While we were on playa this year, a certain restaurant chain decided to launch an advertisement clearly designed to go viral specifically by leveraging the creative efforts of Black Rock City’s citizens — in order to hawk sandwich-shaped products.
As creative and funny as it was (we had a good laugh, we’ll admit), clever unfortunately doesn’t trump our commitment to protecting our community from commercial exploitation. We’ve been fielding anguished calls and emails from participants and horrified artists whose creations were used in the video without permission, a number of whom who have issued take-down requests of their own accord. We can laugh at ourselves. But we’re not laughing when a corporation exploits the artwork of others under the guise of poking fun at our event.
The shameless flouting of our Decommodification Principle to hawk sandwich coupons is equally unfortunate (and unnecessary to the purported “parody”). The Burning Man name, and the designs of the Man and Black Rock City, are core affinity symbols of our culture that we protect precisely so they won’t be used in ad campaigns. So as we always do in these situations, we sent a letter to the company to explain Decommodification and ask that they remove the Man and our other intellectual property from their advertising. We hope they’ll quickly comply, as most companies do when they realize how antithetical this sort of commercialism is to our culture. (We’re dismayed they haven’t taken any action yet — but of course they’re trying to collect every last page view.)
Thank you to those who brought this to our attention. Given the increasing number of people (and we use that term generously) who can’t resist the temptation to exploit our growing community by using symbols and imagery of the event to promote their products and services, we appreciate when you help us find them. If you encounter another instance that doesn’t smell quite right, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
So while we appreciate the creativity, we sure do wish it wasn’t attached to a commercial product.