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.
The team processed ~130 IP interactions in 2011. Notable among those are our continued legal case against a European clothing company calling itself “Burning Man”, and a fast-growing number of theme camp/art fundraiser type events using images, marks, and logos in infringing ways. We issued two successful DMCA’s in 2011, both in pursuit of removing unauthorized pornographic images from photography websites.
Stay tuned to the Jack Rabbit Speaks, or feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have about media at the event, or with any representations of Burning Man (images, words, etc.) that pique your curiosity.
Contracts have been the main focus of the Legal Department in 2011. 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, 2011 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 Pershing County, Washoe County, Nevada Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety Investigative Division. Then there were licensing agreements for Burning Man Earth, Apache Open Source and other intellectual property projects.
Lawyers for Burners & the ACLU
Just as law enforcement is tasked with enforcing the laws, both Lawyers for Burners and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are committed to defend participants’ rights. In 2011, Lawyers for Burners continued its efforts to help participants understand their rights, make decisions about whether to fight citations or pay fines, and referring them to other counsel as necessary. Many of the 2010 citations were plead down to littering offenses. Lawyers for Burners has already begun its efforts from the 2011 event as well. Fighting citations will continue into 2012.
The ACLU increased its numbers in 2011 on playa with staff members at Playa Info and on roving bike brigades, answering questions from participants about how to protect their civil rights when interacting with law enforcement. Efforts also included interactive performance art whereby participants role-played with ACLU staff on how to interact with law enforcement. The Burning Man organization is grateful for the valuable work that both Lawyers for Burners and the ACLU does for the Burning Man community.
For more information on law enforcement issues see the 2011 LEAL & Ranger Operations AfterBurn report.
Ray Allen & Andie Grace