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'Girls Gone Wild' goes to Burning Man.
August 28, 2002 7:17 AM   Subscribe

'Girls Gone Wild' goes to Burning Man. The denizens of Black Rock City get pissed; Voyeur Video tries to save face. "Instead of stopping the sale, Voyeur changed the festival's name on its Web site, the suit alleges, to "Rainbow Fire Festival," but kept the description. ("Rainbow Fire Festival is all running around naked and exposing yourself in front of your peers," the Web site now reads.)" Lord help me, why do I find this all really, really funny?
posted by maura (64 comments total)

 
Because it is.
posted by willconsult4food at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2002


As long as those kids aren't doing any drugs. That's the main thing. I'm sure the Burning Man organizers have their thumb on that, though.
posted by Skot at 7:40 AM on August 28, 2002


I hope they get Voyeur good. There were plenty of notices that commercial videotaping is prohibited. It was even on the tickets, and I believe that by accepting a ticket, they argeed to abide by that rule.

If I was a nude person who was captured on this film, I would be insulted. There is something very different from removing your clothes for beer or beads or guys, and removing your clothes for art or expression or a sense of personal freedom.
posted by jennak at 7:45 AM on August 28, 2002


Really? I would think that the thrills experienced by each set of disrobers would be more similar than you might imagine.
posted by maura at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2002


What jannak said. This seems pretty cut and dry, or 8 inches cut and wet, or whatever. Tickets and signs say "no filming for commercial use, you need a contract for that." Voyeur Video says "daaahhh, okay," and then lies and sells the videos anyway. Therefore, they should be sued. The whole "contract by ambush" argument is bullshit, it's the rule on any concert ticket in the world. By attending the event you're agreeing to the rules of the venue. Voyeur Video can pound sand and go find another place to film naked people so every one else can go pound... oh never mind.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:57 AM on August 28, 2002


So, basically, this is a bootlegging case, right?
posted by rich at 8:19 AM on August 28, 2002


All leg and no boot, for the most part.

Lord help me, why do I find this all really, really funny?

Because you are a sick, sick person

--because I find it funny.
posted by y2karl at 8:37 AM on August 28, 2002


"We just shoot what goes on. Just a bunch of happy naked videos," said the president, Jim O'Brien, a 40-year-old Los Angeles resident and self-described nudist. "Consider us a news company."
posted by ToothpickVic at 8:44 AM on August 28, 2002


"We don't encourage radical self-expression so people can find themselves for sale in a video store."
posted by stbalbach at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2002


"Rainbow Fire Festival is all running around naked and exposing yourself in front of your peers," the Web site now reads.

Someone's been listening to too much Pink Floyd's The Wall. "Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear, I sentence you to be exposed before your peers!"
posted by kindall at 8:56 AM on August 28, 2002


If people are prepared to walk around nude for the sake of "art" why would they care if their "art" is on a video?
posted by bondcliff at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2002


Didn't MTV get in trouble with Burning Man for the same thing? Well almost the same thing.
posted by peachwood at 9:03 AM on August 28, 2002


If people are prepared to walk around nude for the sake of "art" why would they care if their "art" is on a video?

Maybe because they don't want someone else making a profit off their own self-expression?

This quote by the man selling the videos sums up his cluelessness perfectly. "I don't believe it's private at all. If it was, there'd be invitations. I compare it to Mardi Gras," he said. "We're helping them out. I'm sending them customers."

People who go to Burning Man aren't customers. They're participants. There's a difference. The man selling these videos isn't helping Burning Man at all, and in fact, the kind of clientele who would be drawn to Burning Man just to see the naked chix would almost surely spoil the fun. Just picture the staring and pointing. Ewww.
posted by spacewaitress at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2002


Personally I think the Burning Man organizers should ban all cameras, professional or not. Last year was just painful... seemed like two-thirds of the "participants" spent more time looking through a lens than they did participating.

and, yeah, I did bring a camera, and I did devote one day to mostly just wandering around taking pictures. So yes, I am a hypocrite. But I'd still be more inclined to burn again if the event were camera-free.
posted by ook at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2002


Slightly OT (no nudity) but in Santa Fe the Kiwanis have been burning a giant effigy every September since 1924. It's a good time. They parade a bunch of kids dressed as ghosts in front of the thing. Then it moans and waves its arms while spectators chant "Burn him! Burn him!" Eventually an oddly clad woman sets it on fire with a torch.
posted by hyperizer at 9:34 AM on August 28, 2002


I've been going to Mardi Gras for about 15 years ( not every year ) and these voyeur cam clowns have definitely taken some of the fun out of it. Used to be a girl or guy ( depending on what part of Bourbon St. you happen to be standing ) would flash and everybody hoots and hollers and throws beads. A few people would take pictures but, not everyone. Good, drunken fun. Now at the first hint of boobies there is a mad rush of people with all kinds of digital and video cameras. Last time I was there I saw a couple of guys with professional, evening-news looking rigs and I knew they had to be working for some kind of video company.
posted by monkeyman at 9:37 AM on August 28, 2002


I've wondered for a long time how those "girls gone wild" guys get away with shooting and selling this footage without (apparently) a consent form from the subjects. Then I learned they can't.
posted by adamrice at 9:43 AM on August 28, 2002


If people are prepared to walk around nude for the sake of "art" why would they care if their "art" is on a video?

The "implication" here is that "nudes" have at best a tenuous relationship with "art," so "they" deserve whatever they "get." While "I" have zero interest in "Burning Man," this implication is "stupid."
posted by Skot at 9:44 AM on August 28, 2002


Oh, yeah -- remember the thread about the "girl gone wild" who sued? I believe she was right to sue because the company was profiting off of her image without her permission.

Same thing here. These people aren't getting a cut off of the profits, and they didn't lend permission.
posted by jennak at 9:47 AM on August 28, 2002


Rule of Acquisition #???: There's always profit in sex.
posted by TCMITS at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2002


No, Skot, I was implying that if one is creating art, why would one care if their art gets more exposure (no pun intended)? If you really and truely believe your nakedness is art, and I'm not arguing that it might be, why would it matter to you if you wound up on a video?

If one of these "artist" held up a "Go pats" sign at last year's Superbowl and wound up on a "greatest moments in Football" video, would they be upset that someone is profiting off their "art?"

I have nothing against nudes. I'm all for the nudes. Very pro-nude.
posted by bondcliff at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2002


bondcliff, that fact that I might be walking around with my penis hanging free at a private party, no matter how big (the party, not the penis, that is), does not entitle anyone to *sell* my image. There's a huge difference between taking pictures for personal use and mass-producing them for profit.

Btw, Romenesko linked to an interesting article about Burning Man's restrictions on the press today. Count me as one of the folks who wishes them well in their fight to control the idiotic visual media.

Thanks, hyperizer; the Kiwanis' "Zozobra" sounds wonderful:

Zozobra is a hideous but harmless fifty-foot bogeyman marionette. He is a toothless, empty-headed facade. He has no guts and doesn't have a leg to stand on. He is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. He never wins. He moans and groans, rolls his eyes and twists his head. His mouth gapes and chomps. His arms flail about in frustration. Every year we do him in.

Has anyone done an installation/burn with Zozobra at Burning Man? That would be a hoot.
posted by mediareport at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2002


I'n exposing myself right now. Whee!
posted by spilon at 10:11 AM on August 28, 2002


"People who go to Burning Man aren't customers. They're participants."

I can't help but disagree. Burning man vistors are customers, and what they seem to be buying is the concept that they only time it is acceptable to be as creative and expressive as they want to be is once a year, for a few days, in an area as far away from their homes and civilization as possible.

Participants participate in a meaningful way every day of their lives. They don't need someone else to organize their expression for them in a nice, neat, 4 day package, complete with carefully gridded camping sites and organized media outlets during their event. Customers buy the same experience in much the same way other customers buy tickets for 4 day booze-cruises and trips to Sandals.
posted by kristin at 10:20 AM on August 28, 2002


Related story this week in SF Weekly.
posted by MattD at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2002


Mediareport, I promise Zozobra/Fiesta weekend in Santa Fe is pretty fun. Old Man Gloom is a little weird looking, I know, but it is still about "burning" the troubles and worries of the past year and beginning anew. And the buzz is just a little more green chile and margarita based than sand and psychedelia based.

Voyeur Video would probably have a field day there, too, as long as the camera operator stays away from all the embibements. heh.
posted by whatnot at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2002


here is MattD's link.
posted by whatnot at 10:36 AM on August 28, 2002


I think the emotions of the girl in the article adamrice linked to reflected the nature of the "emotional distress" implications of the Burning Man suit as well.

As seen in both here and the older thread jannak linked to, there's the obvious rationale that there's no claim towards invasion of privacy- after all, exposing yourself in public hardly merits the idea you had privacy in the first place.

I think the distress comes from the girls's own nature of her actions... she's being harassed because, even under the duress of alcohol, she removed her top to have a moment of fun, maybe win a cash-prize contest of some sort. Or, for the Burning Man situation, what some would define as "artistic expresion." Either way, it's an action that this person chose to do during 15 seconds of the average 2,207,520,000 seconds a human being spends living on this planet.

However, anyone who's seen the ad with her in it and don't know her personally will recognize her as "HOT! WET! WILD! WATCH THIS GIRL AS SHE SPENDS 24 HOURS A DAY RELEASING HER WILDEST AND MOST SEXUAL INHIBITIONS! THIS GIRLS WANTS TO- AND WILL DO- ANYTHING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE!" Because, as the lawsuit story link proves, a large percentage of men have this emotional defect in which they think that any woman who has ever once done something remotely sexual in nature is willing to give it up in any way at any time at a moment's notice.

Forget invasion of privacy and even forget the whole compensation issues... an ad like that is downright slanderous, and one that would offend anyone who knows they obviously aren't that type of person... or organization.

Burning Man, which I assume is trying to cling to some ideal of artistic and cultural standard (regardless of what you and I would think of it) is smart enough to know exactly how videos of the nudes at their festival will be marketed as: massive exploitative pay-to-watch-with-the-remote-in-one-hand-and-your-genitals-in-the-other softcore pornography. That's what gives them the right to shun the cameras, and the right to sue anyone who disobeys their inherent right to defend themselves.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:38 AM on August 28, 2002


I think it's pretty simple, regardless of your opinion of nudity, art, self-expression, consumerism, participation, or whatever.

Love or hate the Burning Man Festival, as jennak said they are up front about the rules. Voyeur agreed to those rules -- and then proceeded to ignore them in order to turn a profit. If the city of New Orleans, for instance, suddenly issued a law banning the use of photography during Mardi Gras, and you agreed to abide by that law in order to attend, then you should be held accountable to that agreement. Whether you agree or disagree with such a law or rule is, by that point, pretty much irrelevant.
posted by UnReality at 11:05 AM on August 28, 2002


What I meant was: "Whether you agree that such a law or rule should have been instituted in the first place is by that point, pretty much irrelevant. If you promise to follow the rules, then that's what you should do.
posted by UnReality at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2002


I can't help but disagree. Burning man vistors are customers, and what they seem to be buying is the concept that they only time it is acceptable to be as creative and expressive as they want to be is once a year, for a few days, in an area as far away from their homes and civilization as possible.

you are so right on. the bay area is full of people who do fairly amazing work (though it's mostly of the same genre -- uh, we can just call it "burning man art": you know, PVC, fire, neon; that sort of thing) but rarely exhibit it here.

i'm kinda one of those stuffy princesses who would rather go to the art opening down the street -- that has wine, and hors d'oeurves, and people with clothes on -- then drive god knows how far to sit on dirt for a week.

actually, i just wish i had gone to burning man before all these cheesy salesmen of the world heard that there was performance sex and drugs and kool-aid and FRREEEEEDOOOOMM and showed up en masse (apologies to salesmen who aren't cheesy, and those who are but are a rather nice brie instead of the american variety.) .

so, yeah, i'm a bitter bastard who's talking bad about something i've never experienced, but, hey, you knew that.

anyhow, i just wish we had as many openings as ny, so i could stop buying alcohol.

posted by fishfucker at 11:38 AM on August 28, 2002


If you're going to go out in public, you should expect that somebody might take a picture and that that person might want to sell it. I'm not sure why there is the assumption of privacy in a public space.

If there is, then where do we draw the line? Do I need to get the permission of a state if I'm going to shoot a picture of a flower in their park and then try to sell it. Presumably they own the flower and have a right to say what can be done with it or its image.

All of the hand ringing seems to be based on the assumption that nudity is a private thing and the voyeur videos are a crass thing, and that somehow there is an invasion there. I don't see it though. Once you've made your nudity public, then it's public.
posted by willnot at 11:47 AM on August 28, 2002


All of the hand ringing seems to be based on the assumption that nudity is a private thing and the voyeur videos are a crass thing, and that somehow there is an invasion there. I don't see it though. Once you've made your nudity public, then it's public.
posted by willnot at 11:47 AM PST on August 28


$250 a head is a private affair in my book. But I'm cheap.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:51 AM on August 28, 2002


As a former resident of Santa Fe for about a decade I would say Zozobra is more like a (very) low-key Mardi Gras than Burning Man -- you're expected to watch the spectacle, not participate in art forms....Also, The fire dance was created by Jacques Cartier, a former New York ballet dancer and local dance teacher, who performed the role for 37 years. His dance student, James Lilienthal took over the fire spirit role in 1970 and has continued it for 32 years.
posted by redshoes3 at 11:53 AM on August 28, 2002


Rules written on tickets or not, any photographer knows that they need a signed model release from anyone you shoot, either before or after the fact. I think the only photographers (and videographers) exempt from this are news gatherers.
posted by crunchland at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2002


Of all people, it is the burning man crowd that should have enough of a clue that if you flash your tits in public, you should assume you're flashing them to the world.

For those who don't, here's another helpful hint: It's illegal to steal, so nobody should be doing it, but you still should lock your front door when you leave the house.
posted by troybob at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2002


Clearly, the Burning Man folks are going to have to do something they will not like: going after the photographers. They'll need to get discovery on Voyeur Video's records and find out who sold them tape, and then ban those people forever. It won't stop VV and others from recruiting whomever to go out there, but it will put the fear of God into the people who maybe are financing their weekend by selling out the rest of the participants.

As for the ticket-stub warning: it's pretty much the same thing as a shrinkwrap license for software, which almost everyone agrees is for the most part legally unenforceable.
posted by dhartung at 12:01 PM on August 28, 2002


Saw some Burning Man show on the Travel channel yesterday. While I was watching it, my TV started flickering. I blamed it on crusty hippy voodoo.

I agree with kristin on the mis-directed energy of the whole Burning Man scene. These people have to spend hundreds of hours(at least) building these elaborate projects and figuring out how to haul them off to the desert for a few days.

It just seems wasteful and contradictory to me. On one hand, it's supposed to be about building new communities and celebrating art. But on the other, it's all torn down and burned up and left behind. Just in time to start planning for next year's Burning Man. Plus there's the $250 tickets, transportation costs, and all the provisions you'll need to hang out in the desert for a week.

The question I have is, isn't it kind of wasteful to drive out to the middle of the desert for a week in the name of art that you throw away?
posted by wrench at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2002


Model release forms. They're legal documentation stating that the subject of a photograph or film agrees to having their likeness distributed. Professional photographers make their subjects fill these things out. My sister's in porn, and she's had to fill these sorts of things out in triplicate. I would imagine that it's a part of any actor's contract.

I love the assumption made that if it's outside of our own homes or private establishments, it's public domain, and that's simply not so with people, and more importantly, their likenesses. I can't help but wonder when I peruse sites with candid shots of strangers whether or not the photographer informed the person that they'd taken the picture, and asked permission to place it online in a public forum.

There seems to be solid legal culpability here, for the photographer and for the redistributionists of the images. Hell, apparently you can't even make money off of a cinnamon bun that looks like someone without worrying about litigation.
posted by precocious at 12:35 PM on August 28, 2002


wrench, I think a lot of BM participants would say that the transitory nature of the thing is part of its beauty. This spectacular city springs up in the middle of the desert, and a week later, it's gone. You can't hang on to it, all you can do is enjoy it.

I don't think it's any more wasteful than any other money spent on art or leisure. People spend a lot of money on theater productions that are enjoyed by a few people, then disappear forever.

I think a lot of BM participants would even say that the time spent preparing for it is worthwhile in and of itself. Why does every activity have to be an means to an end?
posted by lbergstr at 12:46 PM on August 28, 2002


Just wanted to point out that James Lilienthal's daughter went to school with me, and she was being groomed even then to take over his spot as the Fire Dancer. I remember seeing her dance it the first year she tooke over, though I don't know if she is still doing it or not. And one year my Boy Scout troop was in charge of the waving, burning logs. However, I had a heck of a lot more fun during the years I was - uhm - slightly more bent than a Boy Scout...
posted by hurkle at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2002


Come now, our you'll be late for your appointment with the Wicker Man.

Seriously, check out this movie! Its the inspiration for Burning Man.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:01 PM on August 28, 2002


As a former resident of Santa Fe for about a decade I would say Zozobra is more like a (very) low-key Mardi Gras than Burning Man...

As a current resident of Santa Fe, I didn't really mean to suggest that there are any similarities between Zozobra and Burning Man other than the torching of a giant effegy.
posted by hyperizer at 1:22 PM on August 28, 2002


Lord help me, why do I find this all really, really funny?

Possibly because you're not a girl who is being exploited? Nor are you the father of a daughter who has just been branded "HOT HOT HOT"?

I dunno, just guessing there.

I've not been back to the Burning in almost 10 years...but way back when...this was a pretty damn cool festival. There were probably a 1000 or so of us out there. Much fun was had by all.

As to the myth that Burning Man is based on the movie "Wicker Man", I refer you to this link. That's a rumor that's been floating around for years...has absolutely no basis in fact.
posted by dejah420 at 2:30 PM on August 28, 2002


precocious: My sister's in porn

Wha-- ? Wait, go back, I wanna hear more about this... :)
posted by hincandenza at 2:56 PM on August 28, 2002


Oh lighten up dejah420—I don't enjoy the exploitation of women, and anyone who's read more than one post from me knows this for a fact. And I'm not pro-Voyeur at all, but I think this particular case is hysterically funny because of the holier-than-thou attitude that's all too frequently adopted by Burning Man's, ahem, customers. (Trips to Sandals, ha ha ha!)

True or false: If any corporation had given the media 'suggestions' for story angles, we'd be railing against them like there was no tomorrow.
posted by maura at 2:56 PM on August 28, 2002


kristin: Participants participate in a meaningful way every day of their lives. They don't need someone else to organize their expression for them in a nice, neat, 4 day package, complete with carefully gridded camping sites and organized media outlets during their event. Customers buy the same experience in much the same way other customers buy tickets for 4 day booze-cruises and trips to Sandals.

I don't mean to be rude, but you so clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Burning Man is far from a nice, neat, 4 day vacation package! And the festival does not organize your expression for you, you have to come up with some project on you're own, or with a group of others. You have to bring everything you need to survive, and once you're there, you're not allowed to buy or sell anything. I have friends who go every year, and they're in general some of the most creative people I know, year-round. The festival is not a "purchased experience," because it's no fun unless you're actively involved in creating the experience to begin with, and because the kind of things you're going to do and see are created by other participants, not the organizers of the festival.

wrench: It just seems wasteful and contradictory to me. On one hand, it's supposed to be about building new communities and celebrating art. But on the other, it's all torn down and burned up and left behind. Just in time to start planning for next year's Burning Man.

This is not exactly an idea that has never occured to anybody who has gone to Burning Man before. In fact, it's the whole idea. A bunch of people create art and offer it to others to experience in an environment where there is no commerce allowed, and everyone proves the purity of that conviciton to each other (and also makes the event itself, and being there, unique and special) by destroying it when they leave (although it isn't "left behind," the remnants are taken away, and the desert is left as it is found). My brother is a stage theatre director who likes to say that part of what's wonderful about live theatre is that the people who witness any given performance are part of an experience that you have to be there, right then, to have, and when it's over, it's gone except in memory (he creates year-round, and attends burning man). My other brother, a highly skilled network engineer and general tech wizard, spends months on his Burning Man projects (this year it's some kind of floating spinning ball of light thing; I wish I was there right now to see it), excited that he's using his talents to make something that isn't about helping some corporation turn a profit; it's about him sharing his fascination with technology directly with a group of people who are there to do their own thing, and who don't want anything else from him (he also does other creative work year-round; he designed the light show at the massive turn-of-the-millenium rave in Morocco). And my father, a doctor, has signed up as a volunteer ranger for Burning Man next year (which will hardly be a purchased vacation), because he's fascinated by the whole thing and wants to be a part of it.

Videotaping the nudity that occurs there and selling it as stroke material goes against the whole idea of the festival. Girls who show their tits at Burning Man are not repressed college girls on spring break on Padre Island, wasted and dancing on a bar. These people have travelled out to the middle of the desert, where no one who doesn't want to be part of Burning Man has any reason to be.

willnot: Do I need to get the permission of a state if I'm going to shoot a picture of a flower in their park and then try to sell it. Presumably they own the flower and have a right to say what can be done with it or its image.

How about this: You pay for admission to a park in which a group of musicians are performing live. You make an audio tape and sell it. Should you be allowed to? Or let's go a step further, and talk about pure gratuitous nudity, and remove artistic value from the question. You pay to get into a strip bar, and amatuer night is going on, and you videotape the performance, and sell it. Is that okay? Really, to make the analogy complete, we'd have to say that you also signed a consent form saying that you weren't going to do exactly that!

I don't find this funny at all; I find it sick and pathetic. Maybe Burning Man needs to start restricting photography to specific people designated by the festival ahead of time, who have agreed not to do this kind of thing with it.

On preview, go Ibergstr!
posted by bingo at 3:04 PM on August 28, 2002


How about this: You pay for admission to a park in which a group of musicians are performing live. You make an audio tape and sell it. Should you be allowed to?

Yes.
posted by willnot at 4:02 PM on August 28, 2002


Slightly off-topic: my biggest issue is related to the notion that you need a model release unless you're reporting news. Who makes the determination of whether or not you're reporting news? Most people would say that newspapers are news, and the same's probably true for mags like Newsweek, Time, and USN&WR. How about Sports Illustrated? Entertainment Weekly? Esquire? Rolling Stone? Playboy? There's a continuum there; I'm not comfortable that there's someone somewhere that gets gets to decide where on this continuum the line is drawn. Likewise, there's a similar continuum with televised news, and the nightly news camp seems to be moving more and more towards the entertainment camp ("Tonight, after Ally McBeal: how you can prevent office romances from dragging your life down.").

Could someone justify a video documentary about the changing culture of America that includes nude imagery from Burning Man? Would they need model releases? Don't get me wrong -- I don't know the answer, but it's interesting to think about.

(This is all similar to a conflict between Major League Baseball and the press recently, wherein there were new restrictions placed on the images that could be taken or sold afterwards. It was all justified by MLB as "we're not a news event, we're an entertainment event, and you have no implicit right to be here" -- and they may be right.)
posted by delfuego at 4:35 PM on August 28, 2002


Burning man vistors are customers, and what they seem to be buying is the concept that they only time it is acceptable to be as creative and expressive as they want to be is once a year, for a few days, in an area as far away from their homes and civilization as possible.
That's pretty harsh. A lot of burners are, in fact, creative and expressive year-round, but treat Burning Man as a special occasion to look forward to.
It just seems wasteful and contradictory to me. On one hand, it's supposed to be about building new communities and celebrating art. But on the other, it's all torn down and burned up and left behind.
I guess that Wrench doesn't have much use for traditional impermanent art forms like ikebana and sand-painting, either.

Full disclosure: I haven't been to Burning Man myself, but I've been to a fair number of related events and have a lot of friends in that crowd.
posted by adamrice at 5:30 PM on August 28, 2002


I think the question of whether or not they would need models to sign releases at Burning Man is kind of moot. The festival doesn't allow commercial photography of any kind, and its participants (including Voyeur) agreed to this in order to attend.

And willnot, I have to disagree. You may have the right to make a bootleg tape, and even to trade it, but the right to sell it?
posted by UnReality at 5:48 PM on August 28, 2002


Yeah, willnot, I'm interested in your rationale there. And remember, Burning Man makes it explicit that this kind of thing is not allowed.
posted by bingo at 7:19 PM on August 28, 2002


I think you have to justify it in the other direction. Why is it NOT OK to tape a band playing in the park and then go sell it? I'll concede that our laws as they currently exist stand in opposition to that activity. But, you asked me about what should be not what is.

So, why should I not be able to do that? I understand that we commonly view creative works as property, but I don't buy that. You can convince me that it's wrong to steal your sandwich, because if I take your sandwich you don't have the sandwich anymore. You are actually harmed by the loss of your property. But, the light that bounces off you, the waves that emanate out of your speakers? That's just part of the universe now. You've released it. And you won't ever get it back. If you're any good maybe you've enriched the experience of those who were within the range of your music. Maybe we'll thank you for it. Maybe we'll pay you for it, but it's free now and beyond your ability to own. If I store EMF on tape that I've brought, then it's mine to do with as I want. I don't care that you were the one that generated it. I may appreciate that you generated it. I may hope that you will want to generate more, but the fact that you generated it doesn't in anyway impact what I can do with that tape.

The only argument that could justify restricting my ability to do what I want with the EMF I grab out of the ether is that we so want to encourage you as the creator of a work to keep creating, that we give you exclusive ownership over the product of that creation and exclusive right over what can be done with it. I don't believe that society needs to make that concession. There are all kinds of creative souls out there. They create beauty with no expectation that they will be compensated for it. We'd still have that if we eliminated the ownership rights we grant to creators.
posted by willnot at 8:57 PM on August 28, 2002


Well, that's a fine argument when you're the one who doesn't own anything. However, I suspect you might be singing a different tune if you were the one ...um... singing the tune.

And as for the model release being moot, it's not. It makes what VV is doing doubly wrong. Taping the event without the event-owner's permission, and taping the individuals without the individual's permission. It opens them up to twice the damages.
posted by crunchland at 10:53 PM on August 28, 2002


And furthermore, Willnot, why should your boss have to pay you? I mean, it's not like you creating a webpage means you can't create another one, ever again. The websites you create are all just bits and bytes, and are now a part of the Internet universe and everything. You haven't really lost anything by creating it. You should just be happy with the beauty of the sites you create. There's no reason you should be compensated for making them. Right?
posted by crunchland at 11:03 PM on August 28, 2002


(By the way, you won't mind if I um... borrow... some of the code you used on your web page? Nah. I didn't think so. And I like the color schemes you've used on one of your sites. I think I'll just adapt your layout to one of my sites... and, yoink! that javascript you worked so hard on is mine now... no no... it belongs to the UNIVERSE, right?)
posted by crunchland at 11:07 PM on August 28, 2002


No, my web page is here. I'm not sure there's much code in there you'll find valuable, but take whatever you want. Help yourself to the design too, or any of the ideas in the text if like any of that.

If I was going to do what I do for my employer anyway, then they probably could get away with not paying me. They pay me so that they can control and direct my creative output. If they stopped paying me, I'd still write sales copy, and I'd still do graphic design, and I'd still think about ways to solve marketing problems, but I probably wouldn't do those things specifically as they relate to AppleOne, so the product of my work would be a lot less valuable to my employer than it is currently.

Still, I've seen innovations that originated on our sites and sales copy end up in competitors' offerings. Was that borrowed from us? Maybe. I guess we'll just have to stay sharper about innovating and moving forward to stay ahead of what the other guys can take.
posted by willnot at 11:25 PM on August 28, 2002


willnot: The only argument that could justify restricting my ability to do what I want with the EMF I grab out of the ether is that we so want to encourage you as the creator of a work to keep creating, that we give you exclusive ownership over the product of that creation and exclusive right over what can be done with it. I don't believe that society needs to make that concession. There are all kinds of creative souls out there. They create beauty with no expectation that they will be compensated for it. We'd still have that if we eliminated the ownership rights we grant to creators.

Perhaps, but there'd be a lot less of it. If artists can't expect that they'll be compensated or even credited for their efforts, I think the world would be a much poorer place. If it's okay in your world to tape a band in a park and sell it, is it also okay to tape a band in a park and pass it off as your own band?
posted by monosyllabic at 1:08 AM on August 29, 2002


I don't believe that society needs to make that concession. There are all kinds of creative souls out there. They create beauty with no expectation that they will be compensated for it. We'd still have that if we eliminated the ownership rights we grant to creators.

What about professional artists that don't create work that can be contained in a finite number of physical spaces, like musicians, writers, and film directors? "Creating beauty" with no expectation of compensation can be pretty tiring, even when there's hope of eventual compensation and the chance to "create beauty" for a living. Doing so in a society that is set up to prevent you from retaining the right to control what happens to your own work would be terribly demotivating to artists in general; there would be an even smaller chance of becoming (or remaining) a professional artist, and doing what you love for a living.

Sure, there are some artists who would create their art without hope of compensation anyway. But having money not be a part of your motivation to do something isn't the same as being willing to work at it year after year without ever getting any money for it. Good art is hard to create, and for most people who have the talent to begin with, it still takes a lot of time and energy that are also in demand by other aspects of life.

Selling a copy of someone's art without their permission is not as tangible a violation as taking away a sandwich. But it diminishes their ability to earn the money to buy a sandwich by doing what they're good at.
posted by bingo at 3:47 AM on August 29, 2002


They pay me so that they can control and direct my creative output.

So only musicians who take requests, like lounge singers, deserve to be paid?
posted by crunchland at 4:37 AM on August 29, 2002


crunchland: there's no need to be so difficult about this. The analogy is pretty straightforward: you pay the musicians by buying a ticket to their show. If you don't pay, they don't have to play. There's no coercion involved. With recordings, it's more ambiguous. Once the recording is made, and you have paid for your copy, the only thing to stop you from making more copies is the threat of prosecution. So it is coercion-based: you refrain from copying data you possess, or the RIAA will send the cops after you to make your life unpleasant. At this point the musicians are not involved.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2002


bingo - in your example, I paid to get into the park so that I could tape the performance. I'm assuming I paid so that the band would show up at 7pm and play until 8pm, but maybe I'm just paying for access to the park, and the band is playing for free. That's their choice to make. Either way, nothing prevents the band from charging so that people can hear them play.

For that matter, nothing prevents the band from making their own tape of the performance to sell. They can probably produce a tape with higher fidelity since they have better access to set up equipment than I do. Now, the consumer has a choice. Do they want to support the band which had higher quality (and I'm assuming a higher price), or do they want to buy may tape which has less quality (and I'm assuming a lower price).

Before we even invented money, people where painting on cave walls and singing around the campfire. The assumption that there would be less art in the world if their wasn't a monopoly on the product of the creative work is false. There would be almost exactly as much art as we currently have. Most people don't get paid for their art now. Most of the great artists didn't get paid for their art then. I will accept that without profit motive shaping the output, some of it may be less geared towards mass consumption, but I think we're on the cusp of exiting a mass world and evolving towards a niche world anyway.
posted by willnot at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2002


The assumption that there would be less art in the world if their wasn't a monopoly on the product of the creative work is false. There would be almost exactly as much art as we currently have.

I don't know what to say, except that I'm sure this isn't true, but it's speculation either way.

Most people don't get paid for their art now. Most of the great artists didn't get paid for their art then.

Actually, an awful lot of artists that are actually good, and even many that aren't, get paid for their work now. And an awful lot of famous artists of all sorts got paid well for their work while they were alive.

If Mozart, Joyce Carol Oates, or Michaelangelo had to have day jobs to support themselves, they would have created less. We would have less good art. People need time to create art, and if they can't make their living by creating the art, they have less time, and they make less art.

Now, the consumer has a choice. Do they want to support the band which had higher quality (and I'm assuming a higher price), or do they want to buy may tape which has less quality (and I'm assuming a lower price).

The consumer also has the choice of stealing the high-quality tape from the store, or buying it from someone who did. People have that choice. There is no law of physics holding them back. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't consider the drawbacks of making it easy to do.

Before we even invented money, people where painting on cave walls and singing around the campfire.

Yes, and people back then didn't need money to eat, or maintain shelter, or acquire clothing.
posted by bingo at 2:27 AM on August 30, 2002


I suppose this thread will now hear from a few folks who have just gotten back from Burning Man, are beating the dust off their luggage, and are scanning Metafilter for the first time in a week, like me.

This video company is incredibly tacky and sleazy -- they'd tried this once before, and they'd been asked prior to 2001 not to return. They did anyway. Though I support the right of photographers and videographers to take noncommercial images of people in public places, BM is a private event, and its organizers have every right to get legal with these voyeurs. (I don't buy the parallels with bootlegging concerts, and I'm sure that concept's been hashed out in many previous threads.)

Besides, many of the people who get naked (or partly so) at Burning Man -- perhaps a sixth of the total population -- are doing so in front of strangers for the first time, and it's reassuring to know there are restrictions for how images of them can be used. Most of those folks wouldn't be so pretentious as to call their naked bodies "art" (unless they've just been sparkle-coated over at Glitter Camp) -- it's more just about feeling at peace with your body and not worrying about assholes making comments. The nudeniks at BM cover all types of body shapes (with a nice lack of fake parts), and it's cool to see everybody so comfortable in their skin.

And about BM in general -- lots of people who've never been there have vocal opinions about it, but it's truly impossible to get the whole picture of Black Rock City from news articles or people's websites. (I say this as somebody who's written a [badly edited] article about it and posted web photos.) Before I first went in 1999, I had a vague conception of BM attendees as a mix of crusty neohippies dancing around drum circles, candy ravers in Dr. Suess hats rolling to Goa trance at 4 a.m., Mad Max-style pyromaniacs, and new agers who'd want to give me a hug and a temporary rainbow tattoo. My then-boyfriend (now spouse) and I decided to go just because it seemed so unlike something we'd do.

And there certainly were representatives of all of those broad stereotypes -- but they weren't even the majority. It's a genuine cosmopolitan city full of all types of people, from drag queens to firefighters to Reno retirees. Many are making complex, often-beautiful art, wearing fun DIY outfits, or doing entertaining and absurd things, like playing a life-sized Ms. Pac-Man game. (Our first year, we were walking by a shade structure and heard chanting inside: "wa-sa-bi! wa-sa-bi!" We went in, where we were given a big dab of wasabi on our tounges and a green dot of paint on our noses to indicate we'd opened our third nostril. Then, as new members of the Church of Wasabi, we inducted others.) We soon decided going to BM was exactly the kind of thing we'd do.

And the temporary nature of BM, and its art, is certainly among its appealing elements (along with the no-commerce rule, the gift economy, and the leave-no-trace ethic). One of the loveliest structures this year was the Temple of Joy, an incredibly intricate 70-foot temple made of carved wooden cutouts recovered from a toy factory. It existed in its completed form for three days. Yet I don't find that people who go there only "get creative" for that week -- seeing what people do at BM can be pretty inspiring. Now that I'm back home in New York, I'm motivated to finish a big project I've been doing half-assedly for six months.

Oh, and tickets can be much less than $250 each if you plan in advance.

I really have to unpack now.
posted by 88robots at 8:15 AM on September 3, 2002


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