Storytellers have always been an important part of Burning Man culture and the creative documentation of our community is a form of radical self-expression. The images and videos that come out of Black Rock City help to keep us connected year-round as members of a global community and extend the impact of Burning Man far beyond the playa. While some might bemoan the presence of cameras at the event (you’re not alone!), our community has been thoroughly documented since its inception, and the ability for participants to share their experiences and perspectives is considered a right.
But the right to produce media comes with an important set of responsibilities. Protecting participant privacy and freedom, and the culture of Burning Man as a whole, is key to the sustainability and vitality of the event. Every participant, whether they are documenting for personal or professional reasons, automatically agrees to the Terms and Conditions for media upon entry to the event. This includes many crucial provisions such as asking for consent, giving credit, and strictly non-commercial use of imagery. Everyone in Black Rock City accepts these terms as a condition of entry, and by entering the city you acknowledge that you have read the Terms and Conditions!
In addition to reading and understanding the terms and conditions, the back of your ticket, and the Burning Man Survival Guide, please keep the following guidelines in mind when it comes to the use of camera or audio recording equipment on playa:
First, any Professional Use media project requires preregistration and approval from Media Mecca. “Professional Use” is defined as sharing beyond friends and family or beyond social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr (if you are a public figure with a large following on social media, you must apply for a professional use agreement). This includes media used for press and news outlets, film or book projects, art exhibitions, reproductions for sale and most editorial use of imagery. Basically, if you planning to release something to “the public,” then congratulations, you are Professional Use Media! Please read our Press Section or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Second, because self expression is a pillar of our culture, and since participants radically express themselves in a variety of ways, anyone with a video or still camera must secure verbal consent BEFORE recording another participant’s image or voice. If asked by any participant, you must explain how you intend to use the imagery. Should a participant object or otherwise not give their full consent AT ANY TIME for ANY REASON, you must immediately STOP recording, and you may not use their image or voice in any manner. Be conscientious and considerate. Don’t be a creeper!
Additionally, if you are Professional Use Media, you need to obtain written consent from any recognizable participants whose images or audio you capture. The same goes for the artist who created that amazing sculpture you are hoping to feature in your documentary. A simple model release will usually do the trick. Burning Man may require evidence of these consensual agreements before a Professional Use project is approved for public distribution.
Black Rock City citizens are encouraged to speak up if you see members of the media behaving inappropriately. Should you observe anyone with a camera not following the requirements of consent and respect, tell them to stop. If they refuse, get as much information as you can — Do they have a camera tag? Do they represent an organization? Is the individual they are shooting aware their image or voice is being recorded? Where are they camping? — and tell a Black Rock Ranger or report the issue to Media Mecca (10:30 & Inner Circle).
Third, in concert with our principle of Decommodification, Burning Man takes a strong stance against any images, video, or audio from the event being used in any type of commercial manner. You can’t use Black Rock City as a backdrop for a music video or a fictional film. You can’t use Black Rock City for a product promotion, for any kind of commercial, or for a fashion shoot. Not even if you’re from VOGUE. Seriously. Next to violating the privacy and other rights of participants, nothing is as degrading to the future of our city and culture as using Burning Man to sell something, and we stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation.
Does this mean we don’t want you to share your pictures from Burning Man? Absolutely not! The media that comes from Burning Man is one of the greatest gifts we have to give the world, and it’s one of the best ways to bring the inspiration of the playa back to our (other) homes. If you wish to contribute to the Creative Commons through photo sites like Flickr, please be sure to select the appropriate license. The correct license to use is ‘Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike 3.0 Creative Commons’ license. This ensures protection of your artistic rights as well as the rights of other participants and the Burning Man event itself.
Media Mecca and the Burning Man Press Team exist as resources to support creative storytelling and as a home for the vast network of photographers, videographers, writers, journalists and artists that have all shared their perspectives on the Burning Man experience. In a city that exists for only a week, where every last thing is either burned, dismantled or packed out, the images and stories we collect along the way are a powerful way for us to celebrate our history and culture, and they play a major part in how we can create a substantial and lasting impression in the world.