Burning Man's Copyright Grab

from the and-that's-how-it-goes dept

The Burning Man event is supposed to be all about personal freedom and freedom of expression… but apparently the organizers feel a bit differently about it. The EFF notes that the terms of service you agree to in attending Burning Man, includes a neat little legal claim that if anyone does anything that the Burning Man organizers don’t like with your photos or videos, you agree to hand the copyright over to them, so they can force it offline.

I agree that, in the event I post, or allow to be posted, any images (still or video) on a personal website or a website controlled by a third party, that (1) in the event Burning Man notifies me that any such images must be removed, for any reason whatsoever in Burning Man’s sole discretion, I will promptly remove or cause to be removed those images; and (2) I will place, or cause to be placed, on any website in which such images are displayed a notice that the images can be used only for the poster’s personal use and not for any other purpose and that downloading or copying of the images is prohibited. I further agree that, in the event any third party displays or disseminates any of my images in a manner not authorized by this agreement, I assign to Burning Man the copyright so that Burning Man can enforce against the third party any restrictions concerning use of the images, and I appoint Burning Man as my attorney-in-fact to execute any documents necessary to effectuate such assignment.

Free expression! Except if we don’t like it.

EFF also notes that the same agreement attempts to get you to waive your fair use rights (which can’t be taken away that way) on its trademark, even to the point that you’re not allowed to, say, post images labeled “Burning Man 2009.” The reasoning behind this is that Burning Man wants to avoid any sort of “commercialization,” but abusing copyright and trademark law to do so doesn’t seem particularly reasonable.

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Comments on “Burning Man's Copyright Grab”

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taoareyou (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is the second time in two days you’ve indicated that you cannot waive your fair use rights in some way (license, contract). I did some searching but couldn’t find anything to substantiate (or specifically refute) this. Can you cite a source for this assertion?

The waiver of your constitutional right of freedom of speech cannot be usurped by a legal paragraph printed on the back of a ticket. Buying a ticket to an event does not equal signing a non-disclosure act. And it certainly would not cover arbitrary forced control and censorship of your personal photos and accounts based on non-published criteria.

As long as what you post is not maliciously false with the intent to cause damage to the Burning Man trademark they cannot force you to give up certain rights.

Imagine if that was the case, then every business you walk into would post a little page on their front windows stating that you waive all rights to sue them for any reason upon entering, and you transfer copyright of any experiences you publish related to them in any format so they can force anything negative about them to be removed.

Fortunately that is not the case and business cannot force you to waive basic rights through the act of patronage.

Of course, if that were to come to pass, I can see people wearing t-shirts declaring that by allowing them entrance to a store, the store is waiving all rights to prosecute them for shoplifting. 🙂

Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:

They just want to make money off the posters of these pictures from law suites is all. By making you hand over your stuff to them to start legal proceedings, The promoters win the bucks. Greed, what is it good for? Absolutly nothing!

Everyone that steps onto the playa knows if you get in the buff there you will probably get a pic of yourself online if you are good looking and female and even male. You go there to let your hair down and do these things. My god just google some of the porn sites and you get way more. This is innocent expression of the of the people of the world that is one of the last places to go to be extreamly happy for a week. Start cutting back the fun and we will find it els where!

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hypocriminal

And my fiance pointed out that I missed mentioning techies. You can’t throw a rock at Burning Man without (1) getting yelled at for mooping/littering, and (2) hitting a programmer or DJ.

There’s a long standing joke that you can’t get code written in Silicon Valley the week before Labor Day. Because all the programmers are at Burning Man. The two Google founders still attend regularly.

Pwdrskir (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hypocriminal

I wonder how the guy who holds up a bag of drugs in the following Burning Man video got away from the several jurisdictions of law enforcement. You’re a fool if you don’t think illegal drugs are being used, hell, I went to a concert in the middle of a city last weekend and there were people sitting on the grass smoking dope and doing all manor of hallucinogens and X. Pull your head out of your ass and face reality, illegal drugs are everywhere. The video sure looks and sounds like a hippie gathering to me.

taoareyou (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

f you’re out in public, YOU are public domain. ANYONE has the right to take your picture. Publishing said picture for profit needs permission

No, permission is NOT required to publish any photo you take of any person. If I see you in public, and I take your photo, I can sell and/or publish that photo of you without your permission.

If permission were required, papparazzi’s would never be able to sell any photos, you would never see photos of celebrities in clubs in magazines, etc. If I take your picture legally (i.e. not tresspassing or taking a photo of you in a place where you have a reasonable right to privacy, such as using a public restroom) I can do whatever I like with my photo…including making a profit from it.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

I’ve had run-ins with the Burning Man IP police on 3rd party sites that didn’t question the validity of the borg’s claim.

I had a design on Cafe Press that only had “BRC” in a sans-serif font within a circle (“BRC” can be the initials for “Black Rock City”, the official name given to the temporary city by event organizers). Evidently, the borg claims ownership of “BRC” as a trademark (which I thought went along with logos and identity, not simply putting 3 letters in succession in any context). Cafe Press, without question, took down my design.

I’ve also had event organizers claim I couldn’t use burningman.spacemonkeymafia.com as a sub-domain to my website when I was creating a website for my theme camp. I had already come up with a better idea and went with playa.spacemonkeymafia.com, since playa is a generic Spanish word for “beach”, in addition to the name given to land where Burning Man is held which is an ancient sea bed and very beachy.

It’s utterly ridiculous how far the Burning Man organization takes their ownership over the event so far to the totalitarian extremes, that it’s almost hypocritical in that they feel the ends justify the means. They stand on the pillars of radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, and radical inclusionism, but act as a school yard bully, extinguishes as much expression that it doesn’t like as it can, and creates a walled barrier between them and everyone else.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Hippies and Helmets

You know hippies that are IMPOSING their will on others? What hippies are these, who are they, and where are they? Because I need to send them a letter stating very simply: “Dear whoever, you are not a hippy.”

On the other hand, most of the hippies I know are too stoned and/or lethargic to IMPOSE anything. In fact, I’m fairly certain there’s something in the definition of a pacifist that would directly contradict any imposition at all, whatsoever. I’m not a particulaly big fan of the hippie culture, specifically since so many of them were hypocrites, but IMPOSE…nuh uh.

So….what are you talking about?

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Hippies and Helmets

umm no THIS is fascism:
noun-a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

attempting to impose your will upon another is just wanting to control someone. There’s no simple classification into which you can lump all people who do that. GTFOY

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hippies and Helmets

“umm no THIS is fascism:
noun-a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”

You’re technically absolutely correct, just don’t forget 2 important points:

A. The definition of fascism has changed several times in the past 100 years, altered slightly but meaningfully.

B. The people that put out the English dictionary are large companies that have a vested interest in controlling speech and thought.

Sallo says:

banning the pics

Ok, my theory is this:

With all the naked people running taking pics of other naked people, the organizers of BM want to make sure that only the pics of the good looking naked people get posted. By having the copyright disclaimer they can try and get the pics of the fat and ugly naked people taken off of websites…because we all know that fat, ugly naked people is not good for marketing.

Why this theory you ask? it is simple.

Look at who they cater to these days. It just so happens I live just down the street from one of the popular supermarkets that is a last stop for a lot of peeps on the way out of town…for those who know the area it’s on the corner of Pyramid & McCarren.

By the end of the month it is going to be a parade of late model Escalade’s & Navigator’s being driven by thirty-something yuppies towing the dirtiest and nastiest camper trailers that could find and spray painted the shit out of it in the parking lot of the local Salvation Army parking lot while buying the ‘fugliest’ clothes they could so they can look like they belong.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not bitter, it is actually good for the local economy and I even quite a few of them that go.

But it comes down to marketing. If your target audience is the thirty-something yuppy, you don’t want to advertise hairy pitted chicks that are old, fat, ugly and naked to them.

This is just a theory and I could be way WRONG!!!

Joshua (profile) says:

I’m an organizer of Alchemy, a Burning Man regional burn in Georgia. Here’s what we did with our IP:


In the interest of giving as much ownership of the event as possible to the participants in the event, we waive all copyright and IP rights to the Alchemy Logo. This means that you are free to use the Alchemy Logo, pictured to the left, in whatever way you want, including ways that we personally might disagree with, such as for personal profit. This also means that it is up to you to use the logo responsibly and to decide whether or not you want to reward others who might use the logo in ways that are not consistent with the Principles around which the event is organized. It’s your (intellectual) property; please take good care of it.

Although we waive all rights to the logo, we retain all rights and trademarks to the phrase, “Alchemy: The Georgia Burn.” If you would like to use this term, please contact us at board@alchemyfestival.com to request permission. Blanket permission is granted to use this term on any item or in any performance that is distributed for free and exclusively at an Alchemy-sponsored event. In other words, if you’re making schwag to give away at the event, or if you’re planning a performance at the event, you are free to use the event’s title. If you’re not sure, email us to ask for permission, and we’ll probably give it to you.

Currently, Alchemy LLC sponsors only two events: The Alchemy Festival itself and the Alchemy Art Fundraiser that occurs in the summer. If you see any other events using the Alchemy logo to promote themselves, you are welcome to contact board@alchemyfestival.com to determine whether they are actually associated with Alchemy or not.


To the extent possible under law, Alchemy Festival, LLC has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to The Alchemy Logo. This work is published from United States.

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