Stealing and Conflict

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It’s conflict season in magic again. People stealing ideas. People accusing. People stealing and not even knowing they are stealing. Wait, when is it not conflict season? We are dealing with secrets and politics and egos. Desirably a peaceful, likable group of fellows, we magi are prone to occasionally blow up at each other and make a stink out of a disagreement on who invented what and when.

So how do we deal with conflict issues on "stealing material"?

It’s pretty much a free for all out there with information so readily available. If you put something in print or video , someone will steal it. Someone with a different set of ethics will knock you off on purpose for profit or personal status points. …Or it may just happen that someone misremembers where they learned something or doesn’t mean to do you harm… it could be an honest mistake.

But no matter what the reason, and I’m sure you can think of a few more: it will happen. It happens to me every release. Someone steals from me. (Typically my material is straight up pirated, but for this post I am focusing on "borrowed without permission" sleights and tricks among members of the magic community.)

What can we do about it?

First, when someone treats you wrong. You approach them in private. The simple question, “Do you know that you offended me when you did…?” could go a long way. Sometimes, the perpetrator is completely unaware. If the private approach was taken first, we could dismiss a majority of the irrational and emotional social media posts that go wild and crazy, distracting us from our true passion as magicians. The solution could be achieved behind closed doors where it belongs. 

But where would the “I’ve been offended, poor me! Please World, share your discontent with an angry comment against that guy” go?” …um, it would disappear. People wouldn’t be writing nasty things publicly. That’s the point. Our society would be civil and nicer.

Second, if the person does not respond to your one on one request, then you take it before a small group of people. That could be the beauty of magic societies. If they still exist with conviction and unity. Unfortunately, they have not connected with much of the younger generation. 

So if, someone offends you, find a mutual friend or two and approach the offender in community. A close and a small group of friends, particularly mutual friends with the perp, could really make a change happen quick.

Finally, if those approaches don’t work, then it can escalate publicly. (With a lot more facts and a lot less gossip.) But until that point, I don’t need to know about it. And unless you are asking for me to be a part of the solution behind closed doors, don’t post that junk or email me with your opinions trying make a name for yourself off someone else’s stupidity.

If you do that, you might be just as guilty by trying to gain popularity off someone else’s back.

I hope we can always try the higher road less traveled first.

The only thing I will add to this, is if you do not know the person or the person is unknown to the magic community, proceed with caution and don’t say or record anything that they would misquote against you publicly! And when dealing with straight up piracy (not really the topic of this post) don’t be afraid to appeal to a higher authority (ex: Youtube) that may be hosting pirated content. I quickly digress into another conversation…

So, how do we prevent this conflict in the first place? Here is a brief list of things I try to practice:

  1. Stay connected to the greater community. Attend conventions, lectures, join a society. The more people know you, the less likely they would steal from you.
  2. Don't support people who are unethical and intentionally steal. You sometimes know by instinct.
  3. Be educated. Read. Know your sources or ask questions. 
  4. Educate others so they don’t make mistakes. For example, I gave a lecture on piracy, a similar topic, you can watch it here.
  5. Ask permission before releasing and give credit! I asked Doug Brewer to release his "Famous Three Coin Trick" from the The Unexpected Visitor on the Traveler teaching video. He said, yes. You can get the original here.
  6. Only share secrets that you have been granted permission or are simple enough or old enough they would be considered public domain. Otherwise. Create something new.
  7. Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

And I might add: 8. Admit if you've made a mistake and seek forgiveness. I've had to do this before. We all make mistakes.

If we as a community tried things like this (instead of shortcuts to fame with public conflict), we may be able to resolve strife before it begins.

This blog is not a gossip channel. But if you have any ideas or want to share a quick story (please no names or identity details) about conflict resolution, the space below is all yours.

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1 comment

  • Christopher Glenn Storz

    About the only real defense against this sort of thing is to publish immediately upon confirming—to the best of your ability (this is an old art and even some of the greats have published what they thought to be an original move only to discover later that it was written up 30 years before in some obscure German magic quarterly)—that something is original. Do it BEFORE showing any other magician you do not trust with your life.

    Now here is a bigger question. At the end of the day, does it really matter? If you are strictly a club magician then it might since your validation of self comes from whether or not your peers respect you as an effect/method/apparatus creator. If you are a working magician then maybe not so much. If your tip pocket/jar/hat is filling up with the green stuff you probably don’t care if they think you invented it, Dai Vernon invented it or your Aunt Nelly invented it.

    From the end of doing stuff that belongs to others it is pretty simple. If it hasn’t been published or you don’t have the creator’s permission, don’t do it. And even then, don’t straight up copy a trick verbatim from a book/video/lecture. It is uncreative, lame and boring. Have respect for yourselves as artists. Take something that is out there, available due to its inventor’s release into the magical ecosphere, and make it your own.

    Just some opinions.

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