TRADEMARKS AND IMAGE USE
How We Protect Burning Man and Our Community
The Burning Man Project has stepped up efforts over the years to protect the event and its community from exploitation or commodification, whether deliberate or accidental. We trademarked some of Burning Man’s most recognizable words and logos, so that we could have a say about how and where they are used. We set firm regulations on the use of cameras at the event as a condition of entry, and created licenses that are required for any commercial use of imagery. Those conditions apply not only to expected behavior when photographing, but also to subsequent use of any images or footage captured at the event. Burning Man is extremely cautious about how its marks and images are used, and our community tends to be very protective as well.
Here are some basic guidelines regarding Burning Man’s ownership and maintenance of its “intellectual property” and the right to protect those things from exploitation or commodification.
TRADEMARKS: The names "Burning Man", "Black Rock City", and "Decompression", as well as the Burning Man symbol, the design of the Man, the design of the city’s lampposts, and the city layout design are all protected by trademark law. They may not be used for any commercial purposes whatsoever without obtaining written permission from Black Rock City LLC. In order to preserve the “Man” image for use in gifting and as an affinity symbol for our culture, we do not license this image to third parties for commercial or outside purposes.
IMAGE USE: In order to use any image or video taken at the event in a widespread public application (beyond friends and family), you must pre-register and request written permission from Burning Man. This applies to printing photos in a magazine or newspaper, hanging a picture at a gallery show, or using imagery in a documentary or TV show.
If you didn't register as a professional shooter at the event, that doesn't mean you can't request permission later if someone wants to use one of your images publicly, but you DO need written permission to keep yourself out of hot water and help protect the Burning Man community from future violations. As a general rule of thumb, remember: it’s not just whether the image is being used for financial gain – it’s really about whether the image is being distributed purposefully beyond just friends and family. For the purposes of personal imagery, social networking sites such as Flickr, Facebook etc. are deemed “personal use” until and unless such sites are used for the purposeful promotion or distribution of images with the expressed intent to publicly display them beyond one’s immediate network. You are responsible for obtaining the permission of your subjects in your photos where their faces are recognizable, and if your image violates the privacy of another attendee, you are expected to attend to its removal.
If your use of an image will extend beyond the friends and family in your network, you should request permission by contacting press (at) burningman.com. If you are interested in shooting for professional purposes (book, fine art, documentary, film), visit this page for more information.
PRIVATE PROPERTY: Entering Black Rock City during Burning Man constitutes legal acceptance of Burning Man’s posted policies, including those regarding intellectual property. Burning Man is held on land that is leased in accordance with permits from the Bureau of Land Management. Though the land is public property the rest of the year, this permit designates the area as private/closed for the duration of the event, and a ticket is required to enter. This Closure Order means that Burning Man holds the right to authorize or deny any videography or photography at the event under penalty of ejection, and any use of the resulting images or footage must obtain permission as a condition of entry and acceptance of these terms. For specifics on rights and responsibilities for media and participants, see our Rights and Responsibilities. This document pertains both to personal use of imagery and professional – no matter who is using a camera, the expectation of respect for our artists and participants remains the same.
PROTECTING OURSELVES: While we are humbled by and grateful for all of the interest in Burning Man, we are not interested in becoming a brand used to sell goods, services or unaffiliated events. Our community’s work and creativity would be diminished if this extended culture were reduced to a “lifestyle” brand like MTV or Abercrombie & Fitch. Most members of our community are very appreciative of the fact that we don’t allow commerce at the event, but we are also very vigilant about our role in the commercial world outside of the event, and how our culture fits into culture at large. Our position on commercial use is not a statement of idealism. It’s simply a way to enjoy what we’ve created together, in a way that is best insulated from commodification by the outside world.
PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY: Burning Man is a visually stunning event, full of creation and expression. It has long been a source of inspiration for talented filmmakers and photographers. We are interested in supporting those artists who capture elements of Burning Man in a fresh and interesting way, bringing their compositional and technical skills to their medium, enabling the magic of Burning Man to remain in our memories and to be shared with the larger world.
Still, we are mindful of the sense of liberation that many feel at Burning Man, and of the need to preserve that freedom. The costume worn on Saturday night may look incredibly inappropriate on your manager’s browser back at work on Tuesday morning, and we endeavor to help ensure that your image only ends up being shared that way if you agree to it. We are particularly interested in preventing the sale of salacious nude images or film taken at Burning Man, of the sort usually accompanied by lascivious promises of “hot women in the desert”. (Our battle against Voyeur Video was a crucial step in this right to privacy; for more information on that case, visit this page.) Most of our attendees are not interested in becoming centerpieces of erotic material or advertising campaigns, and we aim to protect them from such exploitation at our event.
ENFORCEMENT:Our Media Team monitors the use of our trademarks and the use of images/imagery from Burning Man all year long. We regularly monitor stock photography sites, eBay, Burning Man regional lists, and a host of other public/online venues, in addition to Google Alerts and other news tracking tools. Burning Man participants are also helpful at keeping a watchful eye on the internet and other outlets and notifying us of any unauthorized uses.
Our interest in this level of protection is more than merely moral or philosophical; when it comes to trademarks, we are also legally obligated to consistently enforce our trademarks from violation in order to retain them. If we don’t, we may find we cannot get legal protection in the case of an egregious violation later – to retain a mark, one must be vigilant in protecting it. For example: we routinely police local promoters who advertise small “Burning Man” parties on fliers without our permission; therefore, we will also retain the right to enforce it if a large promoter like MTV ever to advertise a “Spring Break Burning Man Party.” We are legally compelled to be consistent about the use of our marks, even if it’s just a small party to raise funds for your camp.
GIFTING: So what about gifts? Gifting is one of the principles of the Burning Man event. For more information on what gifting is about, see Ten Principles. Making a gift to give away with the Man symbol, or the words “Burning Man” is absolutely fine, as long as your are gifting the item in question. Good example: going in on a batch of t-shirts or shwag (at cost for yourselves or as gifts, even fundraiser gifts). Bad examples: using the Man symbol or Burning Man photos on an invitation to a camp fundraiser, or designing promotional materials for your company, or making a Burning Man t-shirt to sell to the public at a Cafe Press shop. Gifts for a Kickstarter fundraiser are ok, but selling individual items keychains is not. If you’re not sure, write to us at ip (at) burningman (dot) com . We are happy to help!PERMISSIONS: Need permission to publish a photo? Found an image used without permission? Want to know if a "Decompression" you saw is really an authorized Burning Man event? Write to us at: press (at) burningman.com