Intellectual Property is Destroying Magic; Only Freedom Can Save It
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Intellectual Property is Destroying Magic; Only Freedom Can Save It

As a performer of magic, Intellectual Property (IP) has always been a contentious issue. Many of my fellow performers believe that IP protects their creations. They believe that it ensures no one uses the effect without paying the proper price to gain access to the secrets of the illusions. I never shared that perspective, and now the magic community is seeing why.

The United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), situated a mere twenty minutes from my house, has recently announced a crackdown on the lifeblood of many magicians. The USPCC has decided that no alterations to their cards shall be permitted any longer. As an email from Ellusionist, a notable magic retailer, states: “No gaffing, no staining, no shadows, fades or alterations of any kind.” These cards the USPCC has banned are not necessarily “trick cards.” Rather, they are creative takes on the classic Bicycle playing cards. In other words, the USPCC has just stunted performative creativity among all magicians.

How Intellectual Property Ruins Magic

It is certainly possible to continue performing with these restrictions. But stringent IP enforcement has made it to where a magician’s imagination is no longer the limit of card magic. Rather, the limit is now up to USPCC, which has decided that any and all alterations of their cards makes it more difficult for them to spot bootlegs and other IP violations, even though every mass-produced novelty deck using the Bicycle framework has been made in partnership with the USPCC. Twilight Angels, a beautiful effect, allows for the magician to alter the back of a signed card. The audience reactions are typically nothing short of pure joy.

The USPCC’s new policy effectively bans the production of this effect. Only current owners will be able to do this trick. Twilight Angels is only one of thousands, if not millions of effects that the USPCC’s new IP enforcements will ban. In addition, the creation of new visual effects to dazzle a magician’s audience is all but impossible.

Most magicians believed that Intellectual Property would protect their creations. They thought it would ensure that unauthorized teaching of their tricks did not occur. Perhaps it has done so, but I must ask if it was worth it. It is harder now more than ever for small-time magicians to create their own effects in an effort to make a name for themselves. Off the top of my head, I can think of several creations of my own that, had they not been created before this ban, would now be a violation of the USPCC’s Intellectual Property rights.

For magicians, the USPCC has artificially created a roadblock to innovation. It simply isn’t worth it to me that my creations be protected from unauthorized reproduction if that same system has the ability to stop me from creating the illusions to begin with. The fact is Intellectual Property has failed to protect magicians and is actively harming our ability to make new creations that enable our performances to continue. Magicians don’t need Intellectual Property.

How Freedom Can Save Magic

Magic creators rely on people paying money to learn how to perform effects they create. Of course, Intellectual Property is an easy way to protect said product. That neither makes it the best way nor the only way to protect their bottom line. Every benefit creators gain through IP can just as easily be attained through contracts. For example, if I purchase the instructions on performing Twilight Angels, the creator can create a contract that states that I agree not to expose this secret to other performers. How do I agree to the contract? I agree to it by purchasing the product. This simple alternative would not only protect creators, but it would also protect creators from the IP abuse we are seeing today.

Not only would this system do that, but it would also empower magicians to improve upon each other’s product. In magic, no illusion is truly original. Every creation I have seen carries with it inspiration from other performers. Intellectual Property has not helped the art of magic to expand and develop new creations. Rather, it has precluded magicians from a world in which magic is as popular as music and as well-viewed as sports. Magic needs an injection of new blood, not a protection of the monoliths like the United States Playing Card Company who don’t have the best interests of the art form at heart.

We should be thankful that the only restrictions the USPCC can place on other magicians is their card designs and various visual effects one can perform by altering the appearance of the cards. But this incident shows that the art of magic is not safe. At any moment, any other product, such as coins, may fall victim to IP and there goes even more of the magic industry. Imagine, if you will, if the USPCC decides to say that their cards and their designs are inherently for gambling. Therefore, the USPCC will only allow casinos to use their products. Just like that, all card magic and all the small time card games are gone. This is completely possible within the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, the USPCC would lose more money than they would gain through a move like this.

I have been a magician for around ten years. When I got to the point that I was creating my own illusions, it was a beautiful thing. Many magicians will now never know the joy of creating your own effects due to strict Intellectual Property rules such as the new restrictions from the United States Playing Card Company. Magic and Magicians alike deserve better. We can be better. Without intellectual property, magicians can enter a new era of innovation. The illusions would be truly beautiful. Only freedom can create this magical future.

Comment section

3 thoughts on “Intellectual Property is Destroying Magic; Only Freedom Can Save It

  1. No real professional performing Magician gives a rats ass about this. Seriously. This whole article is a complete joke.

    That this somehow destroys a “magician’s” imagination is laughable.

    Magic isn’t about gaffed cards and the marketing of such any more than it is about tricks, sleights, and methods – which of course is what everyone who doesn’t really perform focuses on almost entirely.

    The complaint launched through this article is a clear sign of an amateur trickster and not a Magician.

    This article is, however, the poster child now for an even bigger problem in magic than USPCC defending their IP…

    The act of doing tricks makes you a Magician as much as applying a band-aid makes you a doctor.

    So I’m glad this article was written to expose people only masquerading as “magicians.”

    Clearly, the author doesn’t understand or even like Magic proper or they wouldn’t have written this dross.

    Gaffed cards can be useful, but the ones in question are not really any professional performers use much…

    you know, the people who actually DO Magic for audiences.

    I’ve logged more than 100,000+ minutes in front of live audiences in the last 6 years and not once did I have to use any of the cards in question.

    Performance Magic is a very old art and gaffs are a part of its long history, what does the author think happened before mass-produced gaffs were widely available?

    It is understandable why the USPCC would seek to end infringement since companies and individuals were making money off their IP through theft – which they let slide for a number of years it seems.

    Them pulling that back is the whole idea of IP, for chrissakes.

    These days, you can get your own cards made very easily…

    so further to this, it’s all moot unless you are a child unable to access such resources or the marketer stuck with no longer being able to infringe on other’s creative efforts (and you had a good run so be thankful for that) to make your living.

    So like a lot of things on the internet, this is completely a NON-ISSUE.

    As another professional pointed out to me just the other day, there were more successful Magic venues operating before this COVID-19 shutdown than almost ever before.

    Hardly the doom and gloom which are written about here.

    I have deep misgivings about the quality of the magic performed therein…

    which is what I believe holds back Magic from a wider appeal more than any other variable (though there are others)…

    but the number of available venues is certainly up there and the number of TV shows dedicated to Magic more than there has ever been.

    So, to recap…

    It has ZERO to do with IP…

    It has ZERO to do with Magic…

    and this article is nothing more than an exemplary example of deep irony, especially being published under the guise of Libertarianism.

  2. how soon before artisit other then magic or illusionists are affected ? like songwriters can they now not use certain note’s or tone,s? how redicuous. Freedom must be applied , but i,m afraid this is now on short chains and getting shorter all the time , ROME was toppled , which seemed impossible to the wealthy Romans at the time. but now the USA is turning into a USSA!. how sad for innovation and creation.

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