AFTERBURN REPORT 2002
In 2002, Burning Man's legal efforts have grown right along with the scope of the event, our year-round efforts to connect the community, and the increased attention we receive from the outside world.
The organization remains vigilant about trademark issues surrounding the logo and use of the names "Burning Man" or "Black Rock City" by outside entities. To prevent this form of exploitation, we must enforce our trademark in all instances, which means keeping an ear to the ground. During the year leading up to the 2002 event, members of the legal and media teams dealt with around 100 trademark issues, from sales on eBay to unauthorized videos to commercial events attempting to use the Burning Man name.
Likewise, behind every professionally produced Burning Man image, a legal contract lurks. From documentary filmmakers to magazine photographers, each image or film made at the event by a professional must have a legal contract in place to determine permission for its distribution. In addition to the standardized on-playa media agreements we create each year, the legal team negotiated individual distribution contracts for such projects as the "Gifting It" documentary by Renea Roberts and Holly Kreuter's "Drama in the Desert" book and DVD, both of which Burning Man now sells in our marketplace.
Distribution of some projects or photos is undesirable to the community and the organization. The legal team helps to negotiate these situations, too. Our biggest effort in 2002 has been the preparation and pursuit of an injunction against Voyeur Video for the unauthorized distribution of videos containing nude imagery of participants at Burning Man, obtained without permission. As of this writing, the case is moving into its second phase, with Burning Man filing an amended complaint after being denied its initial injunction against Voyeur Video, which was based on violation of contract and of the privacy of participants. Our next step is the identification of persons in the video to enlist their participation as co-plaintiffs in order to strengthen our case.
In 2002, the legal-list was born as a discussion list of Burning Man's volunteer attorneys and various staff members. This forum provides an instant network of legal experts who can answer questions and offer comments. The list also invites volunteer support for more in-depth legal work as the need arises. This list has seen the discussion and resolution of various legal topics, including border-crossing issues for Canadians bound for Burning Man, the review of participants' law enforcement interactions for Fourth Amendment compliance, and discussions of the various legal issues facing the regional contacts program as it increases in scale and scope.
Burning Man is fortunate to have a wealth of volunteer legal support in addition to the few advocates who are compensated should we need to. We can seek advice from lawyers' expert in the tax, corporate, liability, human resources, real estate, environment, criminal, and entertainment fields, as well as First and Fourth Amendment rights, bankruptcy, and general practice. Without the generous support of these legal eagles, Burning Man would be left exposed and would likely be taken advantage of by those outside our community. A number of issues face the legal team for 2003, not the least of which is protecting participants' rights and keeping the organization solvent.
Andie Grace, aka ActionGrl and Marian Goodell