here’s my final thoughts for now, for anyone reading this who cares to follow along- maybe all these things only make sense in my head when they are organized together, all in a row. so i’ll try to lay it all out in a coherent manner:
juggling and performing juggling are 2 different things. lots of performers start out by being hobbyist jugglers. but then when you become a performer, you are a person who does shows using juggling as one aspect of your show. probably juggling is the main aspect of your show if you call yourself a juggler. the word juggler can be confusing because it has a bunch of different meanings that no one completely agrees on currently. dan holzman says that he thinks juggler means someone who performs using juggling to make money and makes a living doing only that. however, if you go to the open gym at an EJC or IJA festival and ask people how they would identify themselves, lots of them would use the word juggler as well… independent of the fact if they make a living by performing juggling or not.
when you’re a hobbyist you can do whatever you want in the privacy of your personal life. what i mean is, you can buy crystal balls, you can buy buugeng, you can build a triangle or cone, you can do all of wes and tony and pat’s tricks. you can get together with your friends and jam out with crystal balls, you can copy all the tricks and props you want. you can joke around and do sequences from juggling performances you have seen while you are off stage. you can interact with jugglers online, talk to them, ask them for advice, share your ideas.
also as a hobbyist juggler you can post videos of you juggling online. this gets a bit more tricky, because even though you are not a hobbyist performer, and you are not a professional performer, and you are not getting paid to post the video online, some people might still get mad at you to varying degrees if you do what they consider to be their trick. they can get mad at you for any number of reasons- because you didn’t ask them if it was cool, or because you didn’t credit them in the video, or because they were trying to keep the trick a secret for some reason, or because they feel that if you post a video of their trick then that might lead to you copying even more of their material in the future, or because even just copying tricks at an amateur level does not help the current environment regarding plagiarism inside the juggling community. and you’ll notice i said juggling community without specifying if i was talking about hobbyist jugglers or performing jugglers. that’s because the community is mixed. and that’s probably also why you will get mixed feedback.
me, personally, i don’t mind so much about hobbyists who are clearly just having fun in a harmless youtube video posted on jugglingrock doing a trick from wes’s latest video. for me that’s more about wanting to participate in the juggling scene (i suppose the juggling scene is at the hobbyist level, since if it included the professionals the scene would be about performing juggling and not just juggling on its own?), being excited about juggling, being a fan of wes peden, and wanting to connect to their peers (in this non-professional and non-performing context). but i’m not wes, so i won’t speak for him. i do think it brings up very good questions for him, and others in his position, when he is selling a juggling video that is aimed in part to the hobbyist market- and for sure some of those people who purchase the video feel they have paid to have the rights to now do those tricks both in online video posts and also in performing contexts. personally i don’t take that line of thinking at all, for me its more that wes has sold me this video where i find inspiration and get new points of view to go out there and make my own tricks. maybe based upon the tricks he did but not those exact tricks. but that’s just me.
to repeat very clearly- you want to learn every trick from gumball? do it! are you a performer of juggling and in your free, non-stage time you want to learn all of tony’s headroll tricks with rings? go for it! are you a professional performer doing research for material to put on stage and part of your process is to start in the studio trying to copy patrik’s closing act from DOCH? well then i think that’s a great reference point to begin with. and if you are not ever going to perform any of this material on any level, then you can leave it at that. but if you want to present any of this juggling to someone else, in a performative environment, well then there’s a discussion to be had which will follow here shortly. you’ll notice all of this has expanded from the previous discussion in this thread about the triangle and cone, or even the overall idea of props. i’m talking about juggling here. its not just about props. its about tricks and patterns and compositions too.
i could be wrong, but it seems lots of people i hear from who are opposed to asking for permission to perform certain juggling content, are only hobbyists themselves and they don’t perform. and they think that because you should ask greg if you can perform his cone, that automatically means you can’t go out and buy crystal balls. or you can’t do 97531. or you can’t do mills mess. or you can’t do the cascade. but none of those random examples are first of all in the context of performing. and second of all there isn’t even 1 hard rule about any of this that i can think of in terms of dealing with all the individuals who make up the juggling community. you could guess its cool to rock out mills mess in your living room, but if you are at the level in your juggling life and awareness that it becomes a question in your mind, well then why don’t you find out!? if it ever occurs to you that 97531 is a site swap which was a system that someone came up with and told others about, and you start to hesitate over doing that pattern because you’re not sure if you’re pissing someone off or not- why not ask all the people who worked on making site swap? what i’m saying is, if you have the presence of mind to hear about copying greg’s cone, and then extrapolate that to doing the cascade and its seriously an issue for you in your life, i would say you have enough capacity to walk down that road a little bit farther and find out the answers to those questions for yourself. you can’t just throw out those examples as a reason to copy greg’s cone, it doesn’t justify anything. and if you get lost in your quest for knowledge, and need help along the way, you can also ask the community for guidance. and that’s where we’re at now- because clearly the community has many different answers. who is right and who is wrong? there is no one answer to that exactly, but i hope to motivate my position by writing all this out here now in the attempt that you will agree with me and my viewpoint. or at least concede to the general outline and premise and then we can discuss the finer details of how our viewpoints differ to eventually come to a common understanding.
this argument, that i say its wrong to steal greg’s cone or micheal’s triangle or wes’s trick as a performer, and then you say “yeah well you yourself do the cascade on stage and i’ve seen you use copyrighted music and you used to juggle knives when you were 16 and other people juggle knives so therefore you are a hypocrite and therefore your opinion is invalid and your argument holds no weight.” as i guess its implied then that i have no voice or trusted authority on the subject? my main response to this is that these things are irrelevant to the question at hand- let’s say i used to perform the triangle on stage (though i never did)? then what? what does that have to do with anyone else’s ability to steal the triangle now or in the future? just because one person did a shit thing in the past, it doesn’t justify doing that same shit thing again now. this is not about what has happened in the past, its about how we want to behave in the future. society does this all the time. at one point women couldn’t vote. what if every time a woman went to vote and i was like, hey, look at the past, women couldn’t vote then so women should’t vote now. it would be ridiculous and not make any sense. that everyone copied michael’s crystal balls is not justification for more people to copy it. now i can see nuance in the situation we have now since so many people copied his material that it is indeed confusing to those who just jump into the juggling world and then later on get into performing juggling. but that still doesn’t make it ok! just because there is confusion, that is no reason to use that as a reason to go ahead and steal the triangle then. we do what we can to make the situation right, we do our best. and as well i can see that if i was performing the triangle nightly, and then writing here about how you shouldn’t steal the triangle, there would be a conflict of interest. but all this bullshit about “you used to do mills mess on stage” is meaningless to the current situation, its just catty distracting bitching because they have nothing relevant to say.
so there’s this range of hobbyist jugglers all the way up to professional perfoming juggler. and at some point you become a hobbyist perfomer of juggling if you take that trajectory. even at this level its wrong to do other people’s material on stage without some sort of permission or arrangement with the creators of that material. i would guess that the more amateur the performance, the less likely this is to be implemented fully. but you should at the very least still be aware of it! here now we also have to start to think about what material means- is it a single pattern? can you show grandma 97531 over chrismas in your backyard when your mom says “come on, do a little show for grandma!” and as performing juggling usually starts to incorporate lots of other techniques and diciplines (such as comedy, magic, dance, music, etc.) this gets even trickier to untangle what constitutes a unique piece of material. but again, this mess doesn’t let you off the hook of trying to do your best at not being a thief! we could have spent our time in this thread talking about things exactly like this, which i find really necessary and progressive, about what actually is the essence of unique performative juggling material. but instead we’ve only been arguing over if its right or wrong to steal things, which to me is not an issue since i have a very clear moral compass which says that stealing is wrong. so instead of talking about the actual instances of copying and theft we are always looking for some larger abstract absolute against which we can make general statements.
and to that end, you could say how in the world is an amateur performing juggler who is just starting out supposed to know all of this? what is right and what is wrong? its too much! it will kill all progress. everyone will have to stop. etc. etc. to this i say- not at all. look, we all go into stores every day and have in our mind to not steal things, right? even if i don’t have enough money to buy something i want, i don’t just take it. this sense is ingrained into me from being part of society. it can be the same with performing juggling- there are unconscious tropes and memes and habits and traditions which ripple through our hobbyist and professional juggling culture. this can just be one of those things- how do you learn mills mess? is there a clear authority for that? no. how do you know what club renegade is at a juggling festival? is there a document online explaining that? is there one clear cut answer to what that is? no. and yet, all over the world, people learn mills mess and they watch renegade shows at juggling festivals.
the real easy part here is that if you want to perform greg’s cone or michael’s triangle… just don’t ever tell anyone! certainly don’t make a website to advertise yoruself. don’t post videos of yourself doing it, don’t take photos. also don’t steal really famous things. choose something really obscure no one else knows about. because the thing is, once you step foot into the community with evidence of these acts, then you need to be prepared to be judged. and that you were ignorant to the situation beforehand is not an excuse to continue in the same manner!!! so you didn’t know it was wrong to steal the cone? well now you just got some private messages in your facebook inbox from me. you also got some comments on your facebook photo and on the facebook page of the festival which allowed you to compete and published your photos. there you go, welcome to 2018, welcome to participating in the community. and to point out again, i am not the one who started this whole idea that you shouldn’t steal shit and put it on stage. i am certianly a champion of this idea because i find any alternative very dangerous for juggling both as a profession and as an art form. but many many many performers who defined what it even means to perform juggling are very vocal and adamant about not ripping off material: dan holzman, michael chirrick, michael moschen, luke wilson, jeff tavaggia, wes peden… i don’t know, its late and i don’t have time to go through all my facebook friends combing for names right now. dan bennett. dan menendez.
and i have to say, for the most part, people don’t rip off material! if you look at the number of triangles and cones and bounce pianos… vs. the amount of original or cleared material that is performed each night all around the world, its no contest! these older professional performers who established these traditions did a good job of passing them on to the newer generation. and the newer generation seems to have done a pretty good job overall of upholding those values. and i think a large part of that has to do with the transparency of the internet, allowing people to be seen far and wide. and if there is an injustice, the community calls it out and fixes it generally. so when there are a few examples of people stealing material, i can’t really see that as being reason to suddenly allow everyone else to steal material too. i see it as a moment to educate those involved and stop the disease from spreading… the disease of ignorance or apathy.
people keep looking for fast and hard rules on this matter. ones that are carved in stone, that can be easily referrenced. that doesn’t exist. how should people learn then? they should participate in the community. and those in the community should pass on these values when there is the chance to do so. luckily juggling is small enough that we can still have personal contact on a case by case basis. duo supka might not have known that it was wrong to take ideas without permission. but i found out about them one way or another and then had a conversation with them. it didn’t last long because they knew exactly what they were doing. they were not naieve. they said that the props were something they took but they created characters, costume, dramaturgy and music to surround the props. i asked if i could then copy their characters, costume, dramaturgy and music without asking for their permission, but then change the props. of course that was not ok. that’s because its not only about props or tricks or this or that one element. its everything. you just can’t copy shit without permission in performing. and its not because its a law. or you will go to jail. or its illegal. or its about money. or its about licensing. or you will get sued. its because that’s how the world works, how the community functions. its the traditions of how performing has evolved.
and that can be confusing, if you started as a hobbyist and you were jamming your buugeng every night at EJC in the dance tent. then all of a sudden you’re facebooking me asking how jorg mueller rigs his pendulums so you can copy his act for a show you’re doing and instead of me telling you how to rig your shit, i write you back with the surprising news that you should create your own material or ask jorg yourself. so you didn’t know it was stealing to do jorg’s pipe pendulums. ok. now you know. so don’t do it. and then you can even think to yourself, shit, what else was i planning to do in my show now that i know its stealing if i copy someone else’s material without their permission and put it on stage? and shit, i have this friend who was planning on building a triangle to use in their show, maybe i should have a conversation with them as well.
this is not rocket science here. overall its an easy concept that’s not hard to figure out. what does get tricky is all the nuances and opinions of the people involved who create the material. but if you have a question, just ask them! this is not any roadblock to overcome that’s any bigger than any of the other steps you need to take to perform. if you’re mature enough to think you will stand in front of others and present juggling to them, then you’re mature enough to pause for 1 second and think about where that juggling comes from and where its going. you don’t know where a piece of material came from? you don’t know if something is a piece of material or some smaller coponent that is public domain? you can ask people who have been around longer than you. how are you supposed to know to ask people? you can either keep going along your path until you bump into someone who might be vocal about what you’re doing. or we as a community as well can start to spread this message, just as we spread siteswap, and fight night rules. and that message is: if you’re going to perform juggling, don’t be an asshole and steal other people’s shit. and stealing means taking it without their permission. and taking it means that you haven’t transformed it enough to make it your own.
we could have spent all this time talking about what that means. that’s the conversation i’ve been dying to have for years on this topic. but we never get beyond arguing over if its ethical to steal or not. but there’s a good rule of thumb which has been circulating for years now- if you were to perform your juggling in a show which also contained the original creator’s material on the same bill, would the audience say they were generally the same thing? i take a slightly different variation on this- i always like to think that if you were to show your version of the material to the original creator, would they get as inspired from seeing you as you were from seeing them? again, this is in the instance where you don’t ask for permission or consult the original creator beforehand.
which brings me to my final point- everyone who is opposed to my thesis here, always think that with this way of thinking no one can do crystal balls anymore (one way you can which we already covered is if you’re not doing a show), or that if you have to ask people permission to perform material then no one else can do that material. the funny thing is, lots and lots of time you can actually get permission to do things! just the fact that you ask shows a level of respect and understanding which gives you credibility and trust. and the thing is, if you ask greg if you can do his cone and he says no… why the hell would you not want to respect his wishes, since you asked in the first place? but if you have something significant to add to the conversation, some variation or innovation on his cone, i’m sure he would listen and give it due consideration. and that’s the best thing about all of this- in the end you get to have a conversation with these people about their work and about your work. if they don’t respond to you, then look elsewhere. the world is so big, there are so many things to do. if you don’t show respect to the community you will not get respect from the community. and in performing juggling you are crossing over into several communities- jugglers, performers, producers, etc. everyone who says that if they have to ask permission to do things then there won’t be anyone doing anything, all those people already know they are doing wrong! that’s why they automatically jump to that conclusion. i’ve had several great postítive exchanges with fellow performing jugglers over the past few years- both in getting asked if they can use some of my material, and me asking them if i can do some of theirs. its easy. its fun! its sustainable and builds a strong and healthy community where juggling and performing juggling can grow with respect and integrity.
but i think that this point we’re done arguing if its wrong to steal material or not. its clearly wrong. even @lukeburrage said that even though he thinks you can learn anything from anyone, you still have to credit the original creator. i can say that same thing in another way- luke believes its wrong to learn juggling from others and present it without proper credit. so even in his world you can’t just freely go around and do whatever you want without any moral judgement. then we have moved past this idea that its ok to simply learn/take/copy/steal material from other people. so we have a few things we could discuss finally:
since we have established there is a line which can be crossed, where exactly then does that line fall? we could start the conversation by having a range between luke and myself… on his end the line is that you simply need to credit the creator, you don’t even have to have their permission. on my end you need to have permission or you need to present something unique enough that you have made it your own.
where is the line to determine if something has been transformed enough to be unique or not? when is it derivitive of the original work, and when do you actually have something new on your hands?
luke brought up this idea that he left the bounce piano out of the discussion because he considers that routine to be more about comedy and/or magic and both of those performing genres have different rules or traditions than juggling. is this true? and if so, what other differeneces are there between all these genres? (and is the bounce piano a juggling routine or not?)
how do ideas spread throughout the juggling world? what is the relation between the hobbyist culture and the professional juggling world?
what role does the history of juggling have in these discussions? greg’s cone is really easy to talk about because we all know who greg is and he invented his cone in our lifetime. if we knew where the cascade came from, would that change our relation to it as professional performers? is there such a thing as a public domain inside of juggling and if so what’s in it? and with lots of new interest in juggling history these past few years, has this or would this affect the idea of public domain in any way?