Burning Man Threatens Quizno's For 'Theft Of Intellectual Property' Because Of A Quizno's Ad Mocking Burning Man

from the get-over-yourself dept

Lots of folks have really strong opinions -- both positive and negative -- about Burning Man, the big "festival/experiment/one-week city in the desert" or whatever you want to call it. But no matter what you think of Burning Man, it's always seemed odd that the organization behind it acts like a crazy intellectual property maximalist at times -- including using twisted interpretations of copyright and trademark law to stop people from doing anything Burning Man doesn't like with photos from the event. It required attendees to sign over the copyright on any photos taken, for instance.

But the latest move by Burning Man is really crazy. Just as this year's festival was ending last week, the sandwich chain Quizno's (long known for their amusing internet-ready commercials), released a pretty funny commercial mocking the commercialization of Burning Man in a way that pokes almost as much fun at Quizno's itself as it does at Burning Man. It does, certainly, mock the event for becoming pretty commercialized and "a place for rich people to check off their bucket list."
And, it appears that the Burning Man organization has absolutely no sense of humor and is trying to find some way to sue Quizno's over this, claiming it's "theft of intellectual property."
Burning Man takes issue with the clip and is considering legal action, not because of the mockery it makes of the more than 70,000-person annual event but because the video is theft of the event's intellectual property, according to Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham.

"We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification," Graham said. "We get a quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down."
I have no idea what that last paragraph means. You can be proactive about protecting whatever principles you want, but it doesn't allow you to sue someone for making a parody. There was no intellectual property infringed in this ad. Get over yourself, Burning Man.
"We'll be coordinating with our legal team to see what action we can take," Graham said.
And hopefully your legal team tells you can't do jack shit about this. Nor should you. You should relax a bit and laugh at something funny and move on with your lives.

Filed Under: advertisement, burning man, copyright, intellectual property, parody, trademark
Companies: burning man, quizno's


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  • identicon
    Skullduggery, 14 Sep 2015 @ 11:49am

    Open Mockery to Burning Man

    F' off Burning Man - you're a flipping joke.
    Get over yourselves - you suck donkey, bronto, blue whale.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Will-INI (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 11:49am

    Silicon Valley (tv show) seems to making IT a popular target to mock these days. Burning Man (the organizers) should be flattered that Quizno's thought the event was popular enough to be mocked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:06pm

    You want to talk about copyright theft? Let's discuss requiring attendees to sign over the copyright on any photos taken. Burning man isn't compensating photographers for their skill or work, but instead demanding they turn over everything they photograph at said event. LUNACY!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:15pm

    burning man

    Sounds like "they" got burned!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scott, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:31pm

    Im not sure about your claim "There was no intellectual property infringed in this ad". The art sculptures in the backgrounds and the design of the man being burned would have IP rights would they not?

    I am not sure where the line between parody and advertising is. The video is done as a parody but includes the description: "Quiznos and The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials bring you the latest Toasty.TV original parody".
    The about for the channel says: "Quiznos Toaster serves up the latest commercials and Quiznos videos".
    Does parody fair use rights cover parody done in advertising?

    From the Burning Man Website:
    "The Burning Man symbol (logo), “Burning Man,” “Burning Man Project,” “Black Rock City,” “Decompression,” “Precompression,” “Burnal Equinox” and “Flambé Lounge” are protected trademarks. The design of the Burning Man (aka “the Man”) and Man base, the map and layout of Black Rock City, the design of the City’s lampposts and the Ten Principles are protected copyrights.

    These trademarks and copyrights may not be used for any commercial or promotional purpose whatsoever without prior written permission from Burning Man. In order to preserve the “Man” for use in gifting and as an affinity symbol for our culture, we do not license this symbol, or any likeness, for commercial or outside purposes.

    Under the Terms and Conditions of entry into the event, Burning Man shares the copyright to photos and videos obtained at the event with the photographers and videographers. This joint copyright is what enables Burning Man to protect participants’ rights if a third party obtains and uses event imagery commercially or in another unauthorized manner."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:43pm

      Response to: Scott on Sep 14th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

      So what? They can say what ever they want. I wonder what kind of copyright they got for the base of the man. PA TX SR?

      your post shows burning man doesn't know what they're talking about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ltlw0lf (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:01pm

        Re: Response to: Scott on Sep 14th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

        So what? They can say what ever they want.

        This. And as NFL and MLB have shown time and time again, the facts don't need to be correct or legal.

        "Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, is prohibited."

        They say it every time, and even though they have yet to win a case against a defendant for doing so, they still say it.

        Sure, rebroadcasts or retransmissions of a fixed broadcast is illegal, but outlawing accounts which do not involve actual copying of video or audio by another company without their permission is bogus copyright advice from copyright maximalists who want to scare everyone into thinking they have to ask permission (and be denied) every time they want to talk about the game.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:15pm

          Re: Re: Response to: Scott on Sep 14th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

          You can copyright video.

          Not sure about "The design of the Burning Man (aka “the Man”) and Man base, the map and layout of Black Rock City, and the design of the City’s lampposts.

          I ask again, what kind of copyright form did they use? perhaps they didn't register the 'design' and are just blowing smoke?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            ltlw0lf (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Response to: Scott on Sep 14th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

            You can copyright video.

            That is exactly what I said.

            I think the problem is, as you said, they can say anything they want, but they aren't necessarily right legally or factually. Until the law holds them accountable for their misrepresentations as to what the law actually says or what we can do legally, this shit will continue.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:16pm

          Re: Re: Response to: Scott on Sep 14th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

          I think you guys are violently agreeing.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            ltlw0lf (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:29pm

            Re: Re: Re: Response to: Scott on Sep 14th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

            I think you guys are violently agreeing.

            That is usually what "This" means...we are agreeing. Apparently that was missed because I didn't hit enter twice after saying "This."

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:46pm

      Re:

      Does parody fair use rights cover parody done in advertising?

      Yes.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibovitz_v._Paramount_Pictures_Corp.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vincent Clement (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:46pm

      Re:

      "These trademarks and copyrights may not be used for any commercial or promotional purpose whatsoever without prior written permission from Burning Man."

      Too bad for On Fire Male, that's not how trademark or copyright law works. Coke and Pepsi consistently use their competitors trademarks in their ads. And the ad is clearly mocking Burning Man, which means fair use comes into play.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      "Under the Terms and Conditions of entry into the event, Burning Man shares the copyright to photos and videos obtained at the event with the photographers and videographers. This joint copyright is what enables Burning Man to protect participants’ rights if a third party obtains and uses event imagery commercially or in another unauthorized manner."

      Wow. That's amazingly greedy and grabby right there.

      Without that T&C agreement, people who take photos and videos would own 100% of their copyright, rather than joint ownership.

      Why would Burning Man need to assume that an individual photographer cannot send a DMCA takedown, a cease & desist or sue if his/her copyrights are violated?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:16pm

    Proof

    Their response to this parody (which is hilarious) is ironclad proof that the parody hit the nail right on the head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:32pm

    Makes me want run out and buy a delicious Quiznos sub

    Apropos of not much, I've never been to Burning Man, but I *have* been to the Black Rock desert.

    It's truly other worldly. Worth a visit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 2:00pm

    "These trademarks and copyrights may not be used for any commercial or promotional purpose whatsoever without prior written permission from Burning Man."

    Boiler plate copyright notices aren't enforceable if they are contrary to copyright law, and this is the most annoying and widespread boiler plate notice out there and entirely false under US law.

    Also, "Burning Man" isn't even original to this event and they have no rights to it beyond something very specific to this one specific event in a specific place at a specific time.

    The Burning Man has been around for hundreds of years as a traditional pagan ritual, so get over yourself "Burning Man", you're just a poor imitation of a copycat!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 2:09pm

      Re:

      The fact that something has been around for 100's of years hasn't stopped dizney.

      There you go, in one step, BM goes from 'decommidification' to full on disney. Way to go the 'on fire adult-male.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 2:12pm

    "We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification,"
    They want to decommodify culture by using the tools of ownership culture? That'd be as silly as using indiscriminate drone strikes and torture in the name of ending terrorism and spreading freedom and democracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 2:14pm

    "We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification," Graham said. "We get a quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down."

    Translation: We're the only ones allowed to profit from this event.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aldestrawk (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 3:14pm

    "There was no intellectual property infringed in this ad"

    I agree that BMORG has abused copyright law, but the video contains two registered trademarks, the phrase "burning man" and the burning man logo, and I think there may be infringement there. Apart from the video being a parody of the burning man festival it is, at it's core, an ad for Quiznos sandwiches. The juxtaposition of the two trademarks with the Quiznos sandwiches could imply an endorsement of Quiznos by BMORG. There is nothing in the video that explicitly says there is no such endorsement. If one didn't know that BMORG absolutely refuses any such endorsements, one might believe it to be an endorsement, despite the parody nature of the video.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 3:50pm

    the tried and true method of throwing enough shit at the wall and hoping something sticks

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JJ (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 8:51pm

    No sense of humor?

    It's pretty silly to suggest that the organization has "no sense of humor" and is only suing because the ad mocks them. If the ad were celebrating the event instead of mocking it, there is no question that they would respond in exactly the same way. In fact, I'm sure they would be much angrier - since this ad is parody, it clearly does not imply any endorsement by the Burning Man organization.

    As this blog itself has discussed repeatedly in past years, the event organizers have no qualms about using IP law against anybody else who tries to profit off of Burning Man. (They even require that all attendees turn over their copyright for all pictures and video taken at the event. Or something like that. They used to, at least. It's a policy widely supported by the attendees themselves.)

    I'm a regular burner and a big fan of the event, and I totally cracked up watching the ad - it actually reflects the complex feelings that many burners have about the event.

    Ultimately, if the ad is just a comedy sketch shot on a studio set, the brief shots of BM IP are clearly fair use. But if the ad was shot at the event, by someone who had signed their copyright over to Burning Man, and then decided that the law didn't apply to them, I wouldn't be the least bit upset if a judge decides that this ad infringes on Burning Man's IP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 6:08am

      Re: No sense of humor?

      The ad appears to be entirely fair use to me. If so, then it doesn't matter who owns the copyright. The copyright assignment wouldn't enter into it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Pettitt (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 8:11am

    Chill out people, nobody threatened anybody

    Clickbait much? Somebody asked a media flack if the something was infringing, he said he'd have to ask the legal team to see what action they could take. That's not a threat that's an admission that he didn't know.

    Pretty much every news outlet has spun this into "threat" when it's really not. Following private email exchanges I've had with one of the event founders I can confirm that their are well aware of the limits of copyright ant trademark and also the Streisand effect. I'd be very surprised if they take any legal action.

    Disclosure: I used to work for Burning Man.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 12:29pm

      Re: Chill out people, nobody threatened anybody

      Damage control much?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Sep 2015 @ 7:39am

      Re: Chill out people, nobody threatened anybody

      If what you say is true, that makes Burning Man's statements even worse, as they are threatening legal action that they have no intention of taking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BoCo, 15 Sep 2015 @ 9:39am

    Wow

    They must have an awful lot of signed copyright assignments on hand....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Monday (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 10:21am

    Burning Man

    I've spent the last 25 minutes watching and re-watching the ads from Quizno's, and they are really fantastic. It parodies bigger fish, Star Wars for example, and they are funny and flattering.
    Burning Man will be on the losing end of this, and that's if their Lawyers haven't already told "Burning Man Spokesman Jim Graham" to smarten the fuck up!

    Thanks for the links. Nice way to start the morning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 16 Sep 2015 @ 6:14am

    Unless they put up a giant opaque dome...

    covering the public buildings and people in public areas I am allowed to capture photons bouncing off of their shizzle and use it however I see fit. I also have the right to use those captured photons as I see it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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