Trademarks & Copyrights

 

Protecting Burning Man and Our Community

Guided by the Ten Principles, Burning Man actively protects the event and our community from exploitation and commodification, whether deliberate or accidental. The foundation of that protection is our policies for the use of our intellectual property (“IP”) and imagery from Burning Man event. These policies have two objectives:

  1. Defend the principle of Decommodification by limiting the use of photos and videos from the event, and of Burning Man’s most recognizable words, symbols, and designs.
  2. Protect participants’ right to privacy, freedom of expression, and creative immediacy.

Our IP and image-use policies are described in detail in our Ticket Terms and Conditions. Below you will find an overview of why and how Burning Man uses Copyright and Trademark law to support our community principles.

Defending Decommodification

While we are humbled by all the interest in Burning Man, and strongly believe in our culture’s ability to positively impact the world, we are not interested in becoming a brand used to sell goods or services or to promote unaffiliated organizations or events. Most members of our community greatly appreciate that—apart from admission tickets, ice, and Center Camp Café beverage sales—there is no commerce, advertising, or sponsorship at the Burning Man event. This freedom from commodification, along with the other Principles, enables and encourages our community’s creativity and the experiences, art, and freely-given services that make Black Rock City so amazing and unique.

To nurture the spirit of Burning Man year-round, we are extremely cautious about the use of our IP and event imagery in the world outside of Black Rock City, and our community is very protective as well. Our policies are not intended as a statement of idealism, but as a way to enjoy what we have created together, insulated from exploitation and commodification.

Protecting Our Community

Black Rock City is visually stunning and has long been a source of inspiration for filmmakers and photographers. We support artists who capture elements of Burning Man in a respectful, fresh, and interesting way—particularly those who apply their compositional and technical skills to their medium in order to preserve the magic of Burning Man and share it with the larger world.

At the same time, we are mindful of the sense of liberation that many feel in Black Rock City, and of the need to preserve that freedom and creativity. However you choose to express yourself at Burning Man, our policies help ensure that your images are only shared publicly with your consent. We work especially hard to prevent the sale or salacious use of nude images or film taken at the event.  Most Burning Man participants are also fiercely opposed to having themselves or their art used as backdrops for fashion shoots, music videos, or advertising campaigns. We aim to protect their privacy rights and IP from such exploitation and commodification at our event.

How Burning Man Regulates IP

We monitor the use of our IP and event imagery all year long. Participants are also sensitive to these issues and keep a watchful eye out for unauthorized uses.

Our interest in regulating IP and image use is more than philosophical. In addition to protecting the privacy and rights of our participants and artists, we are legally obligated to enforce our trademarks and copyrights in order to retain them and avoid confusion as to Burning Man’s relationship with third parties. If we do not remain diligent, the legal rights and protections that our principles and culture enjoy could be diminished against future violations. For example, we routinely enforce against promoters who advertise “Burning Man” parties or use the Burning Man symbol or images from the event without our permission; in doing so, we retain our full rights to prevent a large promoter like MTV from sponsoring a “Burning Man Spring Break Party.”

Trademark & Copyright Use

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

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

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

Decommodification & IP FAQ

Q: Can I make a t-shirt (necklace, poster ...) that includes “Burning Man” (“Black Rock City,” The Man symbol, pictures from Burning Man ...)?

A: This is generally OK if the item is shared as a gift. Gifting is one of Burning Man’s Ten Principles. The Burner community is actually encouraged to incorporate the Man symbol, other Burning Man symbols, or images obtained at the event into artwork and other “swag” for gifting purposes.

You cannot, however, use Burning Man’s trademarks, copyrights, or images from the event on promotional materials for your company, or on items offered for sale. This includes online peer-to-peer resale spaces, such as eBay or Etsy. This also means that if you leave Black Rock City with ungifted gifts, you cannot sell the leftovers (even at, or below, the cost of making these items). While we sympathize with everyone’s need and desire to have sufficient funds to create and gift the art and items that make our culture and event so unique, it would be a slippery slope if such items could be sold because they were left over after others were given away.

Playa-focused gifting projects (such as art installations or theme camps) using crowdfunding tools like Indiegogo or Kickstarter have Burning Man’s permission to gift items in their fundraising campaigns that incorporate the Man logo, other trademarks or copyrights, or photos from the event into their own designs. Some examples include:

OK!

Gifting medallions or t-shirts that incorporate “Black Rock City”

Gifting a sticker with your art project logo that incorporates the Burning Man symbol in appreciation for a $15 donation to the project’s Kickstarter campaign

NOT OK!

Selling earrings with the Burning Man symbol on Etsy

Printing a company name or web address on your gift items

Q: I made a cool product (piece of art, costume, etc) that I think Burners would love. I want to sell it on eBay (or Etsy, Amazon...). Can I use “Burning Man” in the title?

A: We do not allow the “Burning Man” trademark to be used in the title of any product listing or auction, with one exception—the sale or auction of an event ticket or vehicle pass, at or below face value. You can, however, use the phrase in the description section, as in “perfect for Burning Man!”

Q: I’m throwing a party for Burners in my city. Can I use the words “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” during promotion? How about a picture from the event in the background, or a drawing of the Man? Can I call it a Decompression?

A: Our trademarks, copyrights, and images from Burning Man cannot be used to promote outside events, no matter how small. This is both for liability reasons and to protect Burning Man’s IP from commodification. We suggest using “desert” or “playa” instead to demonstrate your affiliation to the community.

If you’re throwing a fundraiser for your Burning Man theme camp or art project, you may use the term “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” as part of the descriptive text for the event, but not as the central phrase. This ensures that people aren’t confused about who is producing or sponsoring your event.

Use of Burning Man’s other trademarks—like the Burning Man symbol and “Decompression”—is only permitted for official events of Burning Man and the Burning Man Regional Network, which are contractually obligated to uphold certain principles. To connect with regional events, go here: Regional Network.

Here are a few examples:

OK!

Referring to your fundraising event as “A Fundraiser for Camp Forgotten Monsters at Burning Man,” or “A Fundraiser for the Rumification Art Project in Black Rock City”

NOT OK!

Implying “Burning Man” is involved with your event by referring to it as “Burning Man Fundraiser for Camp Forgotten Monsters”

Calling your event an “Unofficial Decompression”

 

If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, feel free to contact us at press@burningman.org or ip@burningman.org.