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AFTERBURN REPORT 2001

Legal

The Communications department oversees legal actions that protect our event and our community. A group of attorneys and legal experts -- all of them participants -- have generously assisted us in these efforts.


The protection from exploitation begins proactively with agreements that regulate the use of video and film footage for commercial purposes. Images of the Man, the City layout and some of the funded art is copyright protected. Publishers must have permission of the event, and in most cases of the artist themselves before publishing a photograph taken at Burning Man. Photographers are also asked to have participants sign model releases if they expect a photo of an individual to be published. Video imagery is monitored in a similar fashion. Burning Man is not a commodity for sale. It is for this reason that we require professional photographers and image-makers to check in with Media Mecca, and ask that participants fill out a "personal use form" to confirm their intentions in video taping their experiences at the event.

We also monitor the marketplace. For example, participants will occasionally bring to our attention items for auction on eBay, such as "genuine ashes from the Burning Man" or street signs stolen from the event. In these situations, a simple letter stating that the Burning Man name is copyrighted is usually effective in reminding the seller that such financial gain is inappropriate, and in some cases use of the name can be illegal.

Another important legal concern is protecting our participants from exploitation. In addition to guarding the intellectual property rights of artists and performers who voluntarily appear in various documentaries and media, we also protect the privacy of participants. Black Rock City is a place where people are inspired to express themselves. Within limits imposed by state and federal law, everyone is free to create, wear, show, perform, design, and do and say whatever is unique to them. This freedom in inhibited, however, when participants fear undesired media exposure. One such challenge involves videographers who capture imagery of nude participants, to be later sold as pornography. Fortunately, our media registration process and "personal use" camera tagging policies provide a framework for preventing such exploitation. Through careful research and legal navigation, we have been able to build a strong case against this violation of privacy, and we have acted to prevent the marketing of such products.

Other ongoing legal activities include protection of the event in general. Burning Man is a unique entity, and not easily categorized by entities outside of our community. Our lawyers paid and volunteer work year-round to ensure the long-term survival of Black Rock City by helping us navigate the myriad laws and regulations that challenge any company. Without the support of a number of legal experts we would not be here today.

In 2001, attorneys helped our organization prepare and review contracts and agreements, reply to legal challenges of our land use permit, monitor our compliance with state, county and federal laws, research government regulations, oversee real estate transactions, and advise us on the civil rights of our participants.