Here come the Trumpet Strumpets – burn the van!

According to the Jackedrabbit, no-one could have predicted the popularity of Burning Man, and a recent Dr-Seuss themed viral video created by a Burner is the main culprit. Yet another excuse that doesn’t make a whole heap of sense, particularly in light of this TV show from years ago.

Now I’m no fan of family sitcoms, however I do recognize the meth-making science teacher from Breaking Bad in this. With a slightly nicer RV! Something tells me this thing which aired on September 30, 2005 would have got way more eyeballs than the YouTube clip.

My understanding is that Malcolm in the Middle was a top rating show; top-rating shows don’t even use pictures of people or snippets of music without obtaining consent in writing in the form of a release. Burning Man are very protective of their trademark, which is for live events involving music. The depiction of a live music and cultural event called “Burning Man” in this show is such a clear infringement of this trademark, that I don’t think it would be possible for the producers of Malcolm in the Middle to create this show without some kind of release or approval from Burning Man.

So why do BMorg point the finger at Burners, instead of in the mirror at themselves? Surely a primetime TV show on a major network, which gets repeated to death around the world from syndication, might have an impact on demand as well?

Malcolm in the Middle’s audience had dropped dramatically by its last season, probably because its viewers grew up. But it was still getting 3 times more viewers per episode than the Burner video. And who knows how many hundreds of millions around the world have seen the episode since it aired, in syndication, DVDs, Netflix, ShowBox etc. Why didn’t this translate into ticket chaos?  Since then ticket prices have tripled (which should be a negative factor on demand). Yet we saw no ticket chaos between 2006-2011. So what has changed, other than the introduction of their latest ticket lottery STEP system? Blaming it on a Burner made YouTube video is a bit of a stretch!

Is this episode a glimpse into the future of Burning Man, now that we have 50% newbies and only 25% of Burners with tickets? If so the future looks like Hippies 1 Ravers 0 , plus an infusion of Middle America letting their hair down for the first time since the 60’s.

Anyway, I found the episode most amusing, hope you enjoy it too.

[someone has posted a download link for this episode elsewhere on the Web, for those of you who can’t get Vimeo]

7 comments on “Here come the Trumpet Strumpets – burn the van!

  1. A tv show could do nothing to infringe trademark rights unless viewers would have been reasonably confused into believing the source (producer or distributor) of the show was the same entity that owns the trademark. It would take a lot of drugs for someone to think that of Malcolm in the Middle & Burning Man… And no, no copyrights could have been infringed either.

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    • It reminds me of the movie The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. It’s about Google, set at Google, and looks like it was filmed on Google’s campus. Could they have done all of that without ever once seeking permission from Google? I doubt it.

      There’s copyright infringement, and there’s cultural appropriation. This culture holds “Decommodification” as an important principle. When Burning Man is discussed on every tv show, it has become commodified. My point in this article is not “Malcolm in the Middle is bad”, it’s “the lottery system fucked with Burners, not a Dr Seuss video”. Which seems to be supported by the vote, 87.5% of the people who read this agree with me.

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      • “It’s about Google, set at Google, and looks like it was filmed on Google’s campus. Could they have done all of that without ever once seeking permission from Google?” The main challenge would be this part: “looks like it was filmed on Google’s campus,” something that has nothing to do with trademark, but rather trespassing. In other words, they would need Google’s permission because there’s no way a full scale Hollywood production could shoot in the middle of a big tech company without substantially disrupting their business and getting kicked out.

        Now, if they set it at a fake, Google looking set, does the fact that “It’s about Google, set at Google,” require permission? Absolutely not. Escape from Tomorrow is about Disney, set in Disney, filmed in Disney. Is Disney suing over trademark infringement? No, because like anybody with even a passing understanding of the law knows that isn’t trademark infringement. Google any movie about any famous university. The vast majority of them didn’t have permission or cooperation, because even the most inexperienced IP lawyer knows they don’t need it. The few movies that DO get cooperation from the schools don’t do it because they have to, they do it because they want inside access to some famous building, or they want a well-known profession or dean to make a cameo.

        Also, you’re conflating copyright and trademark, two very different animals. Trademark is, as Thomas pointed out, all about identifying source. If I make a movie all about my trip to Disney, that’s not trademark infringement because it doesn’t claim to be by Disney. Now, if I made a movie, and put “Produced and Distributed by Walt Disney Studios” on it, that WOULD be trademark infringement because I’m trying to trick people into thinking they’re buying from Disney.

        Copyright is about creating an original work and protecting it.

        Also, I think you completely missed the point of Thomas’s reply. He never accused you of saying “Malcolm in the Middle is bad.” All he was doing was pointing out that your understanding of what is and isn’t trademark infringement is completely wrong. Which seems to be supported by the Lanham Act, 37 C.F.R. Part 2, and all the subsequent amendments to 15 U.S.C. sections 1050+, i.e., the text that actually dictates what trademark law is in the United States.

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