill does not have to work with Rich Cowley. The number of people involved with magic footage preservation is more than two or even three. Currently, the Multimedia Committee at the Castle is fact run by man named Jim Yoder, with a volunteer staff of seven and growing, and that's only one group of people Bill can work with. If Bill feels he cannot work with "that idiot coward Cowley", then I would suggest he contact people he can work with: more agreeable folk for the benefit of his love of magic, and the community at large.

I don't deny this all sounds very naive and pie-in-the-sky, but the rewards in working together outweigh petty grievances of a couple.
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Postby Terrence » 11/01/10 06:54 PM

Will, gee, I didn't know anything at all about any letters or anything else about this case -- some of us just saw a possibly actionable accusation of libel.

That was the first thing seen on the Forum. I didn't bother to analyze it and make a judgment of whether or not it's true -- that's not the job of a moderator.

Dustin -- tell me what you would have done? As a moderator?

Just because I don't like something doesn't mean I can't do it or necessarily should or should not.

As I write this BTW -- an effort is underway to accommodate Bill's schedule conflict with this hearing by the head of the E&G committee.

Overreacting? Perhaps I should analyze Bill's post more carefully before continuing, and give it proper attention in detail...more later.
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Postby Terrence » 11/01/10 06:59 PM

Thank you David. I missed your post, and it makes lots of sense.
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Postby Terry » 11/01/10 07:30 PM

Kirk, from the content in this thread, apparently the control freaks at the Castle.
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Postby MaxNY » 11/01/10 08:18 PM

"This I also know: in my lifetime, Bill McIlhany has done more to preserve film and video footage of magicians than anyone on earth."

Ummm, than I get a very close second.

Just want to add that I don't know either of the guys. I have met Bill once or twice, and he knew I was sitting on some stuff...The second time we met, he didn't even greet me with a "Hello" first, but went right into the hard sell for getting a few missing pieces to the Castle collection. Just saying.

Not part of the case, but just in case anyone would be wondering...Why would CBS offer free restoration? Probable answer is because in the 1960's, (rumor has it) they would just throw away tons of 16mm film masters.This stuff got costly to store at 57th Street, and became.....garbage. Of course, now, they would like that stuff back....Only reason I can come up with offering free restoration.. Video restoration is big business. Can you imagine trying to locate a Betamax now? They only made maybe 3?? million units. Try to locate a top loading 3/4 Umatic, in running condition. I know of one, maybe two.

Restoring video was my profession for about 2 decades. I learned very early on that I don't do any favors, as often they are not returned. Instead, I have a few friends that I have met here at the funny forum, and that's that. Magicians are a secretive society. Part of me likes it that way... Maybe the stuff is better if sitting in some old dusty vault...or basement. Any time you get clubs or groups together, nothing gets done the proper way. DVD's are hard to keep off the street. Lap-tops, Bang, you got a copy. Sad.

I also want to add that, the old stuff was magnets...rocks...very heavy indeed.

I hope this turns out well. I haven't been around here much lately, but this may get interesting.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/01/10 08:43 PM

Terrence wrote: Dustin -- tell me what you would have done? As a moderator?

Terrence,

That this thread and all its posts remain intact is one clue regarding what I would have doneat least so far. If you were troubled by the subheading, perhaps you could have just deleted that (I dont know if you have that ability or not). But I am going to qualify that in a moment, so bear with me.

No, its not your job to judge the facts, but I am confused about something: Were you worried about Bill libeling someone with his accusation of libel (and thats what you thought could be actionable) or does the MC IC just prefer to steer clear of the entire libel issue regardless? I ask because if you thought that Bill might have cause of action, why delete his post? Right now, the perceptionwhether right or wrongis that the MC IC is taking one side (or taking orders from one side).

Now, all that having been said, I know that being a moderator sometimes just plain blows (and anyone who thinks otherwisethinks its some kind of ego or power triphas never done it). I do feel your pain, to borrow a phrase. So here comes my qualification: When it comes to libel, as a moderator, it is always better to err on the side of caution. I have done it myself.

Dustin

PS: Im glad to hear that the scheduling issues are being sorted out.
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Postby Terrence » 11/02/10 12:53 AM

Thank you!

Right now the IC is not completely independent in its ability to do or not do certain things, and we have a problem with our terms of use -- they are clearly too onerous, and should only reflect on a Member's status on the Forum -- not his or her's membership status.

Here is a quote BTW from one of our most respected members concerning the censorship topic:

"There is simply no place for censorship at the Magic Castle. The only legitimate reason to remove a message posted by a member on the Castle Forums would be to deal with libel."

(I can't attribute who said this as he's not given permission -- suffice to say that he's one of the smartest and highly esteemed among us.)

The control freak in question is not a member of the IC. We do though have to respond to members complaints -- the complaint I received did not come from Rich.

Also, no one seems to be following up on our procedure for notifying Forum members that we have a problem. I will take that one on myself, and say here to Bill that I'm sorry that this has been done without following through to him.

Pat -- I know they did this to you -- did you ever receive notification from getting banned, and are you banned now? (Please try it and let me know.)

OK Dustin -- not overreacting. Maybe over-acting? Nevertheless neither I nor any member will hold it against anyone for being pissed off over this, especially if it turns out that there's no "there" there.

And Roger -- read my "lips" -- no service intended...
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Postby mrgoat » 11/02/10 06:15 AM

Reading this I just thought, as an overseas member of the castle that gets to go about twice a year, if I am lucky, why the hell the IC is so 40 years ago? Even the Castle website looks like it was designed in 1988.

This is 2010. Ingesting, storing and distribution of video is REALLY easy.

Imagine if I, as a member, could get remote access to the archive. Wow. People all round the world would pay handsomely for that right. What if they streamed the performances, or lectures?

The magic circle is as bad.

There is money in distributing video online. If societies need money, they should invest in making that happen. IMO.
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Postby Terrence » 11/02/10 08:42 AM

Damien - Send an email to Ira_msn@msn.com

We need the help man!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/02/10 09:56 AM

For some reason we still have folks who imagine that it's okay to do other people's tricks and who fret over guarding performance records to such an extent that they are not readily available to the student. What we wind up with is some indirect rediscovery of the wheel (so to speak) and much that could be respected in context being relegated so to the "so what - I already figured that out for myself" catagory of learning.

It's 2010. Why is this stuff not already up on a private YouTube/subscription channel?
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time
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Postby mrgoat » 11/02/10 10:26 AM

Subscription channel is the right answer.

You can get a script to clone a tube site like youtube for a couple of hundred bucks. A dedicated server will run you about 150 bucks. Payment processing will run you around 5%.

You can get specialist companies who will do the ingestion and digitisation of ALL the content for you for a set fee, that nowadays is RIDICULOUSLY cheap.

Let's start the pricing at 20 bucks a month. Recurring. Add in cash payment like ukash options for people with no credit card/under 18s.

It's *really* easy and cheap nowadays.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 11/02/10 10:52 AM

You might also want to discuss any options with Bill Kalush about hosting it on the Conjuring Arts Research Center's Ask Alexander service.
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Postby mrgoat » 11/02/10 01:42 PM

Good idea Joe, but video streaming has very special needs regarding hosting. It would need at *least* one dedicated server, probably more if it is as successful as I imagine it would be.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 11/02/10 02:05 PM

Just because the Magic Castle/AMA has copies of these videos doesn't mean they have the right to stream or otherwise distribute them.
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Postby Brian Tolman » 11/02/10 02:05 PM

"Good idea Joe, but video streaming has very special needs regarding hosting. It would need at *least* one dedicated server, probably more if it is as successful as I imagine it would be."

I'm going to limit myself to just this comment, because, well, that's my choice.

Anywho, the AMA already has most/all the capability to stream archives. The issue is neither a technological nor infrastructure. Every year the AMA broadcasts its annual meeting, live. And members can stream the meeting later, if they like.

The issue is legal.

Like so many "collections" out there, the AMA, for the most part, does not have or cannot document the ownership of the copyrights of the performances. So setting up a dedicated server for broadcasting (even to our membership) would be an invitation to meet every attorney of every magician whose footage the AMA has.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 11/02/10 02:11 PM

Ask Alexander is using a commercial scalable suite of elastic IT infrastructure services. I think it could handle it if required. (if of course the copyright issues are worked out)
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Reason: if of course the copyright issues are worked out
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Postby mrgoat » 11/02/10 02:18 PM

Mr Tolman - has anyone ever tried to ask the living magicians, or the estates of the dead ones, if they would mind if their content was available to magician AMA members worldwide?

Not being facetious, serious question.

I wonder how many you have that would be considered public domain.

Not trying to tell anyone how to do anything, and I realise the rights issue, but just day dreaming I could feel closer to the Castle all the way over the pond...

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Postby Brian Tolman » 11/02/10 02:29 PM

"Mr Tolman - has anyone ever tried to ask the living magicians, or the estates of the dead ones, if they would mind if their content was available to magician AMA members worldwide?"


Damian;

First off, I have no idea why you're asking my Father?

:)

In all seriousness, it would be a HUGE task. First off, all the number of magicians in the DVD library would need to be listed, then their contact information obtained.

Once that is done, an effort would need to be made to contact all of them.

Even after all that is done, there is still a chance that someone would have slipped through the cracks and they would sue the AMA to recover damages.

It would have a huge undertaking, and a huge risk for anyone that did it.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 11/02/10 02:41 PM

mrgoat: "Mr Tolman - has anyone ever tried to ask the living magicians, or the estates of the dead ones, if they would mind if their content was available to magician AMA members worldwide?"

Consider the first five videos in the spreadsheet linked above:

1. Carl Ballantine, Donny & Marie Show
2. Johnny Hart, Johnny Carson Show
3. Chris Calin, Channel 4 News
4. Dai Vernon & Sandy Spillman, Mr. & Ms. and the Magic Show Mystery
5. Johnny Thompson, Merv Griffin Show

Even if the magicians involved would release the material, they may not have the right to do so -- it's likely that the contracts they signed with the TV Shows give the copyright to the shows involved. And the shows won't release it.

But supposing that the magicians involved did retain the rights -- who represents the estate for the ones who have passed on? For example, I haven't seen Carl Ballantine's will -- who got his copyrights: his daughter Saratoga, his daughter Molly, or his sister? Suppose his will didn't specifically address this, and Saratoga gives an okay, but Molly says no -- would you risk a lawsuit from Molly by putting this stuff online?

Unfortunately, copyright laws have evolved to the point that a Disney, with a staff of lawyers, can manage their properties. "Orphan" works, on the other hand, are consigned to the warehouse that was at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", lost and never to be seen again.
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Postby mrgoat » 11/02/10 03:59 PM

Mr Mullins wrote: "the shows won't release it"

Has anyone ever asked though? I know rights management is a nightmare. My ex gf was managing a large part of the BBC iPlayer project. :)

I just wondered if anyone had written a plea to the production company that made the show saying "We're the AMA, we do this. We have a very short clip of one of your shows. We want to offer it on an encrypted server to members of our society in order to preserve magical history. It will become a museum and we would love to use your 4 minute clip."

Or similar.

I may be being a totally optimistic dick, but I just wonder if anyone has actually *asked* permission?

The Castle has massively connected members (sounds slightly rude), I imagine finding the right people to talk to wouldn't be impossible. Even if it was putting 1 video at a time online from live magicians' lectures/performances at the Castle. Could be seen as an HONOUR* to be asked to be part of The Magic Castle AMA Online Archive...?

Or I'm just dreaming...


*Yes it has a u. :)
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/02/10 05:37 PM

There are videos of lectures that took place at the Magic Castle that require special permission from the artist before a member can view them. The logistics of asking for permission (from living artists, estates of artists, and production companies involved) for all of this material to be placed onto a site such as suggested would probably be impractical.

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Postby David D. C. » 11/02/10 05:45 PM

Just a small correcttion:

"It involves Milt Larsen, *Jim Starr*, Diana Zimmerman, CBS studios, Tim Holly, Mark Felicetti a whole cast of characters, and these are just a few of the ones Bill mentions."

Not Jim Riser, who just wants Rich Cowley to dissapear from the Castle and magic altogether. Thank you for who pointed that out.
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Postby David Alexander » 11/02/10 06:01 PM

Clearances & Rights - The way a great many copyright owners think is: somebody wants this so that makes it valuable...an asset to the company. If I grant rights, especially in this digital age, this potentially vaulable company asset that we MAY be able to do something with in the future will end up in the wilds of the Internet, devalued completely.

Or,we may own rights of some kind but the company lawyer will have to find the contract and give us an opinion. To grant permission may put us in danger of being sued by the performer or their heirs.

Taking the responsibility for a decision like one of those isn't something many executives are willing to take especially if there's no money involved.
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Postby Bill McFadden » 11/02/10 06:57 PM

Greetings! And sorry to be so late to this conflict.
If anyone requires the services of an experienced mediator, my schedule is flexible and my fees are reasonable.
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Postby Brian Tolman » 11/02/10 08:41 PM

David D. C. wrote:
"It involves Milt Larsen, *Jim Starr*, Diana Zimmerman, CBS studios, Tim Holly, Mark Felicetti a whole cast of characters, and these are just a few of the ones Bill mentions."

If this gets made into a movie, I will hold out for Ted McGinley to play me.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 11/02/10 09:15 PM

Here's what I advise anyone to do with any footage of magicians they might have that was made before video tape came along.
Have it digitized, then, send it to everyone you know. Forget about who owns the rights.
Get it out there. Share it. Film footage of magicians is dying as I'm writing this.
Preservation is not enough. Proliferation is absolutely necessary.
Most of the film rarities that were thought lost and were later found, at least in part, turned up in private collections.
Larry Weeks sat on Houdini footage until it turned to an explosive goo while Bill McIlhany was begging him and offering him a lot of money to have it preserved.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/02/10 10:13 PM

An interesting if not controversial point of view. I wonder, Patrick, if Houdini were alive today, with todays technologies and laws, what he would think of that point of view.

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Postby Larry Horowitz » 11/02/10 11:30 PM

To Mr.Goat's point,

Streaming video may generate cash flow.

Start with living performers and lecturers at the castle this coming year. Ask to stream their performances. Those that give permission, great. Those that do not, do not.

If Mr. Goat's premise is correct, members outside of LA will pay to watch. Others will join for the same reasons. This should generate money. If it generates enough money, someone could then be hired to work on gaining permission or rights to older video. This if it works will bring in more money, and the cycle continues.

Should we inadvertently show a video to which permission has not been granted,(I am not a lawyer) I would imagine a letter to cease and desist will end the problem without protracted legal entanglement.
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