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Who owns The Man?
August 14, 2009 6:14 PM   Subscribe

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a criticism of Burning Man, LLC's Terms and Conditions, saying that the automatic rights assignment to BMOrg for photos & video taken during the event is "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" and that this is corrosive to our freedom of speech. Burning Man responds.
posted by scalefree (123 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Weird. I actually found out about this on Facebook first.

I can't believe I learned something from Facebook.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:22 PM on August 14, 2009


This seems to be a stunning example of the world gone awry.
posted by ND¢ at 6:24 PM on August 14, 2009


goddamn kids need to get off of my lawn
posted by jbickers at 6:24 PM on August 14, 2009


Yes, our rules about photography are different from the outside world - but isn’t BRC’s unique environment what makes Burning Man transformative in the first place?

We had to destroy your rights to save your rights.
posted by basicchannel at 6:28 PM on August 14, 2009 [16 favorites]


So it seems Burning Man is not about free expression at all, but rather about the unique environment and experience created by the organizers to which you add... well, something. Got it. Not surprised.
posted by wendell at 6:38 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Burning Man is not what it once was....

Interesting that in the past couple of days we've pretty much trashed Woodstock, and my guess is that we're going to trash Burning Man (wtf '70's people, we need an event from your decade to trash!)....

we're going after you 90's folks next...
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 PM on August 14, 2009


Hippy fight!
posted by rokusan at 6:45 PM on August 14, 2009 [9 favorites]


Not really a party if it's got terms & conditions is it?
posted by dortmunder at 6:51 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


So it seems Burning Man is not about free expression at all, but rather about the unique environment and experience created by the organizers to which you add... well, something.

I understand their intent & so does EFF. It's about free expression within the event and protecting against commercialization or commodification of the event out in the Default World. EFF has Board members that are deeply involved in Burning Man and believe in its principles. This is not about the principles but the implementation of them.
posted by scalefree at 6:54 PM on August 14, 2009


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a criticism of Burning Man...

I denounce hippie-on-hippie violence.
posted by DU at 6:57 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, I think Burning Man's response is fair, and thoughtful - I like the part where they carefully describe the 5 times they've used the DMCA in the last year - and it's a goddamn fucking shame we're already getting stupid "hippy fight!" derails instead of what could be an interesting discussion.
posted by mediareport at 6:58 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


We had to destroy your rights to save your rights.

Or, you could think about the complex situation they're describing and actually bother to post something that took longer than 5 oh-so-witty seconds to type.
posted by mediareport at 6:59 PM on August 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


There is no obvious good guy & bad guy here. This is not about Burning Man abandoning its principles or EFF being trigger-happy dicks. This is a complex disagreement between groups that deeply believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression & reclaiming our culture from the greedy grasp of corporations out for a profit at the expense of our humanity. Show some respect for people trying to do the right thing in a world that doesn't value their ideals.
posted by scalefree at 7:07 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


and it's a goddamn fucking shame we're already getting stupid "hippy fight!" derails instead of what could be an interesting discussion.

This will be an interesting discussion regardless of where it goes.
posted by philip-random at 7:14 PM on August 14, 2009


Show some respect for people trying to do the right thing in a world that doesn't value their ideals.

oh please. Burning Man isn't that pure. If it were, there would be no Terms + Conditions for folks to get contentious about. And so on.
posted by philip-random at 7:18 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


we're going after you 90's folks next...

What're you going to do? Trash Lollapalooza? Man, we were already doing the whole way through the 90s.
posted by loquacious at 7:24 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


In fact, Burning Man’s lead attorney on intellectual property, Terry Gross, was the EFF’s first General Counsel — and he wrote the very licenses to which Ms. McSherry objects in the post, but she unfortunately fails to mention that their ongoing conversation behind the scenes has, even before her post, been helping us to frame the next step in evolving the licensing of image use at Burning Man.

I wonder why Corynne McSherry felt it was important to go ahead and make her rather poorly written statement if there were already talks to update Burning Man's licensing agreement. It is kind of ridiculous that she starts off implying that the poor illiterate schmucks who fail to read the licensing agreement before buying their tickets are being misled in some way.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:25 PM on August 14, 2009


and it's a goddamn fucking shame we're already getting stupid "hippy fight!" derails instead of what could be an interesting discussion.

It's not a derail until you follow it, chuckles.

Even drop-deadly serious topics like omigod BURNING MAN can survive a less than holy seriousness, I think.
posted by rokusan at 7:31 PM on August 14, 2009


Ok, I get that they can ask you to leave if you don't "register" your video camera or take a photo of someone who doesn't want their photo taken, but are the terms and conditions they present on their ticket page in any way legally binding?
It seems that they would fall in the same shaky legal ground as EULAs, but maybe there is established legalese that I'm just not aware of.
Term 17 seems especially iffy.

Also, to make, as part of your argument, the claim that you've used the DMCA only 5 times does not sway me to your side.
posted by madajb at 7:33 PM on August 14, 2009


"Lollapalooza"...

snort... that's the best ya'll could do?
posted by HuronBob at 7:38 PM on August 14, 2009


I UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THAT NO USE OF IMAGES, FILM, OR VIDEO OBTAINED AT THE EVENT MAY BE MADE WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM BURNING MAN, OTHER THAN PERSONAL USE. I understand that I have no rights to make any non-personal use of any image, film, or video footage obtained at the event, and that I cannot sell, transfer, or give the footage or completed film or video to any other party, except for personal use, and I agree to inform anyone to whom I give any footage, film, or video that it can only be used for personal use.

Yeah, the whole thing has gone corporate. Larry Harvey can suck John Mackey's dick for all I care.
posted by caddis at 7:51 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our] current license and approval framework allows us to protect participants from being featured as photographic subjects in ways that might violate their privacy or inhibit free expression in BRC.

For example, it provided the very backbone of our case in 2002 when Voyeur Video surreptitiously obtained footage of dozens of nude participants over a span of several years and began releasing the tapes, under the name “Rainbow Fire Festival.” Because of Burning Man’s requirement that all motion video users in BRC sign a Personal Use Agreement and agree not to exploit such footage publicly for commercial gain without additional permission, we were able to prevail in this matter — not only ending the sale of the Voyeur Video tapes, but legally requiring its producers to agree not to return to Black Rock City.


Part of what's cool about Burning Man is the ability to walk around naked or half naked w/out the threat of Girls Gone Wild or whatever scuzz de jour taping and selling video of it. As others have mentioned, this is a complex issue that can't be reduced to a sneering soundbite.

I definitely have issues with the LLC in years past but it bugs me when people do this reflexive intellectually lazy thing of "Burning Man's all about free expression, how hypocritical maaan." It has never been about one thing.
posted by jcruelty at 7:55 PM on August 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


I see the squares are out in force. If only their was some festival I could visit to escape these stiffs!
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:00 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


They want to make sure pictures & video don't fall into the wrong hands, meaning anybody looking to make a buck off the Burning Man image or its participants'. If they didn't restrict the rights then you could sell your video to Coke & they could put it into their next edgy ad campaign. Or a sleazy videographer could shoot voyeur shots of naked girls & market it as Burners Gone Wild (which happened, they got sued & BMOrg won). They're not interested in any restriction of personal use; as long as you're not going to try to make money off it it's fine with them.
posted by scalefree at 8:04 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's all true. Burning Man is a lying, hypocritical, money grubbing corporate scam. You definitely shouldn't go. It was also way better last year.
posted by dvdgee at 8:09 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's okay, this will be a benevolent dictatorship, man."

Ultimately, Burning Man's position is that they're doing it for the right reasons. That's great exactly to the extent that you support those reasons and trust the ones enforcing them.
posted by fatbird at 8:12 PM on August 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


They're not interested in any restriction of personal use; as long as you're not going to try to make money off it it's fine with them.

yeah, sure. They purport to own all the rights. This means you can't even put these images up on your web site. You could not take pictures of you and your friends at the festival and sell them as a book, even if every participant in the photos was on board. You could not even take pictures of yourself at the festival and put them in a book. The mere fact that you are at the festival and agree to this takes that right away. If it is as benign as you say it could be written more benignly, but it is not. It is not a scalpel but it is rather a bludgeon. Every year a few dozen people put up web sites with their pictures and diaries of their experience. If you have Google ads on your site it is not necessarily personal. If you are otherwise an author or other person who is known and you put pictures on your site this may not be personal. This is not benign, this is bad. Whether it was intended to be bad or not I don't know, but given that they probably had well paid lawyers help them draft this nasty language, and they hopefully communicated with these lawyers then I smell malfeasance, not benign mistake.
posted by caddis at 8:17 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


i fail to see the problem with what they are doing, but i do see how it creates a better environment for creating stuff or being naked because you don't have to worry about being in a car commercial or porno movie. if you don't like it, make your own darn festival thingy and run it the way you want. jeez.
posted by snofoam at 8:21 PM on August 14, 2009


If you have Google ads on your site it is not necessarily personal.

Duh. If you are trying to make money off your burning man photos then it is commercial.
posted by snofoam at 8:25 PM on August 14, 2009


If they didn't restrict the rights then you could sell your video to Coke & they could put it into their next edgy ad campaign.

Personally, I love the idea of Burning Man's brand of "weirdness" leaking haphazardly (and without restriction) into the true land of the weird, ie: the so-called "normal" world of rules and order and people generally wearing pants and generally not wearing masks. We need more masks and people not wearing pants.
posted by philip-random at 8:37 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, color me nonplussed. They aren't rabidly taking down fan pages. They're prevent people from using images from burning man to sell shit. Meh.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:37 PM on August 14, 2009


Of course, that's not actually what nonplussed means. I forgot that I had been using that word incorrectly forever.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:38 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


They purport to own all the rights. This means you can't even put these images up on your web site. You could not take pictures of you and your friends at the festival and sell them as a book, even if every participant in the photos was on board. You could not even take pictures of yourself at the festival and put them in a book.

You know there are books about Burning Man, yes? Full of pictures? Movies too. Not produced by BMOrg and not required to share profits with them. What you can't do is make a book or a movie without consulting with BMOrg to make sure it's actual art or literature & not commercial schlock.
posted by scalefree at 8:41 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


[I]f you don't like it, make your own darn festival thingy and run it the way you want. jeez.

So useful.
posted by bz at 8:48 PM on August 14, 2009


Is this something I'd have to take a break from compiling and selling my "Stoned Naked Babes of the Playa - an Unauthorized Peek" 2010 page-a-day calendar to understand?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:49 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or a sleazy videographer could shoot voyeur shots of naked girls & market it as Burners Gone Wild. ... They're not interested in any restriction of personal use; as long as you're not going to try to make money off it it's fine with them.

So if a sleazy videographer makes a sleazy and poorly-edited Burners Gone Wild film and then just puts it on his web page with no commercial purpose, they're all right with that then? They could pick a side. Ban all the cameras, or let their images go free. Either simple answer would seem perfectly reasonable.
posted by sfenders at 9:01 PM on August 14, 2009


you know a social scene is over when people start arguing about legalities and who's entitled to a slice of the pie
posted by pyramid termite at 9:08 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


So if a sleazy videographer makes a sleazy and poorly-edited Burners Gone Wild film and then just puts it on his web page with no commercial purpose, they're all right with that then?

If they had permissions of the people being filmed & they didn't abuse the Burning Man trademark, I can't see an issue they'd have with it.
posted by scalefree at 9:10 PM on August 14, 2009


I actually enjoy the nature of the festival as it currently is. Many of the compromises that the LLC reached are complex and seem contradictory. This is in part because the goal is to make things interesting and fun, rather than simple.

I'm pretty sure I'd rather attend a festival that is whimsical and occasionally mindblowing, when compared with a festival that is ethically pure. I am, for example, totally OK with charging admission for a "noncommercial event" if it means they can pay folks to pump the portajohns, for example.

If you want to go to a festival that is more true to some set of goals, it turns out that they do exist, at least if you are a hippie or a womyn.

It is also worth noting here that the LLC is a bunch of very rowdy people who constantly argue about this stuff. Though they try to present a unified position, they do not by any means agree unanimously. Hell, they can't even agree on lunch most of the time.
posted by poe at 9:24 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Scalefree, if it's in public, I believe they don't need permission from the participants to videotape them. That may be the underlying issue; whether the Playa is a public or private space.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:24 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to know what commercial and marketing machinations were underway when Malcolm in the Middle went to Burning Man (S07E01). (Yes, I'm sure it wasn't filmed at an actual BM gathering, but given this current spat, I can't imagine it was made without the co-operation of BM, so where does it fall on the whole "commercialisation of the event" spectrum?)
posted by benzo8 at 9:31 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ban all the cameras, or let their images go free

To me, this all or nothing approach seems like it goes more against my interpretation of the tenets of Burning Man than their legalistic policy (and note well, I did say "my interpretation", which includes that Burning Man is something different for everyone).

In 1999, me and my friends got so militant about preventing our images from being captured that we lost all ability to distinguish between potentially artistic/legitimate photography, and that which the legalese is meant to prevent or address. One day at the end of the event, me and two friends, all three dramatically dressed, were strolling across a lonely dusty landscape. We were extremely picturesque, and a person with a camera asked if he could take out picture. We looked cool. We looked great. It would have been a great picture. It was his art. We said no. And to this day I regret denying him his art, because I feel my action contradicted what I thought Burning Man was about.

On the other hand, I also asked guy with a disposable camera to stop taking pictures of us, and when he kept shooting, I grabbed his camera and threw it in the fire. I don't regret that.

And on preview, what poe started with: "interesting and fun, rather than simple"
posted by gubenuj at 9:37 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


KNow what the agreement should say?

You can't use photos/video for commercial purposes without the express permission of the subject of the photos/video.
posted by edgeways at 9:59 PM on August 14, 2009


I'd be interested to know what commercial and marketing machinations were underway when Malcolm in the Middle went to Burning Man

I dunno what the deal was but I'm sure the LLC gave permission. I think it was a bad decision, even if it was a funny episode. Although the Reno 911! episode was even funnier.
posted by scalefree at 10:00 PM on August 14, 2009


A friend of mine went there a couple years ago, she said it was really disappointing and rather staunchly didn't want to talk any more about it.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:12 PM on August 14, 2009


There should be a naked mud pit at the next MeFi meetup, also everybody should catch crabs.
posted by Artw at 10:40 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


if it's in public, I believe they don't need permission from the participants to videotape them. That may be the underlying issue; whether the Playa is a public or private space.

Nice point. Likely the point? And, if so, my point of departure from the greater Burning Man Thing. Which is, if it's just a wild and beautiful and informed and conscious PRIVATE party in the desert, then fine, keep your lawyers on retainer and incrementally, over a period of years (decades) slowly evolve it into something that's as hated by future generations as say ... Woodstalk seems to be by present ones, (whether it deserves it or not). But please, spare me the high end utopian verbiage. It just fuels my cynicism and makes me want to listen to the Dead Kennedys.

On the other hand, if it really is THE EVOLUTIONARY SHIT that I suspect many devotees feel it is, then lose the lawyers and set the beast free. If it's worthy, NORMAL will not be able to contain it.
posted by philip-random at 10:47 PM on August 14, 2009


Ehrm... *coughs*...

HIPPY FIGHT!!

(sorry)
posted by MeatLightning at 10:55 PM on August 14, 2009


HIPPY FIGHT!!

Burners really aren't hippies, though. Mostly, they're people with "normal" lives and routines and use this event for a release valve rather any real change or progress. They* go to the Burning Man, their boss goes to Cabo San Lucas. In the end, there's not much difference. Now that it's such a formulaic institution it might as well be a broadway cruise or something.

*strawmen, yes, but not a wholly inaccurate summation of the crowd there.</small?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:02 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


A shout out to poe for tossing the link to the Rainbows. I haven't been home in years, and I miss it.

I have never been to Burning Man, and while I thought about it way back years ago, it's far too expensive to attend at this point.

...and despite the spelling of my nick, it's spelled "hippie". IRC only allows nine character user /nicks.
posted by hippybear at 11:04 PM on August 14, 2009


It's fascinating that a festival run by and for libertarian technocrats has been corrupted so thoroughly from within, much like Woodstock and its successors.

There's a cautionary lesson here for anyone trying to get a group of people together for any reason, even if the ones who promote Burning Man themselves don't want to hear it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's great exactly to the extent that you support those reasons and trust the ones enforcing them.

The problem with any sort of rules system is if you write, "Don't be a wanker.", you might know what you mean and 99% of the people participating might know what you mean, but there's always that guy who is going to push it - and then push it some more - and then a little more and when you come down on him for being a wanker, he's going to be all hurt victimy. Seen it before, will see it again.

The Burners should just have Richard Stallman write their policies and serve as final arbiter and executioner. He's geared for it.

posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:14 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weekend hippy fight!
posted by Artw at 11:17 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's fascinating that a festival run by and for libertarian technocrats has been corrupted so thoroughly from within, much like Woodstock and its successors.

I wouldn't say that it's corrupt, but it feels inevitable that it's going that way ... as must any attempt at a prolonged Autonomous Zone, particularly if there's money involved. Money is shit. Shit attracts flies.

Burning Man suddenly reminds me of a Leonard Cohen song. "They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom - for trying to change the system from within"
posted by philip-random at 11:22 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: there's always that guy who is going to push it - and then push it some more - and then a little more and when you come down on him for being a wanker, he's going to be all hurt victimy
posted by philip-random at 11:23 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was an annual rock festival out my way organised by the Coffin Cheaters [outlaw] Motorcycle Club called Bindoon Rock. Same thing happened: it got corporatised and eventually became a vortex of suck.

Everyone I know says the first one was the best.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:39 PM on August 14, 2009


Or, you could think about the complex situation they're describing and actually bother to post something that took longer than 5 oh-so-witty seconds to type.

OK, on reflection maybe I shouldn't have jumped in so quickly. But the parallels were a bunch of fun loving people doing questionable "stuff" on a rural property somewhere... and then it became popular and more and more "rules 'n' stuff" had to be introduced.

/tout passe tout casse tout lasse
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:49 PM on August 14, 2009


Are the DMCA takedowns really a cornerstone of the BMOrg power. It seems so easily sidestepped by moving production and distribution to, oh I don't know, Canada. Or even just approaching it as a newsworthy event.
But the EFF seems to think that anyone attending any event somehow has an absolute right to take photographs, and then to do whatever they want with those images without any effective restriction or manner of enforcement. While we believe that such rights do make sense for any of us taking pictures in purely public spaces, this is not true in the private space of Burning Man — if it were it would mean that Burning Man couldn’t protect participant privacy or prevent commercialization of imagery.
This is the major philosophical stumbling block. All the rest is just cruft that derives from it.

"The Burners should just have Richard Stallman write their policies and serve as final arbiter and executioner. He's geared for it."

RMS's vision of share and share alike without restriction is pretty far from what the Burning Man people want.
posted by Mitheral at 12:15 AM on August 15, 2009


For all of you who fail to see a problem, think about this situation if this player was not burning man but rather Microsoft. You guys are blinded by the supposed good faith of the burning man folk, yet they have just thrown that in your face. They look evil from my perspective, not benign. Hopefully I am wrong because this should be one of those few cool little corners of existence.
posted by caddis at 1:09 AM on August 15, 2009


Also, to make, as part of your argument, the claim that you've used the DMCA only 5 times does not sway me to your side.

Their point was not how many times they've used the DMCA, but what they've used it for. Their point is "Look, we're only using these laws to keep people from doing things we think you'll agree are not only scummy but also damaging to the Burning Man community"

I 100% agree that both commercialization and hidden camera porn of unsuspecting burning man attendees are contrary to the interests of Burning Man - by which I mean the attendees, not BMorg.

My biggest complaint about the burning man photography policy is from reading it it's difficult to tell how it's meant to apply to me (a hobbyist photographer). I pretty much understand what they're getting at, but that's because I've been going to this damn thing for 10 years, not because the licensing terms are clear or straightforward.
posted by aubilenon at 1:10 AM on August 15, 2009


You guys are blinded by the supposed good faith of the burning man folk, yet they have just thrown that in your face.

What did they do? I read this as the EFF suddenly noticing something that's existed for years. BMOrg didn't actually do anything wrong/evil/ms-like, did they?
posted by ryanrs at 1:21 AM on August 15, 2009


If you don't feel you can trust BM LLC then this is probably a bad thing and you should stay away from Burning Man as they are just evil rights-abusing hippies or something.

If you feel that you can trust them then you'll be fine.

As a sometime participant (living 5,000 miles away doesn't help) I've been quite happy to give up some of my 'individual rights' for what I, and many others, see as a greater good and a greater experience.

I like how the whole thing works and how constructing a city of freakery in the middle of some pretty inhospitable country feels, in some ways, just like many other towns & cities across the US. Including all the people fighting City Hall...
posted by i_cola at 5:31 AM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the response piece was completely reasonable. "Hey, we're here to do our thing, and people putting in spy cams and selling them as Hippies Gone Wild is not very conducive to doing our thing, especially since they aren't bringing anything to the party, generally make people feel uptight, and are profiting from both."

I'll admit my own bias: I think people should have to ask to take your photo, anywhere. So I am not completely objective on this one.

As far as I can tell, Burning Man does not promote itself wherein the entirety of its mission statement is that there are absolutely no rules. It's that the rules are different: to the extent that people can get away with it, many of the strictures we experience in the United States have been relaxed (drugs, nudity, artwork wherein the permits for them would be prohibitive). However, and I think they are very clear on this, people at the event are supposed to be participants, not spectators. Right on the site:
"Participation is at the very core of Burning Man. Once a year, for one week in the desert, a community of living, breathing participants join together to create Black Rock City. The people who attend Burning Man are no mere "attendees," but rather participants in every sense of the word ... Burning Man is a 100% participant sponsored, participant created event. We often like to say there are no spectators at Burning Man."
Filming nekkidness from a distance, then later turning around and selling it, is Being a Spectator. So far, Burning Man is passing on the internal ethical self-consistency front.

I know the EFF likes to splash around and make noise, and to a large extent I like it when they do so, even if it is often ... clumsy. Here, though, they fail to recognize that all of this occurs at a boundary, an impedance mismatch between the times and spaces Burning Man exists and The Rest of the Time. The way the EFF wants it, Burning Man would be substantially altered, because they would like their usual agenda (and let's not kid ourselves, they have one) penetrating into Black Rock City.

The EFF fails to grasp that it's not an autonomous event if the rules cannot change.
posted by adipocere at 8:12 AM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have never been to Burning Man, and while I thought about it way back years ago, it's far too expensive to attend at this point.

Go to a Regional Burn. They're weekend events with a nominal cost & a much smaller crowd, typically several hundred to a couple thousand. You'll get much the same energy but on a smaller, more intimate scale.
posted by scalefree at 8:40 AM on August 15, 2009


For all the snark being leveled at BMOrg about being evil, most of us can admit that without those DMCA usages, BM would have already become a very different place. The year after a potential "Hippies Gone Wild (HGW)" sells and makes the shooter rich, there will be a dozen teams back to BM with big cameras and pushy attitudes. You need some law in place, or BM loses what's left of the fragile bubble that encourages people to be expressive.

Snark without a solution is not much good. Pointing out potential for evil or misuse is shooting fish in a barrel. One solution that "participants must give permission for their image to be used" is in theory a much better law than "BMOrg must give permission". The issue is that in practice, the responsibility for raising charges would then fall on the individual. That's not going to work as well. Individuals may not know of their filming, or intended uses, and may not have the financial resources (or time, or inclination) to fight offenders. When even a few "HGW" producers get away with it because nobody sued or found out (until later), you'll be back to having dozens of film crews.

Besides, it is just an event. A produced event, albeit very differently produced one. And it's not your event, it's BMOrgs. I, for one, think they're doing a decent job at trying to protect and retain the spirit of the event even as it grows - a literally impossible task. If I threw a cocktail party in my own home, I could have you all sign the same Terms&Conditions. Would you be as outraged at that? Would you boycott? Would you still boycott if I made a *really* outstanding manhattan?
posted by TomStampy at 8:49 AM on August 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


TomStampy: toss in transportation costs and I'll not only come to your cocktail party, but I'll take photos in any format you choose and then turn the film / SD card over to you before I leave, never looking at the images myself.

(I'll do a lot for a good manhattan.)
posted by hippybear at 9:49 AM on August 15, 2009


If I threw a cocktail party in my own home, I could have you all sign the same Terms&Conditions. Would you be as outraged at that? Would you boycott? Would you still boycott if I made a *really* outstanding manhattan?

I'd likely drink the Manhattan (or two, or four) and proceed to rant at you, with wit and perception, as to how weird it is that I had to sign a fucking terms+conditions to get a free fucking drink.

But I'd be polite about it.
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first rule of Hippie Fight Club is that you must not joke about Hippie Fight Club.

I can see how the greater legal weight of BMO could make for a better hammer to dissuade would-be profiteers, but taking over the rights on behalf of the participants doesn't seem necessary to me.

How difficult would it be to require the permission of both any filmed participants and BMO before any third party could use the images for any commercial purpose? That way BMO can retain the big hammer of potential lawsuits/takedowns, even if the individuals lack the will/resources/knowledge of violations.

Meanwhile, individuals needn't worry about the organization "taking" or "using" their selves/work without permission.

In cases where the actual individuals wish to give release but the org does not, the individuals win. In cases where the org wishes to give release but the individuals do not... the individuals also win.

If codified, what would that leave un-addressed?
posted by rokusan at 10:56 AM on August 15, 2009


TomStampy, if that Manhattan comes served by tripped-out, body-painted hippie chicks who set fire to the building when we're done, I'll sign that waiver in the body fluid of your choice.
posted by rokusan at 10:58 AM on August 15, 2009


I don't like jwz these days, but back when I did, he wrote a similarly critical essay on Burning Man.
posted by Kalthare at 11:08 AM on August 15, 2009


If you feel that you can trust them then you'll be fine.

If you feel that you can trust them and anyone else who might have control over the organization or its intellectual assets during the "lifetime + 70 years" duration of the copyright to your work then you'll be fine.
posted by Lazlo at 12:10 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you feel that you can trust them and anyone else who might have control over the organization or its intellectual assets during the "lifetime + 70 years" duration of the copyright to your work then you'll be fine.

Yeah, this is where so much of this breaks down. There's no honor in legal fine print, never has and never will be. That the Burning Man brain trust don't get this, or do but are choosing to be Machiavellian about it, is what annoys me (and other clearly). Thus, contention. A fight worth fighting.
posted by philip-random at 1:18 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny, I always thought this is exactly why model and property releases are required for commercial usage of other people's images. I don't know why Burning Man feels the need for something additional to "protect" Burning Man attendees. Seems to me that the leap they're making here is toward controlling non-commercial usage of still and moving images that they don't like.

Also, by using this rights grab, they get to have all the photos and video they want for their blog and other promotional materials without having to hire somebody, as in the case of the pictures in the Burning Man response post.
posted by msbrauer at 1:19 PM on August 15, 2009


Also, by using this rights grab, they get to have all the photos and video they want for their blog and other promotional materials without having to hire somebody, as in the case of the pictures in the Burning Man response post.

Ah, those pictures were all submitted to the Burning Man Gallery by the photographers:

(Note: all images are courtesy their photographers and the Burning Man Image Gallery - visit to view each page containing the photographer’s website and contact information.)

They don't just "grab" them willy nilly from photographer's websites.

I was among the many, many people filmed on the Playa by the jackasses from Girls Gone Wild. These obviously not-participating dudes drove around in a van making creepy-ass comments and filming. Eventually their pictures were posted as people figured out what was going on. I am definitely happy the Org used the DMCA to prevent videos that I was unwillingly a part of being made available for purchase without any fucking consent from me. I'm a pretty severe critic of many of the things the Org has done over the years, but they have worked very hard to create an event that is largely free of the vast amount of weekend warrior creeps that were prevalent the first years I was going (1996-1999).

On the other hand, if it really is THE EVOLUTIONARY SHIT that I suspect many devotees feel it is, then lose the lawyers and set the beast free. If it's worthy, NORMAL will not be able to contain it.

Now that really is hippie talk.
The first year I went, it cost 35 bucks and the Org provided porta-potties (not nearly enough), the trash fence, and training for the Black Rock Rangers. Oh, and how to survive in the desert, back when only the occasional random weirdo showed up in an RV. There were less than three thousand attendees, and all the electronic music sound systems had been located two miles from the main event- a place called "Rave Camp"* by Burning Man, and called the "Techno Ghetto" by all of us (about 250 people) that camped there. The day we arrived a motorcyclist had been decapitated playing chicken with another vehicle on the Playa. During the week, as dusk approached everyone in the Techno Ghetto would high-tail it for home, making sure to be off the Playa by the time every partying yahoo from Main Camp would hop into their car with a bottle of whisley and drive a hundred miles an hour directly toward our little village of tents. Friends with a lighting rig set up a giant spotlight pointed directly at Main Camp to provide some sort of navigation that could be seen through the dust and the dark- otherwise, there was nothing to see until you were nearly on top of the outlying tents.

On the night of the Burn, my boyfriend at the time and I taught a leathery Jim Goose type how to blow fire, and he invited us back to his camp to shoot propane tanks. The next morning back in my tent, just after dawn, I idly looked out the door just in time to see a car zoom by about a yard away, ultimately to crash into a pile of tents and come to a stop on top of two people sleeping. It seemed to take forever for the helicopter from Reno and ambulance from Lovelock to arrive, but I think it was actually only half an hour. The man that drove into the tents had his dog in the car with him, a very sad and unhappy pitbull that wouldn't leave the vehicle. I sat in the car and comforted the dog for awhile. A sheriff's deputy had seen me, and tried to talk me into taking the dog home. At the moment I happened to have a head full of brain chemistry, and the gentle and friendly sheriff slowly changed from shimmering green to metallic violet to flaming orange as I spoke to him. That was a very difficult day for many people. It changed people's lives, certainly.

So yeah, it's nice to not have any rules, especially if it makes you feel righteous and legit. I'm sure it's great to not have to feel like you need lawyers on retainer. That's how things started out with Burning Man. I submit if you hadn't been around in the formative years and don't know the history of why all these rules exist now, all you're really doing is repeating free spirit dogma. Sure, a lot of people that were around in the beginning didn't like the rules when they were created, and now they do their own thing where vehicles and guns and homemade fireworks still happen. I can tell you that wouldn't fly with the sort of event Burning Man has become today, and I understand why that is. I don't go anymore, though.

*This little plan that led to all sorts of crazies driving high as fuck all over the Playa has been completely wiped from any Burning Man history, even that handed out to the Black Rock Rangers as of 2001. After this year, vehicles were no longer allowed to be driven in camp.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:42 PM on August 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Or, you could think about the complex situation they're describing and actually bother to post something that took longer than 5 oh-so-witty seconds to type.

You know, other than two snide comments complaining about how other people are not contributing in the way you like, you haven't added anything at all to this thread yourself. Nothing.

This is.... pretty fucking alanis.
posted by rokusan at 3:54 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


How difficult would it be to require the permission of both any filmed participants and BMO before any third party could use the images for any commercial purpose?

It's worth noting, rokusan, that EFF's critique wouldn't allow your solution. Which says something about EFF's critique.

That said, the EFF's links to stories about 1) doctors making patients sign contracts promising not to post online reviews of the doctor if the doctor agrees to not sell "anonymous" info about the patient to marketers, and 2) when those patients post online reviews, the doctors then attempting to stomp on the sites hosting those reviews by threatening to sue on copyright infringement grounds (almost certainly frivolous), was worth the post right there, even if the analogy doesn't hold water in this case. I see why EFF is attempting to make the connection, but it's a weak one at best.

The first rule of Hippie Fight Club is that you must not joke about Hippie Fight Club.

Oh, please. All I was asking is that you try to restrain stupidly simplistic "FRIST POST" garbage just a little bit to let a smarter discussion develop. I know that means someone else might get your favorites for that brilliant offhand snidefest you urgently needed to post, but life goes on. And the site is better.
posted by mediareport at 3:58 PM on August 15, 2009


Jesus, dude, I work Saturdays. And yes, I was working on that last comment even as you posted. Serves me right for bothering to MeMail you first; that's a mistake I won't make again.
posted by mediareport at 3:59 PM on August 15, 2009


You know there are books about Burning Man, yes? Full of pictures? Movies too. Not produced by BMOrg and not required to share profits with them. What you can't do is make a book or a movie without consulting with BMOrg to make sure it's actual art or literature & not commercial schlock.-- scalefree

Considering it is really some kind of private party, I can see how you may want to keep legal control of voyeurs. It is just that this particular statement struck me as sounding exactly like something the old Soviet Union leaders would say. "The Soviet Union government will decide what is acceptable to publish and what is not!"
posted by eye of newt at 4:10 PM on August 15, 2009


Yes, I don't appreciate being told how to post by someone who's not even contributing themselves.

If you don't like comments, flag them and move on. You don't gripe about other people's comments by adding more of your own.

And if you have to gripe about other commenters making oh-so-tasteless jokes that pollute the precious discourse, please take the griping to MeTa, which is what that place is supposed to be for, so that it's easier to ignore. Or, like, take it nowhere, which is preferred.

Because otherwise this is a stupid hippie meta-fight.
posted by rokusan at 4:46 PM on August 15, 2009


First, learn to read: I did contribute something worthwhile: pointing people like you, who apparently don't bother to read carefully before posting snark, to the 5 specific examples of DMCA notices BM used last year and their reasons for using them - an important bit I suspected many of the kneejerk snarkers were overlooking. I also pointedly asserted that, contrary to the predictable anti-BM slaps, the BM position was actually fair and reasonable.

So, again, learn to read. You calling me out for not contributing anything meaningful in this thread is really, really funny. That's what you're going for, right? That makes you happy?
posted by mediareport at 4:52 PM on August 15, 2009


It is emphatically a private party: public nudity is illegal. You don't like the rules, don't go. Actually please stay away, it's no fun, dirt, and all the people are complete legalistic nattering nabobs anyway.
posted by Freen at 5:27 PM on August 15, 2009


Yes. Nobody missed the five times they've applied the DMCA, but thanks for repeating.

How about if you don't like how people comment in ways that might include offhand jokes or snark, you consider leading by example instead of counter-snarking and complaining about it? Because that's taken up about 40x as much ink as whatever initially offended you.

Or go to some other threads and complain about every snarky comment one by one.

(Please start in 2002.)
posted by rokusan at 5:45 PM on August 15, 2009


It is emphatically a private party: public nudity is illegal. It's no fun, dirt, and all the people are complete legalistic nattering nabobs anyway.

Okay, now you have me thinking about Naked Lawyer Retreat. And it's not a happy thought.
posted by rokusan at 5:46 PM on August 15, 2009


1980's : Live Aid
1990: Lilith Fair

Carry on with teh righteous trashing :D
posted by liza at 6:07 PM on August 15, 2009


don't worry your pretty little head. nothing could be bad from burning man. they are our friends.

people who believe this also believe in Peter Pan.

Naiveté is so much fun to watch.
posted by caddis at 6:15 PM on August 15, 2009


Oneirodynia nails it.
posted by Freen at 6:15 PM on August 15, 2009


Actually I think, despite the intended snark, that RMS, or at least his approach to things might be the best way to try to find a solution.

RMS, after all, is the man who managed to pervert (and I mean this in the most complementary and awed sense possible) copyright law into a mechanism to force reciprocal code sharing and thus found a snowballing project/movement/whatever that has resulted in a metric crapload of code being open for anyone who wants to look at it. That's a rather impressive feat.

And, he did it by specifically limiting freedom, because the freedom to take and modify GPL code without giving the modification back to the community would be contrary to his intent. [1]

His success in producing a license that doesn't require a theoretically trusted person or entity to go through use on a case by case basis seems like a pretty good recommendation for this mess.

Even if you accept that BMOrg's intentions are as pure as driven snow, that only applies to the current BMOrg. 70 years from now, after BMOrg has become semi-defunct, after Burning Man is no longer practiced, and the copyrights they hold on all images pass into the hands of a less scrupulous individual who's to say that individual won't (being that they own the copyright to every image ever taken at Burning Man) decide to make a series "Naked Hippies of the Late 20th and Early 21st Century!!!" videos?

Copyright, currently, lasts lifetime + 70 years, and you know damn well that in a few years when the copyright on Steamboat Willie yet again starts nearing expiration Congress will, yet again, suddenly find themselves getting "contributions" from Disney and, amazingly (but completely unconnectedly because we all know that "contributions" aren't bribes) they'll extend copyright another few decades.

Its hardly inconceivable that BMOrg will, over the course of the next 60 or 80 years, turn into, or be purchased by, a less than savory outfit.

But, that said, its also not at all unreasonable to say, as they do, that the culture they're trying to create would suffer (possibly fatally) if it became common for participants to find themselves unwillingly in Naked Hippie Chicks Part IV, or even in a Coke commercial.

Which is why I think RMS, or thinking in RMS' style, is beneficial.

What is needed is not a board of "trusted" individuals to vet use on a case by case basis, but rather a better licensing agreement which precludes the need for such a board, and the risk that they will later turn bad.

Which may not please the FSF, but much as I like and support the FSF, I think the concerns over Burning Man culture are legit, and given the nature of the event, a restriction on free (in the sense of unrestricted) use is perfectly reasonable. Where I agree with the FSF is that the current situation, in which one is expected to hand over all photos and video taken and grant BMOrg both copyright for their own use and veto power over your use, is not good at all.

[1] For the pedants: yes, I know that restriction applies only if you distribute your modified code, but really that's implied in the context of the discussion.
posted by sotonohito at 6:50 PM on August 15, 2009


It is just that this particular statement struck me as sounding exactly like something the old Soviet Union leaders would say. "The Soviet Union government will decide what is acceptable to publish and what is not!"

There's another place you may be familiar with where the owner & his chosen few decide what's acceptable to publish & what's not. It's called MetaFilter. That seems to work pretty well, from what I've heard anyway.
posted by scalefree at 7:18 PM on August 15, 2009


Is there really such a large market for naked hippie chick porn? I mean, it doesn't seem like it would be all that expensive to make without staking out burning man... is this a new fetish or something? It doesn't make sense that this would be such a problem..
posted by Maias at 7:26 PM on August 15, 2009


Is there really such a large market for naked hippie chick porn?

It's probably more about the mud.
posted by rokusan at 7:30 PM on August 15, 2009


Rokusan: nude lawyers cutting a rug in the desert till the break of dawn. Giggling geriatric magistrates and hefty legal briefs as far as the eye can see. It will change you in ways you never thought imaginable.

In all seriousness, Burningman, like everything else, is about what you bring and the culture you are participating in. We here at metafilter hate noise, spam, self-links, and stupidity enough to be rigorously self policing and also moderated by mathowie, jessamyn, cortex etc. Does it curtain your freedom of speach? Is it the utopian freeforall that the web promises? Do we not pull out the pitchforks when someone borrows our jokes for their comic strip? This party is mathowie's party, we pay $5 to play, he sets the rules, and we all set the culture. If you don't like it, well, that isn't really mathowie's problem, is it? Sure you can bitch about it, and yes, you'll get a reasonable response because mathowie is good people, just like the BMORG, but at the end of the day, if you want to post at metafilter, you better not self link. If that's a dealbreaker, Go start your own comunity weblog. Much the same applies to Burningman. It's not a magic fairyland utopia, and neither is metafilter, it is what it is, and you can either parotipate or not.
posted by Freen at 7:31 PM on August 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


In all fairness, scalefree, I do not believe that is a valid analogy. Matt and the Mods (is that a band name or WHAT?!?!?) don't try to police how we link to MetaFilter outside of MetaFilter. They try to keep the discourse here at the site within specific community guidelines. The equivalent at Burning Man would be if you were allowed to take any photos you wanted and use them as you see fit on photo sites online, but you had to audition all your contributions to the actual festival and have the ones which don't meet their standards rejected and removed from the celebration itself.
posted by hippybear at 7:51 PM on August 15, 2009


When the EFF and Burning Man fight, we all win.
posted by verb at 8:43 PM on August 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sotonohito: BMOrg's response addresses the proposition that they should enforce CC licenses on all photography from the event; they point out the reasons this won't work. It would let them sue (for example) Coke for creating an ad with BM media, but not the photographer who licensed it to them.

It's my opinion that the tools the law provides to BMOrg aren't a very good fit to what they're trying to accomplish. It's a fair objection to point out that over the course of the copyright's life, all kinds of abuses could emerge. It's not clear how to prevent that

Also (not addressing sotonohito), it's ridiculous to suggest that Burning Man doesn't have rules. It has plenty of rules, violation of which are grounds for ejection. They're just different rules than we have in everyday life.

It's also…a prissy sort of ideological purity to insist that if you have a problem with the organizers of Burning Man, you should boycott the event. Burning Man has about 50,000 participants. It's bigger than its organizers, and there's more to it than the opinions of its legal advisors. It calls to mind how, when liberals criticized George Bush, conservatives indignantly suggested that if they don't support the president, they should leave the country. The USA is a big country, and there's a lot more to it than its administration.
posted by adamrice at 9:43 PM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's another place you may be familiar with where the owner & his chosen few decide what's acceptable to publish & what's not. It's called MetaFilter. That seems to work pretty well, from what I've heard anyway.

Poster hereby appoints Metafilter as his or her representative to protect his or her intellectual property or privacy rights, recognizing that Metafilter has no obligation to take any such action?
posted by prak at 9:55 PM on August 15, 2009


MetaFilter does not own a single word in this sentence ... except the first one.
posted by philip-random at 10:27 PM on August 15, 2009


We are the BMOrg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
posted by hippybear at 10:47 PM on August 15, 2009


Nobody is saying mefi and BMORG have identical rules, just that both seem to have idiosyncratic rules that seem to work for their respective communities that wouldn't work elsewhere. Sure, both have problems but throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the solution. If you care about a community, you adress the issues and work towards a solution.
posted by Freen at 2:57 AM on August 16, 2009


Nobody is saying mefi and BMORG have identical rules, just that both seem to have idiosyncratic rules that seem to work for their respective communities that wouldn't work elsewhere.

Metafilter only enforces its rules when the community is on Metafilter. BMORG has a rule that they enforce outside of Burning Man.
posted by prak at 5:24 AM on August 16, 2009


adamrice How did we get to the CC license? I don't recall advocating that BMOrg use it.

I do advocate that they come up with a license, probably it will need to be one they invent on their own, which both preserves the culture they're trying to foster, and eliminates the disturbing "we own all your pictures and you can only use them with our permission" bit.

But putting all the power into the hands of a single group, which may or may not sell out or otherwise become less trustworthy over the life of copyright (that is to say, indefinite but likely forever) seems like a very bad idea indeed.
posted by sotonohito at 8:41 AM on August 16, 2009


I'd be interested to know what commercial and marketing machinations were underway when Malcolm in the Middle went to Burning Man

I dunno what the deal was but I'm sure the LLC gave permission. I think it was a bad decision, even if it was a funny episode. Although the Reno 911! episode was even funnier.


Wrong and wrong, like ~90% of the comments in this thread. The real answer is what most burners would expect:

"Q: Why did you guys condone the “Malcolm in the Middle” episode about Burning Man? Is the Org making a ton of money from that show?

Some participants loved the “Malcolm in the Middle” episode about Burning Man; others hated it. The organization was completely neutral about this and did not promote, profit from, or try to prevent this episode from airing. Although “Burning Man” is a registered trademark, the First Amendment allows the public to comment upon and spoof Burning Man because of the event’s notoriety in the public eye. As a side note – sure the episode was “cheesy” but it’s clear that the writers of the episode “got” the meaning of Burning Man."

oneirodynia really did nail it on the head. Those of you who think Burning Man is all about "no rules" and "anarchy!" are living in 1996. Burning Man has a shitload of rules now (no moop, no dogs, no cars, no guns, etc.). It could not exist without them.

I thought the BMorg reply was illuminating and reasonable. This sentence is really all they need to say to convince me:

"To us, the rights of the individual participant to privacy while in Black Rock City in this unique environment for free expression — and our philosophical desire to maintain it out of reach of those who would exploit that expression just to sell cars or soft drinks — happens to come first."

shrug. Burning Man is not a "free speech zone." You'll have to get in the cage at a political convention for that.

What's really turned me off the event is the cooperation of the organizers with local, state, and federal police. It's all a big clusterfuck now.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:04 AM on August 16, 2009


What's really turned me off the event is the cooperation of the organizers with local, state, and federal police

Do you really think it could have continued to exist without that cooperation? I... doubt that. What part of the cooperation turned you off, or felt like "a clusterfuck"? I just don't see it.
posted by flaterik at 2:19 PM on August 16, 2009


Sotonohito: you're right, you did not mention CC, and I shouldn't have implied you did. I mentioned it simply as an alternative to the customary full-copyright or public-domain options that exist—I think of CC in the same area of creative licensing as some putative license that RMS might gin up. They do describe how licenses like that don't serve their interests.
posted by adamrice at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2009


"What's really turned me off the event is the cooperation of the organizers with local, state, and federal police. It's all a big clusterfuck now."

From the stories of the free flow of drugs it sounds like the cooperation is the bare minimum they need to minimize violence.
posted by Mitheral at 6:26 PM on August 16, 2009


Prak: there have been several instances of metafilter content showing up elsewhere that have brought out the torches and pitchforks. One notable instance was a popular online comic strip stealing members jokes. Metafilter as a community responded, while some individuals who had their jokes stolen are more likely than not totally unaware of what happened. We do protect our own outside the walls of metafilter's domain.
posted by Freen at 6:46 PM on August 16, 2009


Er... Many whose jokes were stolen are totally unaware of the infraction.
posted by Freen at 8:07 PM on August 16, 2009


MetaFilter: Many whose jokes were stolen are totally unaware of the infraction.
posted by philip-random at 8:40 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter as a community responded, while some individuals who had their jokes stolen are more likely than not totally unaware of what happened. We do protect our own outside the walls of metafilter's domain.

The Metafilter community responding is not exactly the same as Metafilter LLC responding. I would be quite irritated if Metafilter LLC claimed ownership of my posts so they could protect my intellectual property rights.
posted by prak at 9:24 PM on August 16, 2009


Metafilter LLC claiming ownership of your posts would be like BMorg claiming ownership of art projects. Yours is not a very good comparison.

(Why am I left in the position of defending the borg? I usually like to make fun of them, at least a bit.)
posted by flaterik at 9:47 PM on August 16, 2009


Metafilter LLC claiming ownership of your posts would be like BMorg claiming ownership of art projects. Yours is not a very good comparison.

Ok. Metafilter LLC claiming ownership of comments and not posts; I guess that is closer to BMorg claiming ownership of photographs taken while there.

BMorg claims a right to enforce its rules on people after they have left the Burning Man site. BMorg claims ownership of some material (video and photographs) produced at the Burning Man site although not those brought in from the outside.

Metafilter LLC does not claim a right to enforce its rules on people outside of the Metafilter site. Metafilter LLC does not claim ownership of material brought into or produced on the Metafilter site.
posted by prak at 11:25 PM on August 16, 2009


(Why am I left in the position of defending the borg? I usually like to make fun of them, at least a bit.)

Resistance is futile.
posted by homunculus at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2009


posted by mrgrimm Burning Man is not a "free speech zone."

Last time I checked, the First Amendment is valid in Black Rock City, Pershing County, Nevada.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:59 AM on August 17, 2009


Last time I checked, the First Amendment is valid in Black Rock City, Pershing County, Nevada.

Pet peeve: Burning Man is not the government. Whether or not you like what they're doing here, the Burning Man organization isn't breaking anyone's First Amendment rights in this case. They're a private group. I'm not a Burner and don't have a dog in the hunt, but calling them out for First Amendment violations misstates the case against.
posted by immlass at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2009


Yes, I know. I wasn't referring to the copyright-infringement-DMCA issue. I was referring (somewhat sardonically) to mrgrimm's claim that Burning Man is not a "free speech zone".
posted by mattdidthat at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2009


Yes, I know. It's also a misstatement of fact that gets quoted so often for truth that it needs to be staked regularly so it doesn't get back up.
posted by immlass at 1:39 PM on August 17, 2009


What part of the cooperation turned you off, or felt like "a clusterfuck"?

* Uniformed cops and DEA agents inside of large parties

* About 50% chance on Friday/Saturday nights of meeting an undercover agent asking you to smoke him out at a burn barrel

* DEA and BLM agents driving around in golf carts who will stop you and request to search your bag ... in your own camp (this happened to me twice and I consented b/c I had nothing illegal in my bag. I could refuse, but then do they come back and search our entire camp?)

* Local police patrolling the streets every hour on the hour in their SUVs, kicking up dust (for most of the event, after Wednesday or so, no one drives on the concentric streets)

* Cops busting people for smoking weed on the playa and taking their weed

* Cops seizing large amounts of psychedelics from neighbors too stupid to hide it better

From the stories of the free flow of drugs it sounds like the cooperation is the bare minimum they need to minimize violence.

I don't get the correlation between free-flowing drugs and violence. If anything it is the legal intoxicants (mostly beer and tequila) that cause any violence.

The cops aren't looking to stop violence at burningman. (Rape and assault do happen there, but I've seen much more run-of-the-mill violent encounters at sporting events). Most of the cops are undercover buyers.

The cops are looking to score, in one way or another. That event funds a lot of police shit, and it bugs me a lot that BM contributes to it purposely.

the First Amendment is valid in Black Rock City, Pershing County, Nevada

It depends how you define "Black Rock City," I would think. Within the dates and physical perimeters of the burningman event, I'm not sure it is, at least not to the extent it is in public spaces. Dunno for sure. IANACS.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The patrols done by the officials are not exactly up for negotiation. I don't think BMorg can really tell them to do that less.

The random search thing is weird, I've never seen or heard of that happening before. I DID hear about someone that was busted for smoking a joint that was passed to her on an art car, which was bullshit, and I a friends.. whipped cream making equipment was confiscated.

Odd about the SUVs, I mostly notice the ATVs. And there are far more art cars kicking up dust than there are badges patrolling.

The org has been working to track law enforcement behavior and has been asking for anyone that interacts with them to sent in info about it, especially if they believed the officers behaved poorly. The visible presence seems to vary by year, and I'm sure individual interactions vary by officer, but FOR THE MOST PART, it doesn't seem to be a clusterfuck.

You're right that they seem mostly interested in drugs, which I still have trouble processing - there's certainly no connection between stoned people and violence, or any other problems - but that's just the law enforcement culture. BMorg isn't going to be able to change that.

I still don't see the "contributes to it purposely". The BLM can yank the permit pretty much any time, and there's a certain amount of cooperation necessary to keep that from happening. Believe me, dealing with the BLM is NOT easy or straightforward when it comes to gatherings of freaks on "their" land.
posted by flaterik at 2:18 PM on August 19, 2009


Somewhat agreed, flaterik. I'm not exactly sure what the bmorg could do, aside from move to a new, private location (which most participants would surely not like) that likely doesn't allow the same sort of fire shenanigans.

there are far more art cars kicking up dust than there are badges patrolling

I must disagree there, at least in my experience. The art cars tend to move to the 3:00, 3:30, 4:00 streets, etc. and head to the playa. You'll rarely find them cruising around in circles.

When I've camped on the close inner streets (A, B), I would generally see a cop car circle by every hour on the hour, from about 2002 on. (But don't get me wrong, the art cars piss me off too. That was always one of my least favorite parts of the event, and they've really taken over in the past few years (I didn't go last year).)

Anyway, when you feel safer smoking marijuana on a street corner in San Francisco than you do on the playa, something has gone topsy-turvy. (And it's not San Francisco, ;p)

I will miss the art, though. And the people. And the live music. And the bikes. And the sunsets. And the sunrises! ...
posted by mrgrimm at 3:46 PM on August 19, 2009


(But don't get me wrong, the art cars piss me off too. That was always one of my least favorite parts of the event, and they've really taken over in the past few years (I didn't go last year)

Heh. This is my third year with an art car, and there are now two in camp. I love them, always have. I was just pointing out that I see a lot more of them than I do police vehicles.
posted by flaterik at 4:03 PM on August 19, 2009


Oh but, yes: I don't feel that smoking out there is safe at all. It's sad, but.... a small price to pay for the REST of the freedoms.
posted by flaterik at 4:03 PM on August 19, 2009


Oh, don't get me wrong. I love art cars and my good friend worked with the DMV. We took one a few year ago. It was a ladybug. It's on page 159 of Burning Man 2005 The Comic Book. ;)

Some of the coolest experiences I had were with art cars or creators of them: the Whale, the Victorian house, the Magic Bus, the Cheshire Cat...

I'm probably just pissed off that it used to be easy to get rides around brc and now most of the art cars just sit around the big parties. I mean, there's a reason those things move, right? Hey you kids, get off my playa!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:30 AM on August 20, 2009


Anyway, as you all can see, burningman is full of hypocrisies and contradictions. I've almost never laughed as hard or smiled as much. Don't go.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:34 AM on August 20, 2009


The last time I went to burning man (2007), the odds were 50/50 that I would see a cop if I went on a walk. How would you like to have a cop car cruise in front of your house every hour (I realize that is life for some)?

I see more heroin and crack deals in 20 minutes at 16th/Mission than I have seen of any drug type in 8 years of burning man. I see more open drug use on my commute to work than I ever did in BRC. Why aren't there permanent police patrols on our city streets? Because we wouldn't allow them (I hope). Why should we allow them when we're on vacation in the land of the free?

I love burning man and the people who go, and I could even see myself going again under the right circumstances, but that twisted synergy between law enforcement and the event just bugs. A lot. Obviously.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:30 AM on August 27, 2009


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