Decommodification, Incorporated

The Burning Man Project made a long-awaited big announcement this week:

It’s been a long time coming: we’re excited to announce that Burning Man achieved an historic milestone in January with the successful transition of the 24-year-old organization to a non-profit organization! The process has taken nearly three years, and now more than ever we’re positioned to support the global cultivation of art and community based on the 10 Principles.

“After 24 years of tending our garden in the desert, we now have the means to cultivate its culture worldwide,” said founder Larry Harvey. “Sometimes things just pop and this is one of those moments.”

In the late 1990s the founders needed to form a corporation to run the event and opted to create a Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Black Rock City LLC — because it made the best sense at the time. But an LLC is not designed to meet the needs of our growing culture and it wouldn’t survive beyond the founders’ lifetime. Our mission has always been to serve the community, and a non-profit public benefit corporation is the most socially responsible option to ensure and protect the future of Burning Man.

The non-profit Burning Man Project was created in August 2011 and received its 501(c)3 status in May 2012. On December 27, 2013, the Burning Man Project Board of Directors voted to make Black Rock City LLC a subsidiary and is now the sole shareholder of the LLC, which will continue to manage the event in the desert. The transition became official January 1, 2014

The Burning Man Project is now the sole shareholder of Black Rock City, LLC. What is Black Rock City, LLC? A for-profit business that puts on the annual Burning Man event.

Marian Goodell shared her future hopes with the Huffington Post:

“We’ll be taking the momentum people were getting from their experience at Burning Man and working to manifest it in our own communities,” Marian Goodell, who will oversee the new nonprofit, told The Huffington Post. “There are opportunities for people to do what they’ve learned at Burning Man outside Burning Man. We’ll help them tap into each other.”

Goodell said she hopes the larger nonprofit will become a portal that connects regional Burning Man groups around the globe, providing funding for certain projects and receiving funding from others. “We’ll be a philosophical center and a network node, connecting individuals and groups to one another,” she said.

“In our more exciting moments, any one of us who has been to Burning Man thinks it can change the world,” she added. “It brings people hope, and it makes people less afraid of others. It transcends religion and politics. It’s worth it to expose others to what we’ve learned from this cultural experience.”

I’m still struggling to understand how BMOrg, a quarter century into their hundred-year plan, can take this rave and ritual effigy burn and use it to change the world and bring people hope. BMOrg inventing a new vehicle tax? The world didn’t even blink. Taking a UFO to Vegas? Probably not going to be #1 on TripAdvisor any time soon. The Founders, Speaking? Bear giving TEDx talks? Billionaires  handing out pancakes? I mean, I get what Marco Cochrane is trying to do, and I see how the message he wants his art to convey inspires people and transcends religion and politics. That’s how Burners can change the world. Lightning in a Bottle are teaching a message of empowerment through the Lucent Temple of Consciousness. Burning Man has a “Hug Deli”, and camps where you can be water-boarded or tasered. Envision Festival in Costa Rica is showcasing local talent as well as international acts. Burning Man don’t support the music industry in any way, and are still hating on sound camps – 300 Watts and 90 decibels is all you’re allowed in the city. That’s about the same as a lawnmower, why are we driving hundreds of miles away from civilization just to live in Suburbia? Why is nudity good, and music bad?

Larry Harvey added some further insights in the comments on the official blog:

The truth is that the Burning Man Project now employs all but one of the former owners of Black Rock City LLC.

This means we have surrendered all rights of ownership. Formerly, as owners of a private business, my partners and I possessed the unhindered right to do whatever we chose to do with revenues generated by our enterprise, but this is no longer the case. As employees of the new non-profit, we are now subject to federal standards regarding private inurement. And this means, among other things, that we have no right to pocket profits garnered by our former business, which, given the event’s potential for growth, could amount to a great deal of money. Furthermore, any future salaries we receive as employees of the Burning Man Project must be commensurate with compensation received by employees who work for similar non-profits. To put this even more bluntly: if we expect anything further once this transfer is completed, we must sing for our supper; our days as capitalists will be over.

I know there are some persons, who chose to think that we were retiring, but the former owners of Burning Man have never asserted this. The truth, in fact, is that some of us have nearly doubled our workload. We will continue to sit on the executive board that directs the Burning Man event. This alone could be considered to be a full-time occupation. But we will do this as volunteers without compensation, and it is our intention, once the complex task of fully integrating these two operations is completed, to transfer the running of the Burning Man event into the capable hands of those employees we have worked with all these years. But even as we strive to do this, my colleagues and I also intend to serve the Project as leaders of a movement that will carry Burning Man’s culture out into the world— and it is clear to me that this will be as time consuming and as challenging as all that came before it.

burning man design markSo wait – does this mean the Founders have stepped back and given everything to charity? Well, not quite. It sounds nice, and Larry calls it “the truth”, but unfortunately, it ain’t “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.

The value in this conglomerate of for-profit and tax-exempt businesses is in its intangible assets. The brands and trademarks, which are key to future licensing revenues. And who owns the IP – the Intellectual Property? Well, that is another company again – a privately held company formed in 2010 called Decommodification, LLC.

Larry Harvey serves as the Managing Member and has interests in other corporate entities including Gerlach Holdings LLCBlack Rock City LLC and two more corporations. Larry’s past corporate affiliations include Burning Man 97, LLCBurning Man 98, LLC .

Harley Dubois is the Managing Member of Decommodification LLC. Harley’s additional corporate interests includeGerlach Holdings LLCBlack Rock City LLC .

The Managing Member of Decommodification LLC is Marian Goodell. . Marian has other corporate interests including Burning Man ProjectGerlach Holdings LLC .

The registered agent for the company is Brooke Oliver. Also known as a statutory or resident agent, the registered agent is responsible for receiving legal notifications regarding court summons, lawsuits, and other legal actions involving the corporate entity.

Larry Harvey, Marian Goodell, and former aerobics instructor Harley Dubois are the public officers of this secretive company, which appears to be totally independent from the Burning Man Project. Black Rock City, LLC pays royalties to Decommodification, LLC to license their trademarks.

From the new ticket terms and conditions:

“I acknowledge that the name “Burning Man” is a trademark owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and that BRC LLC has been given the sole right to license and enforce that trademark, and that all of Burning Man’s logos, trademarks or other intellectual property are owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and I understand that these two organizations control all rights regarding the licensing and reproduction of any imagery recorded at the Event. I agree that I will not use the mark “Burning Man,” the logos of Decommodification LLC or BRC LLC, or the likeness, drawings or representations of the Man or of the Black Rock City map, or any other trademark of Decommodification LLR or BRC”

money burningThis means that control of the Burning Man brand, and the lucrative revenue streams attached to that year round, is even more firmly in the hands of the founders than before. It is a convenient vehicle for them to pull money out of the party, without the Burners and volunteer workers who contribute to it knowing what’s really going on.

Who gets the $150k from Vogue photo shoots? Is this a tax deduction for Vogue? It doesn’t look that way. It looks like that’s “brand licensing”, not “event”, which means they’d be dealing with the brand owners: Decommodification, LLC. Who sends out the IP-related lawsuits? Looks like that’s Decommodification – they’ve already been involved in a Federal Court trademark dispute.

BMOrg say:

The immediate logistical priority is to migrate aspects of the [Black Rock City] LLC operations into the Burning Man Project and rework the internal business processes so they are adaptable to the regulations that govern non-profits. As we will attain success and experience challenges in specific areas we will endeavor to communicate what’s going on as often and as transparently as possible.

The Burning Man Project is a public benefit organization, and our intention is to build the network of connectivity through relationships with individuals, organizations and government entities. We have great ambitions for what we sometimes refer to at HQ as a “100 year plan.” We’re a little over a quarter century into that plan… and our best days are still ahead.

cash cowThe Burning Man Project is a public benefit organization, but Decommodification, LLC is not. It’s a privately held cash cow. Some indication of what “Decommodification” means to the owners can be found in the trademarks they’ve filed:

Decommodification, LLC owns the trademarks “Burning Man”, “Decommodification”, and “Burning Man Brew” – yes, a beer. Ah, the irony!

Here’s a more detailed list of the trademarks they own:

Burning Man Design Mark: Organizing community festivals featuring art exhibits; conducting entertainment exhibitions in the nature of art festivals, entertainment in the nature of art festivals . First used 4/8/1995. Transferred from Michael Mikel.

Burning Man Brew: Beer; Beer, ale, lager, stout and porter; Brewed malt-based alcoholic beverage in the nature of a beer. First used in commerce 8/11/2012. Transferred from Erin Hawn (Washington DC).

Decommodification: Commercial administration and quality control over the exploitation and licensing of intellectual property by others. 

Decommodification, LLC licenses the trademarks to Black Rock City, LLC – a for-profit subsidiary of the Burning Man Project. The licensing terms are not known, in the 2012 Afterburn Report there are 3 expense items that might cover this payment:

BLM and other usage fees

$1,868,033

Fees, Agency permits, royalties, Damages & Losses

$57,075

Tax and Licenses (state and federal, payroll, misc)

$154,994

Note that the Afterburn Reports are not a public set of accounts. It is an unaudited list of expenses, we have to take their word for it that they’re complete and accurate – remember, they “forgot to count” $1.3 million a couple of years back. The Afterburns only apply to the event, and other revenue captured through licensing, royalties, and merchandise is not accounted for at all in these reports.

Bottom line? Non-profits don’t have to pay any tax, but they can’t distribute profits to the owners. However, they can pay license fees to private companies that the owners control. Decommodification, LLC seems to have much less transparency than Black Rock City, LLC ever did, or than the Burning Man Project will be required to have as a registered tax-exempt non-profit. Bait-n-switch indeed.

74 comments on “Decommodification, Incorporated

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  10. The BLM and other usage fees went way up in 2013 from 1.8 to 4.5 million. I wonder if that’s related to licensing or if the BLM just wants in on the massive profits.

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  22. Perhaps the biggest damage from the commodification and exploitation of Burning Man is that other “art festivals” will have to fight and triangulate against what the Burn, was, is and will become. It is not longer a clean slate. “Like Burning Man” now has baggage – some good, but for those that look beyond the fluff pieces, a lot that is bad. Without the purity of the original event (how can you do that when 50% of the people have never been before?), the perception will be that it is what it has devolved into.

    In my estimation, the rising star is Figment – many cities, many people, no tickets, clearly worthy of contributions for all to get benefit from. And look a the difference in community attitude! Jackson, MS, loves having figment!! No movement to exploit and control. If we are lucky, Figment will soon eclipse Burning Man as the “art festival” model. “Burning Man” will mean a bunch of Gen-Y kids getting drunk and debaucherous in the desert.

    …The only problem is that us Baby Boomers will have to find other places to get drunk and debaucherous. Luckily those options are there, and at a fraction of the cost of the money and licensing homage paid to the House of Larry. Besides, who wants to get drunk and debaucherous with a bunch of novices? :P

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    • lol good point. I would rather party with crusty grizzled veteran Burners, who of course have been to MANY events as well as the annual Burning Man desert rave, than a bunch of Millenials who have been to Coachella and EDC, and heard about “molly” from Miley Cyrus.

      All those art cars are still there, people need to throw more art car-oriented events. If you build it, they will come…

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  23. PS– is there anything you LIKE about Burning Man? If not, why do you keep putting so much energy into this? Maybe you should do a blog about why you even care about all this. It’s tough to tell from your posts.

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    • Hmmm. Black Rock City, LLC. Decommodification, LLC. Gerlach Holdings, LLC. Black Rock City Properties, LLC. The 501(c)3 non-profit entities named Black Rock Arts Foundation and The Burning Man Project. And others. To me, this corporate conglomeration is called “BMOrg”. To you, it’s called “Burning Man”. You probably work for them.

      To me, Burning Man is a party thrown by the Burners. The mix of starry-eyed volunteers and long-term paid participants that make up BMOrg are the corporate structure that takes the money, pays the cops and insurance, and rents the port-a-potties.

      That’s why my site is called “burners.me” not “BMOrg.me”. I believe the party I’ve been going to has been thrown for me by the Burners who paid for it. Not the bureaucrat clowns who are bent on convincing us that we’re raving and saving the world at the same time, just so long as only they get all the money and own all the rights forever.

      Fuck yer day!

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  24. One quick note– the Regionals are not “franchisees”, they do not pay any royalties to Burning Man (any of its various organizational and/or corporate entities).

    Whenever the idea of licensing or franchising has come up in any of the discussions I’ve participated in over the years, (including among various Regional organizers privately, and also Burning Man Regional Summits (now “Global Leadership Conferences”) that I’ve attended, it has been summarily dismissed.

    When BMOrg started putting more energy into the Regionals, and providing some organizational support (which was significantly helpful, btw), they put it out there that they sort of expected the Regionals to make donations to the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF), but this was never solidified into a requirement. In general this idea has been met by the Regionals with variations of “meh”– most feel that they are already donating plenty of time to making the Regional events happen (which are all non-profit, and generally about including the community with low ticket prices and less onerous participation requirements). Many of the people who organize the Regionals are also heavily involved with various projects at Burning Man– so, in short, everyone feels like they’re already donating enough to the Borg.

    To me, the Regionals really are the embodiment of the “Burning Man principles”– they were generally formed more or less spontaneously by festival participants who returned home from the festival and said “that was so fun let’s do it here”, and were generally assembled by volunteers who wanted to embody those ideals in their local creations. The Regionals are also the solution to what to do if you don’t like what’s going on in BRC. If you’ve had enough of the various Borg antics and subterfuges, don’t go to Burning Man, for heaven’s sake! Go participate in a smaller community where your voice can be heard better. Be the change you’d like to see instead of whining about the decisions made by a bunch of people who started working on “your” event almost 30 years ago. There are lots of Regionals to choose from, each with its own unique flavor. As Burning Man gets bigger, more expensive and wanders further away from the ideas that gave it life and energy, the Regionals are going to fill in more of that picture. Burning Man? You shoulda been there in the ‘aughts. Go check out a Regional if you want to see what it’s really all about.

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    • MadMaxine,

      Burner culture is awesome, the event is awesome, contributing Burners are awesome, many regionals, and other festivals, thrown by the Burner community, are awesome. You, and your contributions, are awesome. But, hearting nearly all does not force us to heart the few, upon the top, becoming minted with huge cash payouts towards their pockets, upon the labours of the awesome Burner community.

      You penned, ‘One quick note– the Regionals are not “franchisees”, they do not pay any royalties to Burning Man (any of its various organizational and/or corporate entities). Whenever the idea of licensing or franchising has come up in any of the discussions I’ve participated in over the years, (including among various Regional organizers privately, and also Burning Man Regional Summits (now “Global Leadership Conferences”) that I’ve attended, it has been summarily dismissed’

      View Marian stating the decision hasn’t yet been made how much to pay in licensing fees.by the regionals. Their for profit Decommodification LLC owns the Burning Man(TM) trademarks, which are to be licensed. The new bylaws, of the Project, make cash payments towards for profit corporations owned by Larry and crew, hidden from Burners contributing cash, labour, and art.

      I penned the post of the Great BMOrg Cash Out of 2010 – 2016, $28 Million to $45 Million, Est. Please view this post. I do not desire it to be true, but, it is upon their numbers, their statements, and their corporate records. Click on the links within the post. I desire any person to prove any number or statement within the post to be incorrect, but, no other person has proved any number or statement to be incorrect. If you are able to prove any number or statement to be incorrect, upon supporting proof, do so, comment upon that post.

      In addendum, view my comments on the post of Temple Debacle Highlights Hypocricy. Click on the link of the blylaws of the Project, and query yourself why are they doing such grand efforts of their conflicts of interest, and payments of cash towards themselves, to be hidden from Burners? It is a non profit, is it not? How Burnerly are their actions?

      I do not desire to emotionally believe this either, but it is fully sourced, upon their numbers, their statements, and their corporate records.

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      • As current events have shown, disinformation and outright lies are the coinage of society today. Some, perhaps enough, are happy with those lies. In the case of the NSA, they have the political leverage to say literally whatever they want, in the name of fighting terrorism. But for many of us, we have become sensitized to being told the truth is wrong, and that we should instead believe in what people tell us.

        This seems apparent here, where the BOrg is busy promoting propaganda that the faithful believe, like no payments from the regionals, when that is clearly not the case. These statements ring back to the Ellsburg Papers and Watergate, when our government-belief virginity was lost, and we learned that the “good guys” can willfully lie to us if only to manage our perceptions.

        So we are being sold the BM Project as the wonderful non-profit culmination of the Burn philosophy and experience. We love and enjoy what it is to be there, or at least for me, almost 5 years ago when thefts were rare and we were a helpful community enjoying each other as much as anything.

        But just like hearing Nixon say, “I am not a crook,” there are many of us who don’t buy that. Those that do believe will tell us to “love it or leave it,” but that is not the choice. The Burn experience is an idea that is larger than any copyright or IP claims. The stone soup philosophy is hundreds of years old, and applies to many of us in our everyday lives by what we give back to our colleagues and society. Do you want to “believe” in Paris Hilton or Nikolai Tesla? Many of us will carry on, a little wiser and more careful on whose stone soup we contribute to, but that is life.

        This Burn thing resonates with many of us, but not for the “big party” reasons. And that is the miscalculation of the BOrg – or rather the cynical approach they have taken. They want it to be The Big Party in the Desert, drawing on as much free labor and capital as they can from those that choose to distance themselves from the facts and have the cash to burn. Just as well, because with this year likely having a newbie for every veteran, it cannot be the helpful family I first experienced over ten years ago.

        And for unintended consequences, interesting that California is allowing this sort of a non-profit setup. If this is all legal, then it casts a shadow on ALL California non-profits. If the BOrg can do this, what other CA non-profits have done it? You can expect both closer public scrutiny and some loss of credibility of CA non-profits, as well as any number of philanthropists who will decide to simply look elsewhere for eligible institutions. A new saying will be, “Non-profit? You mean like the Burning Man Project? (Snicker).”

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  30. (YAWWWN)… dude, you must be absolute last person to recognize that it’s just a big party out in the desert.
    There’s an air of entitlement running through your writings, as if you believe you have some sort of stake in this event, and you’re owed something.

    You’re not. You didn’t start it. You didn’t build in to what it is today. Aside from prancing around out there in a pretty pink tutu being all extra nice to people, and bitching & moaning online, what have you contributed?

    Like it or not, the people at the top own Burning Man, it’s theirs to do with as they please, and they’re entitled to profit from it. Since this is a capitalist enterprise, nobody, and I mean Nobody should be giving them money or labor unless it’s in exchange for fair value. The non-profit and all their lip service is just a big ruse to trick the suckers. They don’t need anybody’s money, but why should they pay if they can trick someone else into paying for them?

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  31. Face reality people: )*( <- That symbol which we are now not supposed to use, has as much influence over a culture as, say… sfx/Live Nation, or Ultra, or Insomniac. To continue an event at this scale requires some insider dealing and management of large amounts of cash. I like how they have structured this and if they want to sell a beer to fund my art then fucking go for it guys. Licensing has been around for ever and I see BMorg doing this to protect the pARTy and get it operating within federal guidelines just like the other big promoters. Smart management of chaos is smart.

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    • Problem is that only on 2-3% of revenues actually go to art grant projects. A joke considering the amount spent by participants to bring their own art/MV/theme camps.

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    • The reality the BOrg has to face is that the Burn is NOTHING without the contributions, participation and good will from the True Burners. Sorry, I guess they know that, which is why they are playing the non-profit card. They are desperately trying to cash in on the sly while keeping the cash cow alive through disinformation. As the True Burners wise up and get tired of supplying bikes and art for the newbies to consume, and go elsewhere, the Burn is not going to disappear. It will simply evolve in a direction that is less and less what it was, and more and more a crass, insensitive money game. What it is going to turn into will not be pretty, but in a sardonic way it should be entertaining to watch – from a distance.

      And you know what, it makes you REALLY appreciate the other stone soup events that respect those who make it happen.

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  32. There’s another one: the Gerlach properties have been transferred from Black Rock City LLC to Black Rock City Properties LLC.

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    • Much obliged, anile02, for the knowledge of the Gerlach properties have been transferred from Black Rock City LLC to Black Rock City Properties LLC. I had presumed the former BRC LLC share owners had gained all cash from the BRC LLC ledger for the sale of BRC LLC to the Project, but, in addendum, they also gained the properties. So, beside the BRC LLC subsidiary to the Project, by all appearances, paying Decommodification LLC for the use of the name and trademarks, BRC LLC will be paying BRC Properties LLC to rent the DPW work ranch and other properties in Gerlach. Decommodification LLC and BRC Properties are owned by former shareholders of BRC LLC.

      Do 501(c)3 rules allow the board of a subsidiary company to pay large fees to another company of which they, themselves, are the owners? Or, perchance, is this what is remarked as, ‘certain processes need to be adjusted to comply with 501(c)3 regulations’? One query, that I pray tell is not the reality, is whom are the owners of the new organization HQ nearby the Mission District?

      My maths are the six former BRC LLC share owners shared over $4,000,000 in salaries and benies from annums 2010 through 2013 as senior staff, ‘gifted’ the BRC LLC to the Project, except sans cash on the ledger, and now, as we learn, sans property, which, to be of precision, is ‘gifting’ it, while gaining the value of the ‘gift’ as tax deductions, will gain payments from the BRC LLC for utilization of the trademarks and utilization of the properties, and, will gain a another very large payout for the sale of Decommodification LLC to the Project in 2016, and, uncertain obligations upon the future from the BRC LLC or from the Project to the former BRC LLC share owners. All for coordinating and protecting a crowd sourced party that many thousands of amazing Burners pour their souls and finances into throwing each annum.

      The maths are solely estimations upon knowledge available towards the common public. Burners do not have knowledge in certainty. The afterburn reports ledgered payroll as $3,200,000 in 2009 and $7,200,000 in 2010 with solely 30 employees to move to their Market Street HQ in early 2011, sfpublicpress, and six senior staff LLC members to pay, with temporary contract workers, such as DPW, and consultants ledgered on separate lines at most of one million apiece. The six year transference plan to the Project, announced to the public in early 2011, with transference of the event to the Project at the three year mark, and transference of the name and trademarks at the six year mark, SFBG. Recent requests for donations to the Project gave the impression of little cash upon the ledger. The Decommodification LLC is upon the present terms and conditions of the tickets and corporatewiki, and BRC Properties LLC is upon coporatewiki.

      BURNING MAN PROJECT BOARD MEMBERS – we HEART the amazing event, we HEART amazing contributing Burners and amazing Burner culture, we HEART almost all. The recent transference of the event to your Project was purposed to, under your ministry, return the event to the Burning Man community. Please do so by including and respecting many Burner voices, as is common in towns and communities, towards the guidance of the event and towards the decisions that are to be made. Please.

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    • anile02 Black Rock City Properties is not upon corporatewiki. Link to confirm? Gerlach Holdings LLC, perchance?

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      • Volumes of information upon tracing links of Decommodification LLC, Black Rock City LLC, Gerlach Holdings LLC, and Black Rock City Properties LLC. Recent changes. Recent addendums. Disagreement from Corporatewiki to NV Sec of State upon whether Marion Goodell remains a member of BRC LLC. In addendum, The Burning Man Project has filed documents in CA and real estate documents have been filed. Perchance, may someone else take a few days, gain the public documents, and fact find?

        I heart Danger Ranger even more, his name does not appear in this rubbish, very honourable.

        I do not desire to make the following queries, it pains me tremendously. I am not desirous of doing so –

        With Larry Harvey, Marion Goodell, and Harley Dubois being managing members of Decommodification LLC, the holder of the Burning Man name and associated trademarks, and payments presumably occurring from, or directed by, Black Rock City LLC to Decommodification LLC, and Decommodifiaction LLC to be sold to the 501(3) Burning Man Project at the completion of the six year cash out, presumably for millions, should proper ministry by the Burning Man Project board, by California 501(c)3 laws and regulations, dictate the removal of Larry, Marion, and Harley from the board and operations roles of the Black Rock City LLC? If the Burning Man Project board does not retain sufficient autonomy to perform this action, how could the Burning Man Project board possibly retain sufficient autonomy to prevent Larry, Marion, and Harley from influencing Black Rock City LLC employees upon issues of payments to Decommodification LLC, or upon issues of Black Rock City LLC defense of Decommodification LLC owned trademarks, thusly increasing their value?

        How does proper ministry of a California 501(c)3 nonprofit permit Larry and Marion to travel the world as Burning Man ambassadors, increasing the value of the Burning Man name and trademarks owned by their Decommodification LLC, which is to be bought by the Burning Man Project, while being members, and presumably employees, of the Burning Man Project 501(c)3? Is not the Burning Man Project purposed to increase the Burning Man brand awareness, to bring Burning Man to the world? Larry may issue stated disclosures of his talks and interviews being personal, not by his role upon the Burning Man Project, but there appears no arms length separation, or, whichever similar legal words are utilized, people nevertheless, believe him of the Black Rock City LLC and the Burning Man Project.

        Perchance, comments by people knowledgeable of the legal requirements of California 501(c)3 non-profit corporations of these matters?

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  33. Pingback: Dr Devious’s Gypsy Circus and Sideshow Carnival | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  34. Interesting that the recent complaints of the 2011-2013 rise in bike and art thefts seems to mirror the greed expressed by the BOrg founding fathers. I thought the LLC/501(c)3 thing was unethical in representing the event as non-profit. This licensing thing is positively nefarious.

    Still, the non-profit facade is interesting. They seem to be getting lots of interest, and presumably donations to the non-profit. As I posted on the BOrg blog, I wonder how much of that will be siphoned off to pay off debt to the founders from the transfer.

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    • Thanks Nomad. It’s a web of multiple non-profit facades and private LLCs, and there are certainly all kinds of ethical questions swirling around this Wild West festival. I can’t think of any other charities that make such extensive use of propaganda techniques, let alone consult with game theorists, or correct judges about the law in the media…(well, maybe EFF, but the law is their raison d’etre)

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      • also…art thefts? I’ve heard of some art car thefts recently, not art itself though. Care to elaborate? Bike thefts are up so much that they’re almost a given, you’re a fool if you don’t lock your bike these days. Interesting point in the context of our times, #occupy Wall Street, #burn Wall Street, #shutupabout Wall Street…

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      • Not a big deal in the art thefts. You may have heard some of the more sensational ones, but a guy whom I camped with in ’06-’08 usually put up a palm tree with lights and some additional art decorations – same each year. It was his trademark. Last year his art was stolen. Never returned. His FB comment to me today, “Originally it was ‘No Spectators, Participants Only.’ Now it is Pay for a ticket and watch.”

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      • Sorry. Wrong art. Here he is describing what was stolen:

        “Basically it was a large photo of dogs lined up at a tree taking a leak. It was on a stake and was lighted with a solar light. I had it placed by the bathrooms by my camp area. It walked off by Sunday AM. I guess it was being enjoyed since someone wanted it, buy now I don’t have it to take the LA Bequinox event March 20-23. Kind of makes me lose interest in making more artwork. I do believe if I go back I will make a pillory for bike and art thieves etc.”

        Not only a veteran Burner, but a veteran.

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    • Ponder my maths in a comment upon Dr Devious’s Gypsy Circus and Sideshow Carnival. My maths are the Project or BRC LLC do not have debt owed to the six former BRC LLC owners, thusly, as they have priorly stated, gifting the BRC LLC to the Project, except, sans cash on the ledger. There is no knowable certainty. What might be your ponderings upon the maths?

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      • my thoughts are your maths makes sense logically, we’re all shooting in the dark trying to see the big picture behind the selective information releases. It’s a big black hole, with lots of grey areas at the edges. You could well be right about the salaries – I haven’t heard of any BMOrg staffers getting paid big bucks in the last couple of years. One of the huge unknowns is “retained earnings” – assuming that the event has been profitable for a decade or more, where has that money gone/ The previous LLC did not support the founders cashing out, it was capped at $20k. They’ve had to structure some shenanigans to work around that.

        The “6 year pay out” comes from Scribes interviews and stories, I have no reason to doubt it, but I also have no confirmed information about the details. When Burning Man started there were 3 owners; when the LLC started, a different organization owned the IP. They were obviously thinking about these types of issues for a long time. http://cultureofburningman.tribe.net/thread/56f42d6a-016e-4052-b4af-7fdc16572e40

        One thing we don’t know, that I put out there just as speculation: are there silent partners behind this? Who funded the “second man”, when the first man was “accidentally” chopped into pieces (“murdered”) in 1990? The “latte carpenters”
        ? http://books.google.com/books?id=799JDtofMpEC&pg=PT38&lpg=PT38&dq=burning+man+chopped+up+baker+beach&source=bl&ots=c5KrCzfBDE&sig=a0_lWBMPT23ciYXoDmCN_xkhvC0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ixUYU7GHH476oAT55IGQDQ&ved=0CGEQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=burning%20man%20chopped%20up%20baker%20beach&f=false

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      • To do math, you need numbers. Where have numbers been published?

        All I know is that recently I helped a friend evaluate an LLC for a possible friendly buyout. The LLC was loaded with loans and debt obligations. They were dancing around the numbers about what they wanted paid off until I insisted on a balance sheet to base the buyout offer. That shut them up. They had so much debt, the company, on the books, had no net value, yet they wanted a higher price based on the value that my friend could make it have if he pulled it out of the nose dive. Given the structure, an LLC is incredibly easy to load up with debt obligations to the members, as well as third parties, that can be manipulated until you ask for an audited balance sheet.

        So much of the griping and grief we give could be put to rest if they told us what was up – finances, car passes, etc. Instead, all we get is spin causing speculation. Hiding information is a red flag for me, a big red flag when they claim to be altruistic non-profit. The truth shall set you free… or bury you if you are Madoff.

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  35. Much obliged, again, burnersxxx. A copy and paste of a comment upon ajJenks find of Decommodification LLC in the discussion Upon Dr Devious’s Gypsy Circus and Sideshow Carnival. It appears the plan is to sell Decommodification LLC to the Burning Man Project at the end of 2016 towards becoming even further minted.
    ===

    Perchance, may the following be the intentions towards Decomodification LLC?

    2011/4/5, scribe, SFBG – ‘Yet Harvey and the other board members, such as Michael Mikel and Marian Goodell, insist that the board plays an important role in shepherding the event and the culture that has grown up around it, which is why they plan on waiting three years to turn control of the event over to the new nonprofit, the Burning Man Project, and another three years after that until they liquidate their ownership of the name and associated trademarks and are paid for their value’

    Perchance, could the vessel that holds ownership of the name and associated trademarks, Decommodification LLC, be the big payoff over the next several annums, when the sale of the name and associated trademarks to the to the Burning Man Project is completed in late 2016? Is Decommodification LLC to be sold in totality to the Project, or are the name and associated trademarks to be sold from Decommodification LLC? Perchance, could Burning Man LLC, an owned subsidiary of the Project, be transferring large sums of cash to Decommodification LLC each annum for utilization of the of the name and associated trademarks? Considering BRC LLC is presently owned by the Project, and Decommodification LLC is presently owned by, at minimum, three of the six former owners of BRC LLC, what are your maths?

    Perchance, might this be the rationale of BRC LLC having zeal towards their ministering of the name and associated trademarks, the gaining of future cash?

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    • thanks to you and AJJenks for digging this stuff out. It definitely seems that D-Borg is a vehicle for the cash out. From a corporate point of view, this seems like a clever setup, and the owners have got some good advice on how to structure their affairs as they collect their millions. I have no problem with that: it’s the idea that “this is not about money” and “we’re saving the world” that I call bullshit on.
      If you were the founders of BM, a quarter century in, looking forward to the future, how would you make money? The party can grow bigger, but only so much. Licensing is unlimited in scaleability, and it’s already been happening. License the brand to all the Regionals, they pay a royalty, they can even pay it to Black Rock City LLC who invisibly pass it on straight to Decommodification, LLC under the terms of their (secret) license.

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      • In the BOrg blog, Poo Bear kept harping about why I was so concerned about the founders cashing in. You nailed it: “it’s the idea that ‘this is not about money’ and ‘we’re saving the world’ that I call bullshit on.” I am sure Donald Trump does many times worse every day. The difference is that The Donald does not try to sell us that he is some wonderful humanitarian organization so people will work for him for free. This is not only a stone soup exercise, but a Tom Sawyer white picket fence story.

        Right now, I feel more motivated to go wash some cars in the Bose parking lot, or buy an overpriced drink at Trump Tower, rather than help the BOrg prolong their charade. (But don’t worry, I have plans to do a highly interactive theme camp at another stone soup event this summer.)

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    • In addendum, burnersxxx, could the agreement between BRC LLC and Decommodification LLC be of a nearly zero cost utilization of the names and trademarks in prior years in consideration for BRC LLC’s defense of the names and trademarks, and the annual payments to begin in 2014, timed to the sale of BRC LLC to the Burning Man Project?

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      • Maybe. There could be some sort of debt between Decommodification and BRC – an “earn-out”. There also could be a debt like this between BRC and the Founders. We don’t see a balance sheet so we can only speculate about their liabilities. We know that Larry has loaned money to their charitable subsidiaries in the past.

        Perhaps I’m assuming “the glass is half empty”: the reason to set up this secretive new company that owns all the IP, and not talk about it in their proud announcements of saving the world, is because it’s a money-making scheme. Perhaps I should take the “glass is half full” approach, that Decommodification won’t charge BRC or anyone else more than a token amount for use of their IP, thus maximizing the non-profit’s ability to donate and do good in the world. I base my viewpoint on years of studying their actions, and the gap between the spin and the execution. If we start seeing millions of dollars in gifting, instead of a couple of hundred grand split across 45 charities, then maybe I’ll change my tune.

        It appears that there is no obligation for Decommodification LLC to report on the money it makes from commodifying our culture. Transferring valuable intellectual property to another corporation could trigger a taxable event, if the property was valued at fair market value at the time of transfer. Donating the proceeeds from these gains to a non-profit would reduce the tax liability, while still keeping the money “in the family”.

        I like your previous comments about the size of the Project Board, and also agree with you that it’s strange that out of 17 people, some in personal relationships with each other, there’s not really any Burner representation.

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      • A few are upon the board, but not the majority. Whom is the former BRC LLC member no longer on the board of the Project? I pray tell it’s not Danger Ranger, he appeared highly honourable in all his labors. It would be most excellent if they requested of a long time Burner to the board, Andie Grace would be an excellent nominee from the Burner community.

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      • burnersxxx, again, much obliged. I was referencing the comment by Larry Harvey, under the Burning Man blog post this week, stating one of the six former BRC LLC owners is recently no longer upon the Burning Man Project board.

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