Updated Terms and Conditions for 2011

artistry meets artistry (image by Brad Hetland)
artistry meets artistry (image by Brad Hetland)

[This post is part of our ongoing Digital Rights blog series.]

January 19th is the big day — tickets go on sale for Burning Man 2011, Rites of Passage!

As you take your place in the electronic queue and wait your turn to click for your ticket to paradise, we invite you to pay special attention to something you might otherwise not notice: Burning Man, after spending much of 2010 working with volunteers from Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has updated our Terms and Conditions relating to the use of cameras at the event.

The Terms and Conditions is the standard ration of legal language that governs the agreement between you and event organizers when you use your ticket to Burning Man. The language about image use was the subject of much discussion back in 2009, when the EFF first took Burning Man to task over the language restricting image use contained in the T&C. (If you haven’t yet seen our original response to that blog post, it’s worth reading too.) The EFF – and you – talked, and since we already knew that the time for evolution had come, we listened.

In our subsequent meetings with photographers, filmmakers, participants, the EFF and Creative Commons, and other interested minds, it became clear that the time was ripe to update the Terms and Conditions — not only to update existing policies regarding the personal use of imagery online (specifically accommodating uses like Facebook, photo sharing apps, and the like) but to actually make the language more “human readable” and better describe why Burning Man is such an unusual zone for photography in the first place.

We were called upon to be more specific about our use of copyright law, to explain more clearly why our community is so invested in controlling image use at Burning Man, and to give participants more information on what to expect: what kinds of things we pursue and enforce against, how we enact copyright controls over unauthorized uses, and what you can do with your own personal images.

We were also crucially tasked to limit ourselves (or perhaps more importantly, future Burning Man assignees or successors down the line) to using copyright to enforce unwanted publications, and to specifically state that we won’t use that control to gain from anyone’s images commercially. All these good suggestions were woven into the update to the T&C that is excerpted below.

Some of these changes are significant. For the first time, Burning Man accepts the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike as a licensing option for images and video from the event, so long as they do not contain nudity. Other updates are more nuanced – many of the adjustments and additions are just about making the policies simpler to understand.

Below, we’ve copied the relevant text you’ll see when you buy your ticket, and italicized/highlighted what’s new or updated for 2011. Whether you carry a camera in Black Rock City or not, these policies and practices affect all participants — we hope the work that’s gone into the updates helps create better understanding for all denizens of BRC, and a clearer and saner platform for for participants whose “radical self-expression” is conducted with a camera.

Use of Images

Burning Man’s explanation regarding its policy on photographs and videos: Cameras are welcomed at Burning Man, where they have long been an important part of Black Rock City’s storytelling history. We have worked to encourage the sharing of our community’s identity and cultural information through photography, videography, and film. We also seek to protect that selfsame culture from unchecked commercialization or commodification, and to moderate an environment where participants’ rights to privacy, free expression, and creative immediacy are given additional consideration by our community. Entrance to the event requires acceptance of certain terms and conditions for the use of photographic imagery, whether still or video. You are asked to identify whether you will use your images for personal use or a public distribution, and to adhere to certain guidelines thereof. These guidelines and agreements are aimed at protecting Black Rock City’s inhabitants and its cultural values; they may seem unusual at first glance, but our goal is to preserve the principle of decommodification within the Burning Man event, and to encourage and observe respect for personal privacy and freedom of expression. We primarily monitor dissemination of photographs to ensure that photographs from Burning Man are not used for advertising or commercial purposes, and that they do not infringe on participants’ rights to privacy.

I UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THAT NO USE OF IMAGES, FILM, OR VIDEO OBTAINED AT THE EVENT MAY BE MADE WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM BURNING MAN, OTHER THAN PERSONAL USE. I understand that I have no rights to make any non-personal use of any image, film, or video footage obtained at the event, and that I cannot sell, transfer, or give the footage or completed film or video to any other party, except for personal use, and I agree to inform anyone to whom I give any footage, film, or video that it can only be used for personal use. Use in any advertisement of images from Burning Man, or of drawings or representations of the Burning Man sculpture, or of the phrase “Burning Man” in any advertisement or in the title of any publication designed for dissemination to the public (other than blog posts), is prohibited without prior written consent of Burning Man.

“Personal use” of images, film or video means to share with friends and family, to display on personal websites (as long as your website does not sell any other product or service, and as long as your website does not purport or appear to be an official website of Burning Man or Black Rock City LLC), to display on photosharing websites, and to display at art exhibits or similar exhibits. Social networking sites such as Flickr and Facebook are deemed “personal use” only if the display of the images, film or video on these sites are not used for the promotion or distribution of images with the intent to publicly display them beyond one’s immediate network, and if one’s immediate network is not inordinately large.

I further assign to Burning Man a joint ownership in the copyright for images obtained at the event so that in the event any third party displays or disseminates any of my images in a manner not authorized by this agreement, 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. Burning Man agrees that it will not utilize this joint ownership to enter into any licensing agreements for the images.

6. I agree, 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, that: (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, except in accordance with the Creative Commons’s by-nc-sa license where the licensee agrees to use the image for non-commercial purposes and only for his or her personal use (as defined herein) (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/); and (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.

Burning Man’s statements regarding use of images:

Burning Man forbids the making of private profit from the documentation of nudity at the event when images are presented in a sexual context, and/or without the express written permission of subjects. If you have seen a violation or suspect a problem of this nature, please contact the Rangers and/or Media Mecca (on playa) or email ip@Burningman.com (year-round).

Burning Man requires written contracts with all parties interested in making a commercial enterprise out of their documentation of the event or distributing footage beyond personal friend/family networks. Visit http://www.burningman.com/press for more information on how to register for this permission. Such projects require Burning Man’s review prior to commercial distribution.

Burning Man’s community grows primarily by word of mouth. The organization does little to solicit attention from television or media companies about the Burning Man event, and does not seek to artificially grow the event itself by exposure through the mass media. Burning Man does continue to support the presence of the press, and to encourage the free expression of news reporters, storytellers, small groups documenting special projects, cultural or fine art photographers, and creative authors/researchers or academics looking at Burning Man from an anthropological perspective. Contact press@burningman.com.

The only Creative Commons license Burning Man approves for personal use licensing is Creative Commons BY NC SA license, Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/); however, only images that do _not_ contain human nudity may be licensed in this fashion. Be aware that the use of this license does not supersede these Terms of Use nor the responsibility of the photographer/videographer to obtain all necessary permissions from subjects and artists as appropriate. For full legal code see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode.

7. I acknowledge that the Burning Man name and logo are the property of the Burning Man organization, and I understand that the Burning Man organization controls all rights regarding the licensing and reproduction of any imagery recorded at the event. I agree that I will not use the mark or logo of Burning Man or likeness of the Man on any website (except for personal use, as described in Paragraph 5) or in any commercial manner, except for nominative or classic fair use. (For information about trademarks, copyright and fair use, please see: http://ilt.eff.org/index.php/Trademark:_General and http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/copyrightforlibrarians/Main_Page)

8. I acknowledge that people are using film, video and photographic cameras at the event, and that my image may be captured on film, video or photographs which may subsequently be displayed or disseminated without my consent or payment of compensation to me, and I release Burning Man from any liability due to such filming, photographing or dissemination.

9. I hereby appoint Burning Man as my representative to protect my intellectual property or privacy rights, recognizing that Burning Man has no obligation to take any such action. I understand that, in the event Burning Man files a lawsuit to takes action to protect my intellectual property or privacy rights pursuant to the appointment in this paragraph, and Burning Man has information that my specific intellectual property or privacy rights have been violated and also has information as to my identity and my contact information, Burning Man will make reasonable efforts to notify me of any such action by sending a communication to the contact information in Burning Man’s possession.

You can also visit and read the full text of the Terms and Conditions. We hope our readers (photographers, and everyone else!) will share your thoughts!

About the author: Andie Grace

Andie Grace

Andie Grace returned to the staff of Burning Man in 2019 as a producer of strategic storytelling content. During her original tenure at BMHQ from 2000-2013, she was a member of the Executive Committee, managed the Communications Department, and helped oversee the early development of the Regional Network. During her seven-year hiatus, she co-founded an indie film distribution label, an indie video game label, and a creative coworking hub in Silicon Valley, but ultimately her passion for Burning Man and its cultural future pulled her back to the staff of the Project. She lives with her family in Berkeley, California.

17 Comments on “Updated Terms and Conditions for 2011

  • Grego says:

    This is *much* better.  There will always be a conflict between general rules for public photography and rules for photography at Burning Man, but these terms and conditions go a long way toward minimizing such conflict and recognizing legitimate personal uses that have been occurring for decades.  Thank you for listening to the <a href="http://eff.org/">EFF</a&gt; and the event attendees.  See you on the playa!

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  • Mike Begley says:

    Thanks for these clarifications.  It's always good to have this spelled out in a manner that the lay person can understand, and for the org to clarify what it will and will not pursue.
    I do have one question that's immediately applicable to me, tho.  In addition to being a veteren burner, I run a small small business selling EL wire that could be considered fairly burner specific; probaly about 75% of my customers are purchasing EL wire for use at Burning Man.
    For the most part, and in the spirit of decommodification, I don't splatter my site with "Buy my stuff to use at Burning Man, yo!" language, but I do mention the festival by name in certain areas on my site, largely to clarify best-practice ot tips for use on the playa.  In particular, prior to Burning Man I have held a number of workshops where I've used language in the online notice such as "If you're building something for Burning Man, then consider taking this class to get the skills you need".
    I also have been sent a number of photographs by customers showing off their creations on the playa, for use in a gallery (which I haven't put up yet, but that's mainly my own laziness).  These photos aren't the main product photography on the site, but they are useful and fun and I like to give people the opportunity to show off their creations.
    It would be silly and require all sorts of painful linguistic gyrations to not mention Burning Man at all in the text of my site, and it would be a shame to not be able to show off people's creations in an appropriate manner.
    Would this sort of use be considered an infringement of the policy?  if so, what are ways that I can work with the organziation so that everyone's happy?

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  • Duane says:

    Kudos to all the folks who work really hard to resolve the complex issues that engulf this amazing gathering.  This stuff is hard to get right, but Burners start with striving to do the right thing by the community…a good model for resolving conflict in the default world.

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  • Franklin says:

    The explanation of the agreement says that  "Burning man accepts Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike as a licensing option for images…"  but the agreement makes it appear that such licensing is mandatory if an image is placed on a web site like Flickr or Facebook.  (See paragraph 6 of the agreement) Suppose the photographer wishes to be more restrictive than this kind of licensing would allow?   For example, I would not want my images to appear on another person's website, even with Attribution.

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  • Mike Hedge says:

    just to confirm this only applies to the 2011 Burning Man and this in no way changes the terms for 2010 or prior years. correct?


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  • Anonymous says:

    I’ve got an idea – how about you completely ignore photo/video use because you obviously can’t and never have actually controlled it in the first place and focus on things like not fucking us over every single year with ticket prices. You have no real reason to sell tickets in tiered pricing – it’s overly complicated and your system breaks EVERY YEAR. Pick ONE price and sell tickets at that price until sold out. Charge more at the gate because you can (not because you do more, provide more, etc) and keep charging your ridiculous price for shipping tickets (yeah, because it costs $12 to mail a letter) and we wont complain. Just use a system that doesn’t crash and fuck us all over (nearly all the people who were actually ready at 10am are screwed and were shoved to the back of the line – thanks alot for that by the way, glad to pay you $280 AGAIN because of your shitty payment system).

    To reiterate, there are a million things that you need to spend time on – pretending you’re the photo-cops shouldn’t even be on the list for all the good it does you. Stop pointing to the one “adult” video you shut down, it’s still out there as are plenty of others.

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  • the original copyright restrictions didnt make much sense so thanks for evolving BMORG. one question i have is how does this new policy apply to Flickr users who sell prints or other well known BM photographers who sell images on their personal websites?

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  • Andie Grace says:

    The sale of images will still require permission, as before. You don’t have to license your own images under the CC-BY-NC-SA, but we’re acknowledging that as a “baseline” for what can be approved without applying for additional permission. If a photo is placed on Facebook or Flickr, users should know they may already be giving up their right to prohibit others (including FB or Flickr) from sharing it freely, so the CC license can add additional prohibitions to keep your images from being used. If you don’t want them used without your permission even under the CC-BY-NC-SA, you’ll need to add additional licensing info accordingly.

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  • Andie Grace says:

    Also – to @MIke Begley – images should not used on commercial websites selling products or services. The use of the words “Burning Man” in certain contexts (descriptions, etc.) may be considered fair use. A good rule of thumb is never in a title, never to drive searches, but a description (“Perfect for Burning Man!”) is allowable. For more info, http://www.burningman.com/press/trademarks.html

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  • Matt Falconer says:

    I tried to read it and just fell into a day dream thinking about what I love about Burning Man. Sorry, I couldn’t pay attention. Want to hear about my day dream?

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  • Mike Begley says:

    Andie –
    thanks for the feedback. I’m pretty sure that I’m compliant to your rule of thumb then, but I’ll do a pass over the next week or so.


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  • whatever says:

    What does make me uncomfortable is that according to the Terms and Conditions of facebook, they own the rights to users’ photographs:

    “When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.”

    Not to mention that it’s not up to me to have my face or ass plastered on this Internet, if I’m in someone else’s photograph (even in the background). It’s not only about copyright laws, it’s about respect. After eight years on the playa, I’ve come to terms with this reality and tend only to say my piece to people taking photos when they are blatantly taking portraits without my permission, be I naked or not. Whatever, so my picture is out there, I’m over it.

    As a not-facebook user, I have no idea if I exist in that realm or not. I assume so, since most of my friends do use facebook, upload their photos from Burning Man, and have photos of us together. so, I guess my question becomes, will Burning Man represent those whose photos on facebook are used by facebook or another third party without consent?

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  • Paul Lewis says:

    I have yet to make it to burning man but it is at the top of my bucket list. It ***was** at the top. Reading this policy and all that it implies, this is not a freedom of expression event any longer. THIS IS BIG BUSINESS

    I can not put my disappointment into words. I can see restricting video (or trying) but not stills.

    You have lost the meaning of this whole celebration. I am sorry for you.

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  • Lars says:

    First off i understand where the policies come from,but there is always a but :)

    how you wanna control abuse, you run searches over the whole web, search all the photo sites like flickr and social media like facebook and google plus,

    then the next thing is as somebody already mentioned , the statements of facebook and google according the rights they gain when you post a picture on their media sites, so who is in control now and who owns the right to the picture…

    so its good to protect you , but its also pretty clear there is not much you can do besides the obvious missuse and i guess thats where this whole policy is geared for anyway…

    so in that sense good luck protecting your assets, in a world wide web thats like the wild west :)

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  • Frank NY says:

    I wonder why Burning Man management let someone to get away with murder in selling prints and books when they explicitly say they monitor all photographers’ material printed and digital.
    The guy “humanlightsuit” (no name mentioned) just thrown out of the Venice Art walk for illegal and strange activities, sells stuff for which Burn Man has all the rights. And he Blames Burning Man for it, and he will sell stuff anyway at the Venice Art Walk for “donation” toward his Burning Man 2012 project.
    And yet this happens.
    It defeats the whole sense of Burning Man and if they would really monitor him they could have more cash.
    I understand the lack of labor, but come on guys… this is so obvious.
    Check the blog on “media” under The Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man (book by Philippe Glade). This guys should be thrown out!

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