Pershing County Lawsuit

On August 16, 2012, Black Rock City, LLC filed a lawsuit against Pershing County, Nevada to prevent the County from imposing drastic fees against the Burning Man event.  The lawsuit was precipitated by the County’s attempt to apply a local county festival ordinance on land already being regulated by a federal Bureau of Land Management Special Recreation Permit.  Before filing the lawsuit, BRC complied with the County’s permitting scheme under duress to ensure that the 2012 event would still take place.

For years BRC had already been compensating the County for its Burning Man event-related law enforcement (and other) costs as part of BLM’s permitting requirements.  But in the Fall of 2011 Pershing County indicated that it would try to enforce its own parallel regulations, and also increase the amount of money for law enforcement.  Then in June of 2012 Pershing gave BRC notice that the amount would be three times the amount that BRC paid to the County in 2011.

The crux of the issue is whether a county has authority to burden a federal permitting scheme.  BRC and the County had disagreed over the nuances of the law for years.  But when the amount tripled BRC turned the question over to the judicial system to interpret.  The case is pending.  For up to date information on the lawsuit visit


Contracts have been a major focus of the Legal Department in 2012.  As the organization and event become more complex, so do the contracts that govern the relationships between the organization and the world.  Just to name a few, 2012 event contracts included: art honorariums, InTicketing, potable water, truck and heavy equipment rentals, dust abatement, golf cart rentals, fuel, portable buildings; also agency contracts with Washoe County, Nevada Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety–Investigative Division.

Intellectual Property

Burning Man primarily enforces Intellectual Property (IP) issues in order to uphold the principle of Decommodification. We seek to regulate the use of the Burning Man name and imagery and prevent unwanted commercial uses, and to prevent certain uses that violate the rights of our participants.

The Communications Team and a small sub-team of IP volunteers also engage in a year-round process of review, press response, trademark enforcement, and monitoring intellectual property on behalf of Burning Man. This is an area of the organization’s efforts that may not be widely understood. Though some are “outside world” violations from those seeking to exploit Burning Man, a great many TM/copyright violations happen within our own community — from well-intentioned Burners. Most incidents are the result of a misunderstanding of what a trademark is, what our copyright policies are, what “commercial use” means, or what Burning Man does and doesn’t actually regulate. We continue to examine how we can better express criteria and restrictions so that more violations can be avoided in the first place.

Our approach almost always begins (and often ends) with a simple polite email notifying the person of the violation, which generally garners an immediate and equally polite response. The vast majority of IP issues are resolved with a friendly conversation, though on a rare occasion legal action is necessary.

Stay tuned to the Jack Rabbit Speaks, or feel free to contact us at with any questions you have about media at the event, or with any representations of Burning Man (images, words, etc.) that pique your curiosity.

Submitted by,
Raymond Allen