Burning Man to Photographers: ALL YOUR PHOTOS ARE BELONG TO US!

Nudity.  Fires.  Fun.  But all images belong to the organizers (and that might be a good thing)

Nudity. Fires. Fun. But all images belong to the organizers (and that might be a good thing)

The organizers of the annual Burning Man festival have instituted a controversial new policy regarding photography at the annual festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. According to XBiz, the organizers of the festival were concerned that porn websites were publishing photos taken at the event.

For those of you who don’t know, Burning Man is a pretty “live free or die” type festival out in the desert, where plenty of people find the opportunity to walk around naked. That’s not what it is *all* about, but that is part of it. As a predictable reaction to the nudity, people have started showing up to Burning Man, cameras in hand, to sell images of nude “burners” to adult entertainment websites. Burning Man is a decidedly non-commercial affair, where participants can feel free to let their entire inner persona hang out — and the organizers like it that way.

To try and stem that tide, the organizers of the festival have instituted a new policy: If you carry a camera in the festival, you need to sign a contract that assigns the copyright to your photos to the organizers of the event.

The agreement states:

I agree as follows:

I am recording or filming images for my personal use only, and am not acting on behalf of any other person, organization, media company or other entity. I understand that I have no rights to make any use of the images obtained at the Event other than for personal use, and that I cannot sell, transfer or give the footage or completed film or video or images to any other party, except for personal use, and I agree to inform anyone to whom I give footage, film, video or images that it can only be used for personal use.*

I agree that, in the event I post, or allow to be posted, any images (still or video) on a personal website or a website controlled by a third party: (1) I will place, or cause to be placed, on any website in which such images are displayed a notice that the images can be used only for the poster’s personal use and not for any other purpose and that downloading or copying of the images is prohibited, (2) in the event Burning Man notifies me that any such images must be removed, for any reason whatsoever in Burning Man’s sole discretion, I will promptly remove or cause to be removed those images. I further agree that, in the event any third party displays or disseminates any of my images in a manner not authorized by this agreement, I assign to Burning Man the copyright so that Burning Man can enforce against the third party any restrictions concerning use of the images, and I appoint Burning Man as my attorney-in-fact to execute any documents necessary to effectuate such assignment. (source)

Not everyone likes the new policy:

Fred Von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation said the new rules don’t match with the principles that Burning Man aspires to.

“The policy allows them to exercise the censorship powers that copyright-owners enjoy,” he said. (source)

On the other hand, Burning Man spokeswoman explained that without the policy, Burning Man might be a lot less free itself.

“Our main concern in enacting the policy was to be able to create this weeklong cultural bubble where people can express themselves without worrying about their image being plastered all over the Internet,” she said, reiterating that Burning Man wants to be able to take down these images if the poster refuses.

“There are a lot of nude people out here, and this protects the school teacher from Iowa who doesn’t wasn’t want to appear on a porn site,” she said. “I acknowledge that the copyright law is heavy-handed way of handling this, but it’s the only tool we have right now.”

I’m on the festival’s side on this one.

The organizers of the festival did not want it turning into Spring Break, Mardi Gras, and everything else that frat boys from Long Island have ruined. Accordingly, if you are going to carry a camera at Burning Man, you need to sign The Agreement provides that you will only take photos at Burning Man for your own personal use, and that the organizers of the festival have the right to demand that images be taken down if they are uploaded to the internet in violation of the agreement. Photographers are still permitted to use any images for personal reasons, and are even allowed to upload videos to YouTube. On the other hand, the Burning Man organizers want the right to be able to send a DMCA notice to take down any images that they find on commercial sites.

5 Responses to Burning Man to Photographers: ALL YOUR PHOTOS ARE BELONG TO US!

  1. KWW says:

    Are you serious? You’re on the Wicker Man’s side? So, the scarecrow burns out of control and you get the shot of it lighting the whole place on fire as a UFO swoops down to put out the flames. You think it’s ok for the Corporation to prevent you from selling that image to LIFE magazine?

    There isn’t any qualifier in there that restricts the policy to nude images.

  2. Mark says:

    KWW- so a property owner doesn’t have the right to have you sign this sort of agreement before entering his property?

  3. Dood says:

    “of the festival have the right to demand that images be taken down if they are uploaded to the internet IN VIOLATION OF THE AGREEMENT”

    EFF’s problem is that the takedown isn’t tied to violation of anything – it’s entirely discretionary. From a principles perspective, it’s WAY heavy handed, even if it’s lawful. Next year, they should limit it to nekkids and maybe images of identifiable people (so participants can feel safe in the “bubble”).

    • It is pretty heavy handed. In fact, it may be completely unenforceable. Nevertheless, I’m at a loss as to how you keep the profiteers out, without trying something like this. I suppose you could simply ban cameras, altogether, from the party.

  4. Thilo says:

    I think there are plenty of events in this world where, if you want to take pictures, you must be licensed to do so. Maybe that sort of thing is not as common here in the US, but I think every organizer of an event, and every property owner, should have the right to control, within limits, what goes on. So, I also am on the side of the organizers here, but I agree that this is really hard to enforce…

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