Get Your Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ Today!

Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)

Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)

One of the best things about Burning Man culture is that its participants are also its creators. Burning Man is what its participants do and say and make about it — and that includes creations that reference Burning Man.

Burning Man is unique in the way it encourages participants to incorporate its logo and imagery — including the Man symbol and design, the names Burning Man and Black Rock City, and the shape of Black Rock City — into their creations and offerings to the community. We see these uses most frequently in the season leading up to the event, often as part of fundraising efforts for art projects, theme camps and products offered to Burners.

The challenge comes when those creations conflict with the 10 Principles, and it’s usually an issue related to Decommodification. We don’t support projects that turn Burning Man into a commodified product for sale. We do license the Burning Man identity for certain third-party projects, but we do so very carefully for projects that represent the best of Burning Man culture. An example of this is allowing the use of “Burning Man” in the title of a book of photographs from Black Rock City. But we don’t license Burning Man for use as a commodity. You’ll never see Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ available at your local BoxStore™. When a work crosses that line, we step in to protect the culture from misrepresentation and exploitation.

A recent example is the Burning Man Board Game. The developers reached out to us a year ago, and after extensive review, the developers were told they would not receive permission to use any of Burning Man’s legally protected intellectual property, including the Burning Man and Black Rock City names, the Man logo and the signature shape of the city.

Last month the game appeared as part of a Kickstarter campaign. While our fundraising policy allows the creation of crowd-funded campaigns that directly fund art, theme camps and mutant vehicles, the board game Kickstarter was being used to fund the creation of a product, with only a portion of revenue to be donated to theme camps or playa projects.

There’s an important distinction between using Burning Man’s IP in the appreciation gift one receives for making a donation (which is fine, as long as the guidelines are followed), versus in the product that is being crowdfunded itself. If we were to allow the use of our name and symbols in the product (in this case the board game), then it would open the door for other entrepreneurs to sell Burning Man merchandise under the guise of fundraising. This could set a dangerous precedent in terms of protecting our cultural integrity.

In the case of the board game, the campaign organizer stated the fundraising effort was designed to comport with the 10 Principles in that one portion of the donation would go toward the cost of producing the game and another portion would be donated as a gift to one of several high profile theme camps. However, in keeping with the Decommodification and Gifting Principles, we allow participants to use Burning Man’s intellectual property to fundraise directly for Black Rock City-bound projects, including specific artwork, theme camps, and mutant vehicles. Any other use requires special approval and a licensing agreement from the Burning Man organization.

The Burning Man board game is just one example a project that comes in conflict with the Principles. Others have included an individual selling jewelry with the Man symbol to raise funds for his camp, a high-end concierge service using the Burning Man name and logo to market their services, and companies offering to ship large quantities of their product to Black Rock City to give away for “free on playa” in return for the right to market the experience to the world.

In the vast majority of cases, these kinds of issues are resolved with a phone call. Only very rarely have we been forced to resort to more formal action.

Here’s the thing: We are truly inspired by the creativity of Burners — the range of ideas from our community continues to expand in impressive ways. And on the surface, many of these ideas sound great. But we take the responsibility of protecting Burning Man’s long term cultural integrity seriously, and we have to examine all of the possible outcomes and unintended impacts of a project.

Participants are welcome to gift items that incorporate the Man, the Black Rock City design, etc. to their donors. But that’s different from manufacturing a product at cost and selling it, which is not allowed. For more information about Burning Man’s approach to intellectual property, check out http://burningman.org/network/about-us/press-media/trademarks-images-faq/ on our website.

Remember: It’s not a gift if there’s a price tag attached to it.

About the author: Burning Man

Burning Man

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man's Communications Team.

28 Comments on “Get Your Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ Today!

  • Trex says:

    I can hear the collective groan of all the burners who had their ebay accounts closed because they included ‘…great for Burning Man’ in their products’ descriptions (et al).

    >We don’t support projects that turn Burning Man into a commodified product for sale.

    Oh, the irony.

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    • Mrax says:

      Actually, the use of “…great for Burning Man” does not cause any issues (as I learned from a member of the IP team). There’s a distinct difference between that and “Burning Man _________”, which might cause confusion about it being an official product. The other is just a statement.

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      • Trex says:

        You’re not allowed to use ‘Burning Man’ in any form of advertisement or promotion. It doesn’t matter how you use the term.

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      • Pantsless Santa, Esq. says:

        Mrax is right. If Ebay takes listings like that down, it’s doing so because it’s being overzealous/overcautious, and because it doesn’t want to spend the time trying to figure them out one at a time.

        You can use it in a clearly descriptive manner.

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  • Poorni says:

    So what happened with the game? It is unclear from this post.

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  • VIOLET says:

    too bad the board game people were so short sited. It could have been a really cool interactive art piece on the playa.

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    • JohanTheDomeGuy says:

      A great Lie: …. with only a portion of revenue to be donated to theme camps or playa projects. (The Burning Man Board Game).

      100% of the proceeds, after manufacturing cost (printing and special dice) + shipping, was donated back to Burning Man Theme Camps and Projects. Not a portion! It was a gift and a fun tool for camps to raise money. I was never interested in making $ on Bman IP. Just wanted to play and I followed the rules.

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      • roberto dobbisano says:

        Oh Johan, you are SO full of shit.

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      • Mackin says:

        “100% of the proceeds, after manufacturing cost (printing and special dice) + shipping, was donated back to Burning Man Theme Camps and Projects.”

        I could very well create a product, sell it, and use the money to buy myself clothes, decor, food and liquor for myself and my friends, use it at Burning Man, and be able to truthfully make the same claim.

        The problem with Domeguy’s argument is that of many arguments…someone decides they are right because it’s what they want, and having committed to being right, are willing to spend much more energy defending being right than to listen to other points.

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    • Pantsless Santa, Esq. says:

      You did not follow the rules. Even after checking with the Org you went ahead and made the game. Hubris.

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  • sam says:

    I told that guy this would happen when he started pimping his Kickstarter

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  • Cheryl says:

    wow violet!! I love the interactive game on the playa idea. … #brilliance

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    • Andrew Lau says:

      An interactive board game on the Playa sounds great in theory, but your game mechanics better be able to handle “playars” with short attention spans constantly coming into and out of the game constantly without ruining the experience for those who choose to stick it out.

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  • sdmedia says:

    For those asking about the game status, the kickstarter page shows this:

    The Burning Man Board Game (Canceled) is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable.

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  • Monalisajones says:

    I just want to know if 10 yards will be enough to cover my two pvc pieps for shade? plz help? (haha)

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  • the latent meme says:

    Could the author please address where the org selling posters on the website marketplace falls into this schema? I have such a bitter taste in my mouth when I see posters for sale as if it were concert memorabilia. It makes me feel like “i don’t it.”

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    • Will Chase says:

      Certainly. In order to maintain control over our trademarks, we have to use them in commerce. The (very small number of) things sold in our marketplace are what we consider culture-bearing items. Meaning, it’s a way for people to take a piece of the culture home with them to put on their wall, share with friends, and show their colors as it were. The videos and books in particular are good ways for people to share a slice of Burning Man culture with their family and friends.

      Personally, I love having posters from each year, as they evoke some amazing memories.

      For what it’s worth, items in our marketplace are priced to cover our costs, plus a tiny bit more to make it worth the effort, and that’s all.

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    • Rich says:

      Do what I say not what I do.

      Did they not teach you that at school?

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      • Tim says:

        Did you not read Will’s reply? I have experience with IP and trademark, and he’s absolutely right. You can’t just hold a trademark and not do anything commercial with it.

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      • DannyB says:

        The name is their property, of course they can do what they want. If you think they are being so unfair then you go and start something that becomes an damn awesome world wide phenomenon and you can show how its done. I think the BM org has done a pretty great job (not perfect) in keeping with the spirit the event started with.

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  • MrsFishkin says:

    Thanks for fighting the good fight.

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  • It’s fascinating to me that Voices of Burning Man receives the most comments when the subject is about money.

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  • Elgeebe says:

    We don’t support projects that turn Burning Man into a commodified product for sale…

    Then why are you allowing placement and the inclusion on massive, secluded, turn-key camps??

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  • burnersxxx says:

    A quick search for “burning man” on eBay : 6,994 items for sale; etsy: 26,050.

    But try to make something entertaining, light-hearted, and beyond BMOrg control as a non-profit camp fundraiser? Fuhgeddaboudit.

    Is this really about “preserving the integrity of the brand”? Why allow tens of thousands of merchants to profit, and attack Burners just trying to have fun? What is important here: profit? Fun? Power?

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    • Will Chase says:

      It really is about preserving the integrity of the Burning Man name, and what it represents. When our trademarks are being used on products without our permission, we defend them so that we can continue to prevent profiteers from selling Burning Man Beer (or insert product name here). Legally, we can’t do anything about ‘perfect for Burning Man!’ references in product marketing, nor would we particularly care to, because those don’t threaten the integrity of our name.

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