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Burning Man Responds To EFF's Criticism of Policy 210

Briden writes "Earlier this week, we discussed the EFF's criticism of the Burning Man Photo Policy. Burning Man has now responded at length on their own blog. Here's an excerpt: 'In fact, there are but two essential reasons we maintain these increased controls on behalf of our community: to protect our participants so that images that violate their privacy are not displayed, and to prevent companies from using Burning Man to sell products. We don't remove images from pages just because they criticize us (I've never been involved in taking down an image from an editorial blog criticizing Burning Man, and it's certainly not because there haven't been any!). We're also not at all interested [in] preventing participants from sharing their personal imagery or impressions of the event on third party sharing sites in a noncommercial manner, so long as they observe the concerns about privacy and commercialism. We're delighted to see people sharing videos, stories, and pictures on our official Facebook page, and we know that it, along with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. are representative of the way many of us share personal imagery in the digital age.'"
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Burning Man Responds To EFF's Criticism of Policy

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  • by yttrstein ( 891553 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:20AM (#29075373) Homepage
    I liked Burning Man a lot more when it was called "touring with the dead". Precisely the same amount of drugs, spectacle and enlightenment, except for about 300 bucks less per person.
  • Public Event (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:21AM (#29075375)

    Just how the heck can they claim privacy concerns for a public event in a public space? If people wish to do something in private I suggest that they do it alone in a place where only they can go.

  • It sucks anyway (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:24AM (#29075389) Homepage
    Let them own the pictures and everything else. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence should move on to another even tor start their own.
  • by impaledsunset ( 1337701 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:28AM (#29075413)

    But, but, but we are doing it for your privacy! We ask you to give us rights to your works, and give some of them up, _solely_ for your own good, don't you get it? We're thinking 'bout you! How can you acuse us like that?

    And, no, we're not lying, no... No, really!

  • There's tickets? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by savanik ( 1090193 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:30AM (#29075423)

    Since when did you have to buy tickets for Burning Man? I thought it was a counter-culture, anti-corporate, neo-society experiment out in the middle of nowhere that sounded like a really cool idea. Now they're saying that they're trying to 'keep it real' and prevent crass commercialism by... putting a highly restrictive EULA on the tickets they're selling for the event at anywhere from $280 to $450?

    For that matter, now they're saying they're building a community/city out in the desert. Since when do you get charged a fee for walking into a city?

    I was actually thinking about going to Burning Man this year. It sounds like I already missed the good years.

  • by Sir_Kurt ( 92864 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:39AM (#29075453)

    I have followed Burning Man for many years. I have not attended myself, so maybe I am not qualified to comment, but in the best Slashdot tradition......

    I have enjoyed hearing tales of Burning Man from my friends, and I find the images a videos facinating. However it is now clear that the organizers are interested in money, and by attempting to prevent others from capitalizing on the event, are positioning themselves to do the same.

    Like the famous funeral held in Haight-Ashbury in 1967 to protest commercialization of the movement, Burning Man should recognize that their creative cycle has come to the point where the appropriate thing to do is bring it all home and walk away.

    Burning Man, we knew ye well.


  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:42AM (#29075465)

    Or alternatively everyone could just show up like normal but without buying a ticket. How do you stop THAT many people in the middle of a desert?

  • by GrantRobertson ( 973370 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:02AM (#29075541) Homepage Journal

    If you have a rule written in a way that allows for broad range of interpretation, yet you claim that you only enforce within a narrow range, then it is incumbent on you to rewrite the rule to only cover that narrow range. Otherwise that rule or law can be selectively enforced or more harshly enforced later.

    Never trust a vague or partially enforced rule or law. They are quite often used against the citizenry or "community" later.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:10AM (#29075561)

    Remember when burning man was good?

    Burning man was never good.

  • by pha7boy ( 1242512 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:22AM (#29075611)
    hear hear. what they suggest makes sense (yes, privacy is important, and so is making sure they pictures are used in a manner consistent with the spirit of the event). But spell that out in the EULA don't use a hatchet job to get it done.
  • by Overunderrated ( 1518503 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:33AM (#29075637)
    That's faux-socialists for you. Everyone giving gifts to each other works out great, as long as there's a lot of money paid up front to create the temp economy. Real life doesn't operate for free, but get someone high enough and they think they're revolutionary.
  • Re:Public Event (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:33AM (#29075639)
    Bullshit. Your 'it is because I say so' argument fails. Outdoor events can be private. Try wandering onto a golf course during a PGA event and see how far you get. 'But it's outside!' you can yell while the police push your brainless ass into the back of the squad car.
  • Ah privacy ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lemming Mark ( 849014 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:39AM (#29075663) Homepage

    Seems like "Privacy" is the new go-to excuse for people who want to make unreasonable / unusual demands about photographs. We care about our attendees' privacy so much that we want to own pictures of them! Even if we didn't take them, we want to own the pictures of them - for their own protection! It's for your own good, move along now. I'm seeing a vague and ironic similarity with the shopping malls who CCTV your every move but claim personal photography is forbidden to protect their customers' privacy. Sure, we want to own pictures of everyone - but you can trust us! Somewhat unlike the shopping malls, I can believe that this is probably true of the Burning Man organisers - they may very well be trying to protect their attendees and have no ill intent.

    They may very well have good intentions. They want to restrict your freedom of expression but only in good ways! As creative people, though, if they want to prevent abuse of imagery from their event maybe they ought to have thought twice before giving themselves easily-abusable powers. Maybe they believe themselves pure enough and hard enough to corrupt from an organisational standpoint that this isn't a risk. They may also have a point in believing that a strength of the event is being somewhat "disconnected" from the usual freedom to take and display photographs. Maybe this is sufficient to justify these restrictions.

    At the end of the day though, their attendees are creative people and should, hopefully, be able to just Burning Man by their actions - what their policy is *and* how they choose to enforce it. I don't think they're being entirely reasonable but then I won't be going anyhow ;-)

  • Re:It sucks anyway (Score:3, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:48AM (#29075703)
    The whole time I was reading the response, I kept thinking, "If they need to police photographs just to keep the noncommercial environment, then it is time for Burning Man to just end and for something new to take its place."
  • Re:Public Event (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmdahler ( 1428601 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:57AM (#29075735)
    It's always fun on slashdot to see the IANAL-but-I-KNOW-I'm-right crowd come out of the woodwork on articles like this. No, he's not a moron - you are. BM is held on property that is leased for the event. That makes it private, you can't get in without a ticket, which does indeed hold you under a binding contract while you are on that property. The only way you could get around this legally would be to find a location that is not on the leased property from which you could view BM, and then take pictures there. Now, go back under your rock.
  • by Aurisor ( 932566 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @10:23AM (#29075839) Homepage

    I know. EULAs are evil. But, this is not your garden-variety EULA. This is an EULA expressly designed so chicks can feel comfortable *running around topless.*

    Can we just take a deep breath and stow the nerd-rage on this one?

  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @10:51AM (#29075951) Homepage
    Festivals dedicated to radical free expression (like Burning Man) are very different from music festivals.
  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:46AM (#29076249)

    Real life is free; it's humans who add a cover charge.

    That really depends on what you consider "free". In real life we evolved ways to free up people from the task of hunting/gathering for their own personal needs. Smaller and smaller groups of people were needed to supply food and materials for the entire community, which meant everybody else was free to do something to make their slice of the world better for the community. Thus, the modern world was born, and eventually grew into what it is today.

    That things may have gotten out of hand a little bit does not suggest in any way that devolving culture by 10,000 years is going to make life better. In fact, if you ever listen to archaeologists or read books about what things were like back then, it really sucked. Life was hard, most people died early. Convenience was a piece of flint chipped to the shape of a spear, which meant you might actually get that buffalo this time and be able to feed your family for the month.

    But in real life, apart from landlords and capitalists, food actually, literally, grows on trees. As does fuel for cooking and heating, and a wonderful building material called "wood". The sun shines for free; the photosynthesis that makes the oxygen you breathe is provided free of charge.

    You've got an odd idea of what living in nature is like, have you ever actually tried it? I know people who have, and it's no walk in the park, as you seem to suggest. Why the hell do you think we developed away from it?

    The fact is, all of you people who claim life would be better if we all just "got back to nature" are nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. You could do it now, as you say everything is free, so all you have to do is leave, find some place secluded, and live. But nobody from Burning Man, or any of these other "freedom" parties ever does, because nobody wants to give up the luxuries the modern world provides. It's really nothing more than an excuse to have a raucous party.

    Your idealism is faked.

  • Re:It sucks anyway (Score:3, Insightful)

    by skuzzlebutt ( 177224 ) <> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:49AM (#29076271) Homepage

    I've been thinking that since I first saw a documentary on BM about five years ago. My first thought was "how awesome, free-for-all art-fest!", but after a little research, having just watched an in-depth movie on how it started, etc, the ticket prices alone made it obvious that they had veered pretty hard off-course.

    And I don't buy into the "but we have to charge x to cover expenses" crap. It may be true, but if you are out-pricing 99% of the artists who would really add color and flavor to the event, then your mission is no longer facilitating a friendly space for art: you are facilitating an event, not much different than a curator or the manager of a conference center...and that's a big difference.

  • by desmondmonster ( 863068 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:53AM (#29076305) Homepage
    'spontaneously gathering' may work for a few thousand people for a couple years, but the cat's now out of the bag. if you want to throw technicalities at BLM, they can probably find a technicality to toss all the campers off the land. burning man gets away with it every year because it brings money into a depressed area, which requires coordination. if you want to relinquish all responsibility, you're opening yourself up to being controlled by other, outside influences. i think the tradeoff's worth it.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:21PM (#29076445) Homepage

    Suppose Disney did this. Which they could. Then they could squelch embarrassing videos like this one of the aftermath of a monorail crash. [] You can see guests trying to get the driver out of the wrecked monorail as the clueless Disney employees try to stop someone from photographing the crash.

    The problem is that Burning Man wants to censor videos at their absolute discretion. If they had a set of standards on what was acceptable, that would be reasonable, but, as is typical with EULA agreements, they overreached.

  • by martyros ( 588782 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:55PM (#29076643)
    You forgot, "Just look at our record; we've been doing this for a long time and never abused our rights. Furthermore, the minute we do, next years' attendance drops significantly, so we have a financial incentive not to abuse our power."
  • Re:Public Event (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @02:29PM (#29077353)

    You don't need to buy a ticket to drive along public roads and photograph what you can see with the naked eye...although of course, if you violate traffic laws you might "purchase" a ticket against your will....

    Look, I'm a photographer and I know what is and is not allowed in terms of image capture, copyright, and publication rights in the US. If you are standing on public property, you have the right to photograph just about anything you can see with your unaided vision (i.e., no long telephoto lenses or binoculars to peer into houses). The key is whether the subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy from where they are located and the context in which they are situated at that location. Buying a ticket from an event organizer who has leased the land for that event turns that land into private property for that event's duration, and therefore ALL activities fall under the purview of the organizers. You become their guest, which is why they can eject you from the event should you violate the terms of the contract you agreed to by purchasing the ticket in the first place.

    So to compare Google's Street View against Burning Man photo policy is comparing apples and oranges. One is about photos taken from public land, whereas the other is about photos taken at a private event. The organizer's policy is designed to prevent commercial use, which is absolutely their right to do. They could even have the right to prevent you from taking pictures at all while on their property, just like a shopping mall can say "No Photography Permitted."

    I'm not concerned about the legal issues surrounding photography @ Burning Man. I'm far more concerned about the issues surrounding photography of public landmarks from public property that is now being prevented by law enforcement under the guise of "anti-terror measures." That's right, photographers (basically anyone with a professional-looking camera) are being told they will be arrested and their equipment confiscated if they take photos of, say, the Sears Tower, or the Brooklyn Bridge. WTF is that? And much of the time, if you do a bit of digging, the real reason why this is happening is because the advent of high-quality digital imaging has now made it possible for amateurs to create artistically compelling images that compete with the "official" landmark images that are for sale. Why buy a poster or print if you can shoot your own? It's just another piece of security theater and illegal restriction under the guise of "protecting us from terror." That is something to be worried about.

  • Re:Public Event (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @03:53PM (#29078013)

    Google is photographing people's houses from public roads.
    This fits the definition of a location that is not on the private property from which you can view and take pictures.

  • Re:Public Event (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fooslacker ( 961470 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @05:41PM (#29078733)
    I have no doubt that those that are still attending it believe that and I'm sure that the general spirit is still there among a majority of participants. It was definitely about that when it started. But trust me, when they start worrying about who is using pictures for what and they're threatening people with legal talk and they're selling tickets and leasing property and buying insurance it's becoming about money. I'm sorry for your loss. I would suggest you move on and find the next grass roots version or if you still enjoy it then keep going until it changes to the point that you don't then find the next grass roots version. Either way change and commercialization is the way of the world and these are pretty good indicators it is coming to Burning Man. The good news is there will always be new things when creatives are involved.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.