EFF criticizes Burning Man for limiting attendees' fair use rights


(Image by Xeni Jardin, shot at Burning Man 2003. The photographer was wearing pants.)

The annual Burning Man fest takes place at the end of this month in Nevada's Black Rock desert. El wire, fake fur, exposed titties, fire art, pill popping, light shows, bad techno, art cars, dudes with no pants, platform combat boots, utilikilts, on and on and on -- if you're reading Boing Boing you probably know what Burning Man is (and if not, read the prior BB posts linked at the bottom of this one).

So, for many years now, the organization behind the event has enforced a highly restrictive set of policies around photography and video out on the playa. The argument for these restrictions involves protecting attendees' privacy rights. People do wacky stuff out there, in various states of undress and sobriety, and nobody wants their naked DMT yoga falafel rave dance routine to end up on some sleazy "Girls Gone Wild" DVD, right? But here's a snip from a commentary by Corynne McSherry on the EFF Deep Links blog which argues these policies go too far:

Most attendees have the entirely reasonable expectation that they will own and control what is likely the largest number of creative works generated on the Playa: the photos they take to document their creations and experiences. That's because they haven't read the Burning Man Terms and Conditions.

Those Terms and Conditions include a remarkable bit of legal sleight-of-hand: as soon as "any third party displays or disseminates" your photos or videos in a manner that the Burning Man Organization (BMO) doesn't like, those photos or videos become the property of the BMO. This "we automatically own all your stuff" magic appears to be creative lawyering intended to allow the BMO to use the streamlined "notice and takedown" process enshrined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to quickly remove photos from the Internet.

The BMO also limits your own rights to use your own photos and videos on any public websites, (1) obliging you to take down any photos to which BMO objects, for any reason; and (2) forbidding you from allowing anyone else to reuse your photos (i.e., no licensing your work no matter what is depicted, including Creative Commons licensing, and no option to donate your work to the public domain).

Snatching rights on the playa (deeplinks via Wayneco)


  1. Actually I read BB daily, don’t really know what Burning Man is though I’ve heard of it many times, and from what I’ve heard it doesn’t interest me one bit.

  2. An interesting solution would be to create a pool of sorts, or a dump. Anything dropped into said dump would be added to an updated, monthly torrent out of reach of any legal misdeeds. At least then you would be preserving a visual record of the events until the law matures. And yes, it is a matter of maturity.

    Just take back your rights. But we all know already that such things are never, ever GIVEN until they are taken first.

    Does the BMO control the online communities associated with Burning Man? ORGANIZE!

  3. The internet was created in a world controlled by laws, yet people can and do break those laws frequently, and in increasing numbers.

    Stupid companies/groups trying to play legal catchup are only wasting their time and money because PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS GONNA DO WHAT THEY WANT. These clowns really need to explain how my property can become theirs….. good luck trying to convince a judge of this.

    Ridiculous controls just lead to complete disregard for those controls.

  4. @#1: “I have no idea what it is, and I have determined I don’t like it!” would be really funny testimony in court, or in a debate.

  5. Even if Burning Man’s contract by adhesion worked, it would be no good in a few common situations. (1) One example is if someone assigned their works to someone else before uploading the works to the third-party website. For example, consider a journalist whose works are assigned to her employer. She cannot agree at some future date to assign the photos to her employer, because she does not own them, and the assignment is not enforceable against the employer because it did not agree to it. (2) Another example is if someone released the pictures into the public domain, although this would be trickier because the release would necessarily occur after the person had agreed to assign the copyright and therefore they could argue that the release into the public domain was no good. This kind of legal sophistry is why I got out of IP law a long time ago.

  6. For all the ridiculous shit that seems to go against the history and purpose of Burning Man, why don’t the real creatives just fork off and do something that’s exactly the same, sans douchebaggery?

  7. Pardon the childish, scatological humor but the “BM organization” engaged in crappy behavior should come as little surprise.

  8. I mailed the bm-organisation last year because I wanted to publish some photos and also requesting some press-photos.

    Never heard from them, not a reply.

  9. I haven’t been to Burning Man and am not likely to, but this problem would be solved if there were no photography. Is there any event in life any more that isn’t “documented” by cameras? That would be nice. Maybe the Indians had it right. I take shtloads of photos myself, but I’d also be happy not to sometimes. If something happens and 25 people didn’t get photos of it, did it happen? Oy vey.

  10. Photography at Black Rock City is such a pleasure: The light is so intense and directional, everything you point the camera at just jumps out in the frame. (Whether the world really needs another photo of a tiki lounge, is a separate question)

    A week of wading through other people’s cleverness is going to strain anyone’s sense of humor. I tell people who haven’t been, it’s as if Disneyland had cancer. Once every four or five years is about enough for me.

    I don’t think they expect people to abide by the EULA any more than they really expect people to pick up after themselves. Consequences on the playa are usually self-inflicted.

  11. This is along the lines of discussions I have been having about photography in the modern age.

    My argument is simply this: Once you leave the privacy of your house, you no longer own the privacy of not having your picture taken. Especially if you are going to public place or one where there are more than 10 people at any given time.

    There is the argument of ethics on the photographer’s side, but that point is semi null. The fact that you have your picture taken by the police, stores, photographers, creepy people, the off chance you are in the background of a picture without your knowledge taken by a happy couple.

    So that brings up the point of usage. Creeps are “using them” and the chance you knowing about it is minimal. The others may never be used, but some might just make it out into public.

    Now if someone is using your image to make money, there is a good chance you will find out about it and can possibly bring a case, otherwise most will be posted to facebooks and myspaces where the picture might be view by 10 or a million people. My view, this is the chance you take, and at the end of the day, give it 40 to 60 years and no one will really care about the image.

    Now on to damning pictures, getting your exposed titties posted over the net, or you in some precarious position, I think comes down to the individual. If you don’t want the word seeing you titties, keep em wrapped. If you don’t want people to know a certain side of you, then you understand the risk of presenting yourself like that in the public. Otherwise it might take people being honest with themselves and maybe the whole world would relax a bit and understand that it does contain some weird and wild stuff.

    So all in all, don’t tell me what I can take a picture of out in the world and don’t take my picture in my house or on my property without my permission. Otherwise you own what you take and have fun sharing the moments you capture in time and space.

    Sorry for the length, just been thinking about this a lot lately.

  12. I haven’t been to Burning Man and am not likely to, but this problem would be solved if there were no….

    let me interrupt you there.

    I too have not been to BM, but prohibitions on anything make my many friends who *have* been to the playa both squirmy and rebellious.

  13. Why is going out to the desert an excuse to not take responsibility for one’s own actions? If you are going to go to burning man and act like a horse’s ass, it isn’t someone else’s fault for not being able to crop your pecadillos out of their holiday snaps!

  14. I have been to Burning Man (and am going again this year), so I can at least talk about it with a bit of authority.

    There is no way that the BMO’s hilariously restrictive policies on video taking could be enforced, since nearly everyone there has a cellphone or camera that can take movies.

    We all just ignore that bureaucratic stuff and have a good time. So sue me.

  15. I guess this is a problem of scale. If 10 friends decide to go out in the desert and act like horses asses, it’s easy for them to agree not to take photos, or maybe even not use names in stories about what they did (what happens in the desert stays in the desert). It gives a fantastic freedom. I’ve never been, but I get the impression that BM tries to do this with lots of ‘friends’ who have never met. If you think of it as a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ rather than a DMCA issue, it sounds a lot more palatable. Yes, it’s a restriction of freedom, but so is taking those photographs. Which one is more restrictive?

  16. Only an idiot would expect a gentleman’s agreement to exist with people he’s never met and has never discussed the issue with.

    What’s the difference between banning cameras at burning man and banning them in train stations or at police traffic stops? It’s easy to bargain away the right to take a photograph in public when you are the one caught with your pants down.

    “I make it a point to never perform on camera anything I wouldn’t do in my own home… and never to do in my own home anything I wouldn’t do on camera.” Sir Ambrose Abercrombie in “The Loved One”

  17. ASIFA:

    The major difference is found at the bottom of the waiver:



  18. The problem is not necessarily legal or practical, but philosophical.

    Public freedom from rules doesn’t just mean that you are allowed to go parading around wearing an anally fitted steel double dildo with body paint in the shape of a sundial, it means that anyone else is allowed to watch you and do what they like with that information. If you don’t like it, you can go ahead and cavort in the privacy of your own home.

  19. It’s a pity. There was a similar issue at Robodock (on indefinite hiatus) here in Amsterdam. The website said no pictures, but the reality was that you could take noncommercial photos and they had the nonexclusive right to use them if you posted them publicly. If you had a nice camera you were supposed to go to their press booth and get a sticker for your camera.

    But I didn’t know that until later, and I’m one of those people who think someone’s always watching, so I missed out on a lot of good pictures.

  20. Agree that camera/pic policy is in Condition F, but for now… if you don’t like it, don’t go.
    Attend a regional burn instead.
    Playa del Fuego, Transformus, InterFuse, Scorched Nuts, Recycled Rainbow… etc.
    Save hundreds and enjoy (usually) better weather.

    /been to Burning Man twice, going back 2010

  21. @#16 – the difference is whether you have to be there to go about your normal life (a train station) or if you go to a purely frivolous event that attempts to create a specific kind of freedom.

    I do all kinds of stupid things privately that I wouldn’t do on camera. My life is more fun for it.

    I think this will probably break, cameras will be allowed, and BM will become more sanitized. Which will be a shame.

  22. @#16 Asifa:

    The major difference is that train stations and police traffic stops both take place in public spaces and are not at private events. You (in all likelihood) do not need to go to BurningMan to get to work, get home, etc.

    Restricted rights at private locations and functions are fine under most circumstances. Being able to eject someone who is acting like a jerk (which isn’t and shouldn’t be illegal) from a restaurant for example is A Good Thing ™.

    Restricted rights at private locations or functions are not okay when it becomes ubiquitous and public by default. For example in the U.S. many shopping malls have replaced the downtown high street (especially as a place for the young to meet and hang out), yet unlike the high street you have no rights whatsoever since the entirety of the shopping mall is privately owned (usually with its own private “police” force)- and you can be thrown out for wearing something as innocuous as a shirt that says, “Give peace a chance”.

    That said, given the remoteness and sheer amount of effort it takes to get and stay at BurningMan (even though it takes place on BLM land) I don’t think you could make a case that public rights of way apply during the event.

    Also, as per the quote by Ambrose Abercrombie- all the more reason to become a porn star. ;P

  23. I have a few thoughts on this one, and am honestly a little torn:

    1) Is there any record of BMO actually enforcing this policy? There are videos and images all over the internet from BM. I’m trying to understand their motivation here.

    2) BM is a very anti-commerce group, so I can understand to some extent if their goal was to try to go against people wanting to profit off the event through their photography or videos. I’m not necessarily saying that’s acceptable justification, but I do understand where they might be coming from.

    Part of going means you agree to a no-commerce policy while on the playa. Whether or not this should extend to things like photos is an interesting thought.

    Either way, I’ll be going this year for the 3rd time and will likely take lots of photos. I’ll have to keep this in mind if I ever decide to put them somewhere on the internet.

  24. After that comment, I noticed one of the related links regarding BM suing over the “Boobies of Burning Man” video, so that answers my #1. Hmm, not sure how I feel about that.

  25. It’s actually worse – I have a friend who’s working for them and his contract restricts him from writing or publishing anything about Burning Man. It’s too bad because he’s been writing a book about his experiences and BM is a big part of them.

  26. i think one of the good things about burning man IS this contract – restricting people’s use of pics and what not.

    finally a place where stupid kids are obsessively taking pics and videos of everything – for what?

    people should enjoy the experience of burning man. not try to own it.

    of burning man if you are there to take pictures
    you are suppose to go and have this experience – a place without the stupid corporate mentality – without your egos wanting to own everything – go enjoy yourself – don’t go just so you can tell other people you went.

    why does anyone need to take pictures here.

  27. There’s a simple solution to this problem (which I employed in the bad old days when amazon’s terms required the assignment to them of reviews).

    You assign the copyright in the image to someone else (your partner, for example). In latin: “nemo dat quod non habet”, or “no-one can give what they don’t have”, prior to the assignment to BMO happening. A piece of paper with a single sentence “I assign the copyright in my burning man photos taken in August 2009 to [Xeni Jardin]” will do. As long as you sign it.

    Admittedly, you may be in breach of contract later when the copyright is supposed to be assigned to BMO, but BMO only have a claim in damages, which I’d love to see them try to assert in court. (There may be some technical arguments here about transfer being subject to an implied licence, or trusts, but the basic principle is sound).

    Under English Law, you even have the ability to assign copyright before it’s arisen (I don’t know if this is possible under US law). This way, you can validly assign the copyright in the images before you’ve even taken them, and, crucially, before you’ve even entered into any agreement with BMO, or even know what it says.

    Analogy: if I agree to sell Xeni my car next Tuesday, and in the meantime, I sell it to Cory, Xeni will have a claim against me in damages come Tuesday, when I don’t deliver the car, but the car’s still Cory’s, and Xeni has no claim against that.

    Oh the joys of being a lawyer.

    (These ramblings are all assuming English law – which of course doesn’t apply in the US, so the above may be totally incorrect out in the Nevadan desert).

    – Andrew

  28. who cares what people freakin think! If you are at Burning Man to begin with, it’s expected of you to do something unconventional. If it’s on video, own up to it! If you’re willing to participate, who cares if it LOOKS bizzarre or funny…embrace the fun!

  29. By the way, re my comment #26 above, if it turns out that what I suggest is a breach of contract under US law (and I don’t know the answer to that), I’m not advocating that anyone actually do it. I’d be interested to hear a U.S. lawyer’s comment.

  30. You give up much more than intellectual property rights by attending Burning Man. My observation has been that the rights tend to be enforced most when you fall out of favor with the event organizers or rangers. It would be cool if burners actually felt the need to stand up for themselves or their rights against the BM org but I doubt that anyone is willing to risk their party in the desert to do this. I also find it amusing that given the mission of the Burning Man org/event it remains a for-profit organization. The notion that people pay good money to give up their rights for the “community” (e.g. BM org) benefit is a little surprising given the brilliant artists, etc. that attend.

  31. Never been, but BM seems like a contradiction. At an average ticket price of $280 for 45,000 people that’s over $13 million. But it’s ‘non-commercial’ and money isn’t allowed once you’re in?

    And all those people have to truck in, at great cost in terms of a carbon footprint, every resource to create a temporary ‘community’ where you have to provide everything for yourself. In the middle of a remote desert, where people don’t belong anyway. There’s a reason why real communities settle where they do. Plus, I can look out my window and see a lot of shared resources that I can use.

    Funny how they had to relax the ‘non-commercial’ concept for toilet service. Come on, let’s make THAT work at the ‘gift’ level!

  32. @LemonOne, how about if I record your audio? Lift your fingerprints? Sample your DNA? Probe your mind? Where’s the line, mime?

  33. BM was a lot more fun before it got kicked out to the desert. It felt like community in SF, and now it feels like commercial.

  34. @25: You think people shouldn’t take pictures there. Why not? It’s a great place for visual interest.

    We take pictures of our camp, our campmates, the amazing art, and the random craziness that occurs when you get that many creative people together.

    If nothing else, taking pictures of your friends on a vacation together should be expected.

    Last year a couple of our campmates went to Smooch Dome with us and ended up being featured on the Smooch Dome website’s homepage in a lovely photo. The Smooch Dome site offers to remove photos if you object to their presence, but they didn’t ask permission before taking the photo.

    So it all works out.

    Again, the lawyers would have to actually hash it out in court to make the policy stick.

  35. I thought a big part of BM was to make art installations and have people interact with them. Those of you who decry anyone capturing this might want to consider that for some people, taking photographs is their way of interacting with / making art. Why, in such a “carefree” event would you want to regulate that? If this is supposed to be the antithesis of corporate culture, why such a heavy-handed corporate type response? I understand about not wanting people to sell videos of experiences there, but claiming that any and all captures made are theirs by default is a little heavy handed imo.

    All your base camp are belong to us.

  36. A quick survey of the (admittedly few) people I know who go to Burning Man on occasion indicates two things:

    – They primarily attend for the boobs and the drugs.
    – This policy is bad (to them) ’cause it may mean less pictures of boobs at Burning Man on the internet.

  37. I like the idea of a massive provate party where one can experiment, express and enjoy communally without the potential that images will be publically posted. I think its great. Privacy is not such a bad thing. Desire for it does not mean you are a fascist.

    One should consider that ther canbe a chilling effect. And also, ther should be options, have some places where photography is not allowed, others where its OK. Its a false dichotomy to state that its either one way or the other. Both have positive and bad effects.

    The arguments that there are surveillance cameras everywhere these days, so why not BM is pretty silly– if anything it implies that there should be some safe haven for people to let loose, with freedom. Surely we should avoid draconian measures to control our freedom of expresion but should also preserve the endngered and rare environments in which we can cut loose off the grid and expereiment

  38. I know it goes against the grain around here, but I don’t think the right of a photographer trumps all my rights to have my image taken at any time I’m not physically in my house.

    I like taking photos; I went to school for filmmaking. But I also think I should be allowed to set aside boundaries for a way to be outdoors without having to worry about photos of me being blasted to the entire world. Who cares if it’s a gentleman’s agreement, or unenforceable. I think BM is right to put this down.

    For all those people who say, “once you’re out in public, you lose all expectations of rights to privacy,” I say that it is not unreasonable to view photos as fundamentally different. Photos allow people to share a space with you that they never occupied. They are also perpetual. Cops, health insurance companies, spooks, and who knows who else trolls the internet and can act on those photos. People could have consequences in their jobs, in their status with child custody, or their health care because of some of these photos. People protest the tyranny of being surveilled by the government; I feel the same way about being constantly surveilled by private citizens, especially when they say I should never be able to legitimately expect to avoid them.

    As an aside, I also think BM is trying to limit the commercial use of playa photography, which I think is a worthy goal.

  39. The photographer was wearing pants.

    Xeni, what an odd thing to say. This makes me wonder why this was remarkable. Was it:
    1. You generally prefer dresses, skirts, shorts, saris, etc., so pants-wearing is a remarkable event for you;
    2. You were pants-less for the rest of BM 2003, but at this exact moment you were pants-clad;
    3. No one else at BM 2003 wore pants; or,
    4. You were only wearing pants.

  40. Pennsic is better. Assuming you like to fight all day and party all night, that is.

    I saw a person take a flash photo and another person just slapped the inappropriate device right out of his hand into the bonfire. Poof! Don’t breathe the fumes… laughed my ass off, although I personally would have paid for the damages if I did something like that.

    Some places have a social contract. If you can’t abide, don’t attend. If you want to get all rebellious and break the contract, don’t whinge and grizzle if somebody else gets equally rebellious at your expense.

  41. Oh, and Teapot: saying that no one should ever make rules because people can ultimately do what they want is inane.

    Just because people can defy rules doesn’t mean rulemaking has no purpose. A soccer game without rules is not the same game, and to many people’s minds, not as much fun. Burning Man is a big game, and it comes with predefined rules to allow people to feel free. Of course, you could surreptitiously break the rules and create a small US dollar economy there, just like you could secretly unfurl advertising banners, but that behaviour wouldn’t suddenly invalidate the rules against money or advertising and more than running around outside the lines in a soccer game changes the rules of the game.

    “PEOPLE CAN DO ANYTHING SO JUST GIVE UP!” is not a helpful sentiment. People can murder people too, in spite of the laws. Should we just throw the laws out?

  42. @33: You seem to have a beef with BB whereas the criticism in this article is coming from the EFF.

  43. Before there was BM, there were Rainbow Gatherings. No fees, no bullshit, and no pretensions. People ran around completely nude and out of their brains and no one worried about being photographed. Something was lost when people started charging a fee for a gathering of the tribes.

  44. It’s simple. As an adult, you can either stand behind the things you do in public, or not do them. There are no other choices. To argue otherwise is childish, irresponsible and just plain stupid.

  45. There are three main reasons for the photo policy.

    One is to stop people like Girls Gone Wild from making a Girls Gone Wild Burning Man Edition. And yes, that did almost happen. And yes, the Org was able to stop it from happening because of their photo policy.

    The other is to stop people from using Burning Man photographs in commercial advertisements. They don’t want Coca Cola commercials shot there.

    The third is to stop people (often in the Burning Man community) from using Burning Man photos to advertise/promote events that are not officially sanctioned by Burning Man.

    For instance, let’s say you want to throw your own desert sex orgy rave, and promote it using a photo taken at Burning Man. The Org would prefer that Burning Man not be associated with your party, particularly if it gets busted.

    Does this make the photo policy “good”? No. But they have their reasons, and they’re not all bad. They really do not care what you do with your photos, as long as you are not doing one of the above things.

  46. Just goes to show you, once you find your “Utopia” it rarely lasts long, whether this refers to photography or the nature of an event changing over time. I remember the days when you could go to rock festivals and bring in your own food and drink, but that has largely been displaced by the organizers of the event putting a fence around the thing and making you buy anything you want to consume from “them,” usually consisting of corporate food and drink vendors and a few “local” vendors just to show that the organizer cares about the community.

  47. Phikus,

    The Rainbow Gatherings (which are still going on) have had an incredible amount of problems with law enforcement shutting down their events, taking them to court, and arresting people, not to mention sanitation and first aid. If they’d prefer to deal with those problems instead of a ticket price, it’s their problem. (Also, Go to Black Rock on 4th of July if you’d like to experience a free, uncontrolled version of Burning Man.)

    I camped with Rainbow elders one year at Burning Man, and they have lots of stories about police tasering people and making mass arrests at Rainbow National. And then there are the lawsuits. There are also well-known problems with their latrine systems and infectious diseases. The Rainbow folks had been putting off attending Burning Man for many years because of the ticket price, but wound up having a ball and swearing to come back.

    Burning Man spends money so that they don’t have these problems, and that they can also afford to give grants for some of the largest, most daring art in the world. (Not that people don’t get sick there, or that the increase in law enforcement doesn’t suck.)

    I’ve been to both and prefer Burning Man. $280 for a weeklong festival is not very much money. Check ticket prices for Bonaroo or Coachella if you want a yardstick. And if you volunteer properly, you get a comp ticket the next year.

    If you’re really, really curious, check out http://financials.burningman.com/ and see where the money goes. As it turns out, a legal festival for 50,000 people in the middle of nowhere with ten ton artwork can be quite expensive.

  48. the way i feel about it is: these are the rules. if you don’t like them, you’re free to start your own festival, and make up your own rules. people who go there should have a reasonable expectation that the terms laid out will be followed – they’re paying good money for this specific experience which happens to have such and such rules. Black Rock City is not a public place. And there are plenty of private places where one is not allowed to film for commercial purposes – strip clubs, football games etc. dont like it? you’re free to go make your own strip club, or your own football stadium.

  49. Cranky old-timer here. I quit going to BMan in the late 90’s when bureaucracy, politics and control became more much more evident than freedom, self-reliance and the unexpected.

    We went to the godforsaken desert to escape the annoyances and limitations of society… then they all followed us out in droves and were magnified tenfold. Roaming at will on the playa in your artcar became arbitrarily-granted “DMV permits”. A few local sheriffs who kept an eye on things became a multijurisdictional law enforcement playground for every agency within 500 miles of Gerlach to try out the gear they got with their Homeland Security grants. $40 to help pay for portapotties became hundreds of dollars per head to create a multi-million-dollar corporate business enterprise.

    The limitations on photography and videography are just another manifestation of how BMan long ago metastasized from an affordable and autonomous DIY cultural event to just another expensive, rule-laden megafest for jaded trustafarians. Good on EFF for calling BMORG on their overreaching bullshit.

  50. it bears repeating:




    1. nutbastard,

      If people don’t agree with you the first time, caps lock probably isn’t going to win them over.

  51. People at Burning Man aren’t any nakeder than people on Castro Street at Halloween. It seems kind of pseudo-transgressive to take your clothes off at BM and then be upset about being seen naked in pictures.

    I have two friends who have gone to BM. One of them went in the late 90s and thought that it would be edgy. The other one had stopped going some years before that and thought that it was completely yuppified.

  52. The BMOrg would have you believe that those terms are facilitating people’s ability to express themselves (which indeed they are) but that’s as far as the Terms need to go.

    If the subject and the photographer/videographer are in agreement, the BMO shouldn’t have a say – their small-print legal trickery should be in accord with their big-print lofty ideals.

  53. @#60 Antinous

    i dont normally YELL in forums but there’s a dozen posts talking about photographers and their rights in public spaces, which burningman is not. arguments based on fallacies/misconceptions are not only pointless but actively counterproductive to discussion.

  54. The major difference is that train stations and police traffic stops both take place in public spaces and are not at private events. You (in all likelihood) do not need to go to BurningMan to get to work, get home, etc.

    Well, then if you can’t avoid passing through a train station or public space, isn’t that MORE of a reason to protect individual’s privacy not less?

    If burning man is a private entertainment event, then they should be able to take away cameras just like the movie studios do at special private screenings right?

    No. If you go outside of your own home, you are in public and you shouldn’t be surprised if your actions are viewed by people you don’t expect to view them. You should behave in a way that won’t bring shame to yourself later. Act responsibly like an adult.

    If everyone took responsibility for themselves and their own actions, there wouldn’t be any problem.

  55. There are three main reasons for the photo policy. One is to stop people like Girls Gone Wild from making a Girls Gone Wild Burning Man Edition. The other is to stop people from using Burning Man photographs in commercial advertisements. The third is to stop people (often in the Burning Man community) from using Burning Man photos to advertise/promote events that are not officially sanctioned by Burning Man.

    All three of those things are protected already by law. You can’t use an image of a person for commercial purposes without a model release. Why does burning man see the need to take away all photography rights to protect circumstances that are already protected by law?

  56. 1) individual: You probably wouldn’t like it, anyway, if you went.

    2) anonymous: Flickr seems to be doing a good job of providing a service like this suggestion. How can you take back what you’ve waived in the first place? (See my reply #20.) Organization is like herding cats.

    3) teapot: Read the back of the ticket (See my reply #20.)

    4) teapot: We’re taking an informal, non-scientific poll.

    5) nosehat: Some people don’t want to find out first-hand.

    6) anonymous: Legal arguments are always about the sophistry (in the classical sense, and sometimes the modern).

    #7) dorothy haskin: What’s Plan C?

    #8) anonymous: Burning Man has a purpose? Perhaps it is the distraction/diversion for something bigger.

    #9) mgfarrelly: It is all about the acronyms.

    #10) anonymous: Keep bugging them.

    #11) jim terr: If there were no monetary system, this would solve a bunch of problems, as well. Which Indians: East or North American? Immediacy sometimes means there is no photographic record.

    #12) anansi133: Night time photography at That Thing in the Desertâ„¢ is another story…long exposures and harsh flashes lighting-up dust motes. Clever tsunami! “Remission from Burning Man: A Survivor’s Story” Let me show you my MOOP (trash) bag.

    #13) lemonone: There’s always wearing a burka. Burning Man is not “the world”?

    #14) mdh: Like the Church of the SubGenius (“Technically, this organization cannot exist — because it is composed of people who are not joiners!”) Burning Man organization (which is an oxymoron, if you think about it) tries to impose rules on rebels.

    #15) asifa: The main point is that one should not try to monetize those pecadillos.

    #16) nixiebunny: (The Bunny of Authorityâ„¢) See my reply to #15.

    #17) mdh: The Squirmy Rebelsâ„¢ #rockBandNames

    #18) gyromagician: Neither–those rights are waived. See my reply #20.

    #19) asifa: See my reply #20.

    #20) (Yes, the fine print is in all caps.)

  57. #21) anonymous: Where can I get one of those sundials? Watching isn’t information, it is experienced.

    #22) bjacques: At least you have your memories.

    #23) saint_al: Make sure to read the back of the regional burn’s ticket, as well. See you in 2010!

    #24) gyromagician: Cameras are allowed at Burning Man (with some rules); the issue is how the photographs are used. Hand sanitizer is good.

    #25) meico: Police traffic stops at private events are still traffic stops. Strangely, some people consider Black Rock City (site of Burning Man) to be home.

    #26) jimejim: (1) Yes, there have been cases where the BORG policy has been enforced. The motivation is to prevent “Burning Man Girls Gone Wild”â„¢ making a profit from free-range boobies.

    (2) The BORG is anti-commodification.

    Entry-level Flickr accounts are free.

    #27) jimejim: Maybe one can find a copy somewhere on BitTorrent?

    #28) historymn68: It is always worse. I’m putting together a “Reno: 911”-style series called CSI: BRCâ„¢. Your friend could always publish anonymously.

    #29) zeepoli: There’s a point to Burning Man?

    #30) andrew katz: One of these days, I’m going to shoot a car commercial at Burning Man.

    #31) danresnick: I hear there’s going to be electroshock therapy this year at That Thing in the Desertâ„¢.

    #32) andrew katz: I’m just a playa lawyer (analogous to a sea lawyer in US Navy slang).

    #33) anonymous: One must enjoy the ironies of That Thing in the Desertâ„¢.

    #34) tomwood: One must enjoy the contradictions of That Thing in the Desertâ„¢. Decommodification is different from non-commercial. “Here’s a 5-gallon pail and some kitty litter. Try not to lose the lid.”

    #35) anonymous: The line is the edge of the ticket.

    ex-#36) phikus: The BORG has to try to grab control; that is what organizations do.

    #36) anonymous: There’s always BalsaManâ„¢: balsaman.org

    #37) (ex-#35) nixiebunny: Your are truly the Bunny of Authorityâ„¢.

    #38) phikus: It gets complicated after the event, when there’s money involved.

    #39) ivan256: Wouldn’t this policy mean more free-range boobs (=”good”)?

    #40) anonymous: There is an inherent tension between free expression and selling “Girls of Burning Man Gone Wild”â„¢.

  58. #41) imag: (Nothing to add.)

    #42) pepik: Xeni is asserting her right to say she wore pants.

    #43) jfrancis: see my reply #1.

    #44) anonymous: (Nothing to add.)

    #45) imag: Old-school days-long lacrosse games. “First thing we do, is kill all the lawyers.”

    #46) anonymous: (Nothing to add.)

    #47) skr: Also–you leave behind the temporary; you can’t take it with you.

    #48) phikus: Just wait ’til the “40 years since Woodstock” meme starts going around.

    #49) anonymous: You’re talking a bunch of cat herders.

    #50) anonymous: See my reply #30.

    #51) snakefarmers: Somebody found Utopia?

    #52) anonymous: 4th of JuPlaya is nothing like Burning Man (except for the similar parts). Money is the ultimate solvent.

    #53) nutbastard: (Nothing to add.)

    #54) st vincent: EFF and the BMORG are flip sides of the same coin.

    #55) nutbastard: Also, subject to local, state and federal law.

    #56) brainspore: Do you have an real world example?

    #57) takuan: Kanuckistan Research Station at Hominid & 9:00.

    #58) antinous: We’re now in the Third Age of Burning Man.

    #59) anansi133: (Nothing to add.)

    #60) antinous: (Nothing to add.)

  59. Does anyone else see irony in the complaints about burning man being overrun with people when the thing claims to be about “community”?

  60. I am going to Burning Man for the first time this year, and I am bringing my fancy ass DSLR that I barely know how to use. I’m not worried about taking pictures, I intend to photograph everything and everyone who doesn’t object. Clearly the Burning Man community is fine with pictures, despite what the rule says. There are terabytes of pictures and video of Burning Man on the internet. What they aren’t fine with is when pictures and video are used for commercial exploitation.
    I agree, it’s tacky to have stupid rules but they are necessary in the society we live in. I completely disagree with this rule philosophically and ideologically, but Burning Man isn’t a theory, it’s a real place that has to be made to work in our society. Dumbass rules applied only to dumbfucks are the best compromise available. Reality is crappy that way.

    Of course I have never been before so maybe someone will smash my camera, rip my yuppie clothes from my body, pop some hallucinogens in my mouth, and drag me into their pagan orgy. I hear that those sorts of things happen at Burning Man. I’d be sad about the camera but it would be awesome performance art…

  61. I should think they would want all video and photographic devices on hand and at the ready at all times – since the mainstream has decended upon BM and made it a huge liability. Next time someone walks INTO the Burning Man and then sues them for not telling them that fire is hot, they will have evidence galore of all stupid acts.

  62. Anon@~52:

    Yes, I know the Rainbow Gatherings are still happening. I was speaking from my own experience and I have not gone to one in a while. Indeed, they have had their problems with law enforcement which is why they were largely going underground around the time I stopped going. Never had problems with sanitation / first aid but then again I am an experienced hiker / camper. We built latrines that provided for the folks a lot better than many music festivals I have attended.

    Speaking of which, the main difference and reason for the comparable price tag of a music festival is that you are getting a ton of top notch professional music acts, which is something I gladly pay for when the lineup is good. I don’t personally believe in paying my hard-earned cash for what is essentially the parking-lot scene, albeit in an exotic location.

    You didn’t mention that those who volunteer and get free passes (if selected) have to spend at least a month prior on the playa setting up. That’s great for those without a career, but some of us can barely afford to take a week off, not to mention the transportation and survival costs involved.

    The regional ones seem far more viable an option, but even then, you pay way up front (in January here in Texas for Flipside and it takes place many months later) and they are selective about who gets to purchase a ticket, which always ends up playing favorites. Political shenanigans and placating are not what I sign up for in my freakfest.

    I certainly am not going to knock anyone else for attending (I have several friends who do) but like others here, I applaud EFF for pointing out the… er… flipside. I am not a playa on the playa.

  63. Few people have “problems” with people taking pictures at Burning Man.

    MY problem with people taking pictures at Burning Man (or anywhere else, for that matter) is they don’t ask PERMISSION.

    And that’s just fucking rude. I don’t care if I’m fully dressed and smiling and having a great time, I don’t care if I’m naked and performing oral sex on a giraffe, ASK ME IF IT’S OKAY TO TAKE MY PICTURE.

    By taking away people’s choice in the matter, you are forcing the regulators of the events to step in and make rules.

    How many lawsuits do you think Burning Man would have on their hands if they DIDN’T have rules in place about pictures being distributed?

  64. RevelryByNight #72:

    MY problem with people taking pictures at Burning Man (or anywhere else, for that matter) is they don’t ask PERMISSION.

    Gonna disagree with you there. For one thing it would be completely impractical in places where there are lots of people. For another, it would make it pretty much impossible to get candid photos at all. Photojournalism as we know it wouldn’t exist if everybody asked permission first.

    I guess it comes down to whether people think of Burning Man as a “public” place or a “private” one. If it’s public then anybody should be able to take pictures of anything. If it’s not then the organizers get to call the shots.

  65. Anon@~69: Sounds like wishful thinking. I hope your fantasy / fetish is fulfilled. ;D

    Revelrybynight@~72: How could you NOT photograph someone fellating a giraffe in public? I don’t think I would interrupt to ask permission under the circumstances. It could be dangerous, and unpleasant for the giraffe.

  66. At Nutbastard,

    I thought the Playa was public land. How does this become private property? I’m just curious.

    What I have seen is that the BLM closes the 8-mile entrance to the Playa to all but ticket holders. This doesn’t suggest that the land is not still public, just that a time use constraint has been enacted. The info from the BLM seems to indicate that they just place public access restrictions not that there is any presupposition of privacy as you would have on real private property like your house. Even then, if you are in your front yard, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy either.

    It still makes me laugh a little bit inside when I think that during an event that is purportedly about freedom you are not free to use money or free make money off your photographic labor.

  67. err that should read “free to make money”

    Also, would the restriction apply to gallery shows as well?

  68. #72 posted by RevelryByNight, August 13, 2009 1:52 PM : so the author should have asked all 7 people in the illustrating image at the top of the page if he could please take their picture?

  69. @29 zeepoli:

    missing the point *for you*.

    I’ve not been to Burning Man, but for me, Photography is a participatory act in many artistic events, gatherings, parades, festivals, etc.

    It’s not about owning. It’s about experiencing. Forcing yourself to look at experiences through multiple perspectives simultaneously is an experience-enhancer.

    I get tired of judgmental people thinking that photography is a priori non-participation. I never hear them say that about people who paint a scene, or write stories or poetry about an event.

    “Dude, just experience it. Don’t try to own it by writing about what you saw!”

  70. Back at Anon #35
    “@LemonOne, how about if I record your audio? Lift your fingerprints? Sample your DNA? Probe your mind? Where’s the line, mime?”

    If you felt so inclined to do so and had the appropriate equipment and waited outside my house until I left, you could very well accomplish all of that. It would come down to your ethics on what you do with that information. If I see all of it posted somewhere and you are making a buck, I’ll be a little pissed. If you are that interested in me, I might be a little flattered or creeped out.

    If you get home and listen to my audio, stare at my fingerprint and study my DNA and I never find out about it. What the hell am I supposed to say.

    Now if you could probe my mind as easy as taking my fingerprint off a cup or drinking fountain I may have just used, you would then be entering private property(my brain).

    Pretty much everything you listed though, as we saw if the government want’s those things, they can get it pretty easy.

    But I guess the line could be drawn at Photo’s an video if you want to draw a line. The only problem is I don’t think the digital world gives a crap about “the line”

  71. Anon@69:

    Careful with your fancy camera! It’s dusty out there. You’ll probably have time to stash your camera before a dust storm, but once something goes to the playa, it’s never quite the same…

  72. #65 Yes burka’s work well in hiding identity, I don’t wear them myself. Wow I didn’t know that BM was hovering just a few inches above the ground and not technically part of “the world”. That festival must be bad ass and should be studied.

  73. #64 ASIFA

    All three of those things are protected already by law. You can’t use an image of a person for commercial purposes without a model release. Why does burning man see the need to take away all photography rights to protect circumstances that are already protected by law?

    Given the way the question is phrased, it doesn’t really sound like you want an answer. No problem; the rhetorical question is a time-honored tradition. Nevertheless, here’s my understanding (IANAL):

    Without this fine print, if your picture ends up being used for commercial purposes, the folks at Burning Man don’t have much leverage. It’s up to the person in the picture or the copyright holder to take action (unless there is a clear trademark violation).

    With the fine print, however, they can take action. It doesn’t sound to me like they’re actually claiming the copyright, but declaring themselves a third party with interest in the images and the right to take action.

    It boils down to this: without standing, they can’t do squat. You can argue over whether they have a right to deny you a profit from your photo album, whether this is a reasonable approach, or whether the whole thing agrees with the spirit of Burning Man. But it’s a bit hyperbolic to say they’ve “take[n] away all photography rights.”

    Last thought: a big part of the Burning Man ethos is “express yourself.” Come to the desert, be the person you really are, and don’t care what the default world thinks. Worrying that your boobs are going to be scattered all over the Net makes it hard to do that.

    1. Come to the desert, be the person you really are, and don’t care what the default world thinks. Worrying that your boobs are going to be scattered all over the Net makes it hard to do that.

      If you’re worried about that, you’ve failed the assignment.

  74. No. If you go outside of your own home, you are in public and you shouldn’t be surprised if your actions are viewed by people you don’t expect to view them. You should behave in a way that won’t bring shame to yourself later. Act responsibly like an adult.

    I would say that this sort of attitude is certainly not grokking the purpose of Burning Man. The shame you speak of is imposed by society upon the individual. Going out to the desert to get crazy is a chance to escape those kinds of judgments you just made.

    Anytime you start documenting with a camera an event you turn into a voyeur, not a participant. This too goes against the spirit of such a gathering. It is a time of magic and other worldliness, something people like the commenter I quoted just do not get. It is not for general consumption! It is for the participants. The organizers are trying to enforce that.

    It is so simple it amazes me that there is even an argument here.

    1. You should behave in a way that won’t bring shame to yourself later.

      I’d rather drink drain cleaner. Life works better when you make a fool of yourself and then laugh about it when you see yourself on the news.

  75. Going out to the desert to get crazy is a chance to escape those kinds of judgments you just made.

    Anytime you start documenting with a camera an event you turn into a voyeur, not a participant.

    Are you not shaming me into leaving my camera behind?

  76. Of course I have never been before so maybe someone will smash my camera, rip my yuppie clothes from my body, pop some hallucinogens in my mouth, and drag me into their pagan orgy. I hear that those sorts of things happen at Burning Man. I’d be sad about the camera but it would be awesome performance art.

    It would be awesome felony assault.

  77. Without this fine print, if your picture ends up being used for commercial purposes, the folks at Burning Man don’t have much leverage. It’s up to the person in the picture or the copyright holder to take action (unless there is a clear trademark violation).

    Why does Burning Man Inc. need to be involved at all? If a picture is used commercially, the person in the picture should be the one deciding how they want to proceed. They should be the one negotiating the license, not Burning Man Inc.

  78. Anytime you start documenting with a camera an event you turn into a voyeur, not a participant.

    Photographers are more often artists than they are voyeurs.

  79. @11: “…any more than they really expect people to pick up after themselves. ”

    We pick up after ourselves.

  80. @ #76 and @ Brainspore

    Yes, the photog should have asked the permission of the subjects of the photo, or if their faces were so clearly visible as to be easily identified.

    I’m a curator and I know the importance of “spontaneity” in photojournalism. However, if you’re REALLY worried that a simple “is this okay?” to your subject is going to completely destroy your ability to capture art, I question your ability to photograph well in the first place AND question your integrity as a person.

    And, you can always interrupt AFTERWARDS and with a completely open and honest- “I took your picture, was that alright?” and a willingness to delete it if the person says no.

    As a relevant sidenote, it does seem like a completely masculine point of view coming from these photogs insisting that if someone is doing something at a festival, that it is the photog’s right to own it forever without even a “kthanxbye.” Just because you think I’m hot doesn’t mean you get to force your body on mine, hoot and holler at me when I walk down the street, or point a fucking camera in my “face” without my permission and snap away. Perhaps the photogs who are sensitive about this kind of shit should talk to OTHER male photographers who use their cameras like stand-in phalluses as a way of owning a woman’s body without her permission. And try and role model for people that asking permission is a decent and easy thing to do.

  81. #43 I strongly disagree, I live near Coopers Lake and go the both Pennsic and Burningman every year. Pennsic is a nice diversion, but Burningman is a complete escape from everything in the best possible way in a near alien environment.

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