But that’s rare.
More often it’s an idea that needs polishing until it reaches a marketable state. Some take years of polishing. Some get polished out of existence.
Over a dozen years ago I received a package from a magician in Indonesia. Inside were three playing cards, a small envelope, and letter explaining a simple trick. It was a lovely idea - and I reached out to the creator to obtain the rights to it.
The magician was Deddy Corbuzier - and the effect would become known as Free Will.
At the time, I was certain of two things…
1. It was more a “concept” than a trick.
2. It was a damn shame to turn that concept into another card trick.
During the “polishing stage” the cards went through many transformations (coins, keys, poker chips, rings, etc) until ultimately they became custom wooden chips. The envelope turned into a small burlap bag that married aesthetically with the wood look of the chips.
In 2004, I released Free Will for sale.
It quickly became a best seller.
Almost as quickly, came the knock offs.
MOST were virtually identical – generally just changing the three objects to whatever the producer could obtain cheaply. SOME were more inspired – but even those seldom asked for permission or even gave credit.
I always knew that people would come up with their own take on the effect. As I said, it was a concept - and a flexible one at that. I just didn’t expect them to instantly market these minor changes.
There were many who would later say, “It’s an old idea.” Yet, none could provide a credit to the actual Free Will concept. The more bold among them would say, “It’s such a simple idea, what does it matter?” I often responded with the following quote from Don Norman, “Profound ideas are always obvious once they are understood.”
But between you and me I always wanted to paraphrase Al Baker and remind them that, “The magic brotherhood is more hood than brother.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there are precedents to aspects of Free Will but certainly none that culminate in the ingenuity of the marketed effect. But more importantly none of these precedents can be directly shown to have inspired the countless Free Will variations that now exist on the market. Most of which still fail to credit the inspirational source.
Why am I sharing this?
I’m currently working on a product release for 2017 that is based on a presentational idea of another creator. I reached out to the creator for his blessing – and it was given. That’s been my experience with most creators in magic. They are typically a generous and reasonable lot.
Some say it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.
Maybe, but I say it’s better to sleep soundly.