Media Mecca stands between the Artery and Playa Info at Center Camp. The closest thing to a “press room on the playa”, it is a landing spot for media at the event and a resource where anyone can find out more about how Burning Man’s principles have informed guidelines for the media. Faced with sometimes-conflicting interests – giving press access to the Burning Man event while looking out for participants’ concern with their presence – the Media Team has focused on increasing awareness of the guidelines and expectations for capturing, recording, sharing, and broadcasting content from the event.
At the 2006 event Media Mecca welcomed “TV Free Burning Man”, a television crew from Current TV, which shot, produced, and uploaded, via satellite, five full episodes of Burning Man content. All episodes aired (without advertising) the next day on Current TV cable stations, marking the first programming of its kind at Burning Man. Current TV also did a live broadcast of the Saturday night burn, working closely with Burning Man’s own Webcast team to capture the festivities. Subsequently their coverage won several awards and is arguably some of the best in the event’s history. Media Mecca also hosted two art tours for the press, and a panel discussion of Burning Man staff members answering press questions. All were very successful. On several evenings, films were screened at Media Mecca, and Current TV showed excerpts from the day’s shootings.
Press are strongly encouraged to pre-register (anyone shooting video is required to do so, whether for personal or professional use) and they are invited to visit Media Mecca early and often while on-playa, to meet folks, share resources, recharge their batteries – or themselves. In 2006, Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR) broadcasted media-related public service announcements, reminding participants to ask a subject’s permission before shooting and to use common sense and respect for others when posting images from the event online.
Before and after the event, the Jack Rabbit Speaks reminds readers of the do’s and don’ts regarding cameras at the event, and all Black Rock City citizens (professional and personal users) are required on arrival to fill out an agreement and tag all video-capable cameras. It’s easy to see how technology has spurred creativity as more people registered with the goals of documenting individual theme camps, artworks, and performances, and the Media Team has worked to keep up with that evolution.
Professional journalists, filmmakers, and participants alike sign contracts of varying specificity advising them of the rights and responsibilities in the capture of images and video at Burning Man, and the guidelines that govern producing and showing that content in print, film, video, online, or in other mediums. All commercial projects and/or projects which will be viewed by the public are reviewed by the Media department before they are authorized for release.
TRADEMARK/INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
The Intellectual Property (IP) arm of the Media Team had a busy year protecting both Burning Man’s intellectual property, and the privacy of participants. A second media volunteer came aboard in 2006 to take on the steadily increasing (and often, quite challenging) work.
We refer to any number of issues this team responds to as “incidents”, since they can range in violation. For example: using trademarks to market goods or events; manufacturing t-shirts or jewelry which include registered marks owned by Burning Man, such as the Burning Man name or symbol, or imagery from the event; using photographs without permission of the photographer or subject; and placing photographs with stock agencies, which is a violation of Burning Man’s policies. Incidents were up 25% year-over-year: 89 cases in 2005 and 117 in 2006. This compares to a 22% jump from 2004 to 2005. Some of the greater-than-normal increase is likely due to the additional work we can handle with a second volunteer helping to track down violations. The highly aware and vigilant Burning Man community is also a constant source of information about potential violations or concerns.
Most of the people we contact are unaware of IP concerns and immediately work with us to resolve the problem. It is an ongoing challenge to put the word out about intellectual property, since many violations occur unwittingly, or from outside the Burning Man community by those who do not understand the policies. This year the Media Team will renew the focus on educating the community about IP concerns, the law, and their rights.
Awareness and interest in Burning Man as an event of global interest has spread — both deeper into specific communities and fields of interest, and more broadly across international borders. Today, the Media Team responds to greater numbers of inquiries from news agencies and a significantly more technologically advanced and interconnected participant base than ever before. Media Mecca once again did its part to welcome the world press to Burning Man and acculturate them to Black Rock City, with the ultimate goal of ever-improving coverage of our experiment in community.
Press attending the 2006 event ranged from big market to small. Photographers from the Associated Press and other large U.S. press organizations attended, as did small-town daily papers that sent a reporter to the event for a first-hand glimpse. International press representation included the French, South Korean, Belgian, and German presses. A journalist writing for a small town Australian newspaper found at least 30 participants from his tiny home city! Aviation maven or electronic art producer; Danish academic or Propane and Butane Monthly writer – they were all there in 2006; from an Irish tattoo mag to Car and Driver Magazine, they attended Burning Man to tell a story aimed at their readers’ interests.
In 2006 the Media Team was once again graced with an international crew of smart and savvy volunteers — some of them communications and media relations pros, some from other professions. They work hard at the event and throughout the year, answering queries about the organization and event, and responding to issues surrounding the intellectual property rights of Burning Man and the artists and participants who attend. With just a few infrastructural changes, and a makeover of the gleaming vintage Spartan office trailer, 2006 proved to be a challenging and rewarding year for the Media Team, yet again!
Polly Harrold and John Cornwell