No Leg To Stand On?

Just found this interesting tit-bit on Burning Man’s Wikipedia page. Does anyone know any more about this case? Or similar ones? If so, please share: this could be a big deal for the global Burner community. I’ve tried to find the Facebook page mentioned, there are a couple of candidates but I can’t be sure. If anyone knows Harlequin who wrote this, please put us in touch, we would like to hear more about this story:

Legality of Burning Man photography restrictions

no photosI can confirm that Burning Man has absolutely no legal right to prohibit your personal photographs, or even professional photographs (as the judge explained to my lawyer and I), from being used in absolutely any way you desire. Be they of drug use or nudity either. I’ve received a “cease and desist” notice emailed to me (i’m Australian) from their company towards my Facebook photography profile and later photography website profile. Responding to these was as easy as “please go screw yourselves” (much to my lawyers later chagrin). Upon receiving a seemingly legal notification through the post, again demanding a cease and desist or legal action would be taken, I talked to my lawyer who initiated “harassment stoppage” officially towards their organisation. Despite this, we receive a few further notices, all which my lawyer replied with his own replies to stop sending me these notifications. WE then initiated legal proceedings towards them, seeking a court ordered stop to their harassment. Hilariously they still thought they had any ground to stand on and kept at it.

After 8 months, they were pretty much straight away found by the judge to have no legal basis for their complaints and had no legal right to tell me what to do with my private property and (now) copyrighted material as the land was still public, even though rented for a festival, and my buying a ticket was in NO WAY A LEGAL CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT TO TERMS OF SERVICE. This is according to both US and Australian law.

Those in my photographs were willingly photographed, nude and all, and had knowingly consented. She stated that being at the festival was no grounds to have ownership over the photographs either, as it was still a public space and photography was allowed. We are currently chasing up their company for court costs, which they’ve now mysteriously stopped replying to emails for.

no-photoI’d just like to let everyone here know that if you want to take photographs at Burning Man, either as a private or professional photography, you’re completely within your rights to keep any and all photographs you take and use them in any way you wish. Including for profit or for public dissemination. If someone could include this information in the articles section on photography restrictions, id would be great. – 19 September 2013 (UTC) Harlequin

We wonder if this is the same Australian Harlequin mentioned in Jackedrabbit in February 2013:


Harlequin writes:

“After several years of dreaming and planning, hoping and wishing, in 2012 four Australians managed to travel to the other side of the planet to find themselves in Black Rock City.

It was an amazing experience that will never be forgotten. This is what happened – (nb: video is slightly NSFW)

With love, from The Australians.

ps we’re happy to report that we all got tickets for 2013, and we will be back with an even bigger group this year. See you on the playa :)”

6 comments on “No Leg To Stand On?

  1. Without any actual case info, this information is useless. Which is unfortunate, because photography rights is an important issue. Did Harlequin hire a US lawyer to file a case in CA or NV? Australian lawyers can’t practice law here. If Harlequin and an Australian attorney sued Burning Man or BRC LLC in Australia (and not CA or NV) then the decision is not case law in US and changes nothing. Additionally suing for harassment by BM or BRC LLC is not the same as suing for image rights use. A decision by an Australian judge changes nothing for the rest of us.

    I’d be totally interested to read any case in any court in the US involving Burning Man and image use rights

  2. they add this ‘we own your photographs’ shit to the ticket contract and play the ‘ITS FOR YOUR PRIVACY’ card, which appeals to the ‘rape culture’ minded west coast set.. and makes it hard for anyone to argue against it in the community…… but really it isnt as much about stopping nude pictures as much as it is a way for them to exert control over the imagery in general.

    they make money off of the images. they get to control the way they appear, whether it be through the media project vetting/selection process or through cease and desist bullshit

    and through it all this art festival (which seems to claim rights to a lot of the art out there already) gets to bullshit their way out of any critique of their anti-freedom anti-art stance by saying ‘it is to keep pervs out!’

    whos gonna argue against that one?! ……… some people have tried, most of them shouted down by assholes who seem to think they have a legal right to not be photographed

    most of those who tried to stand up for our 1st amendment right to photograph and use as one wishes have been shouted down by people who cant tell the difference between a “private event” and “privacy” …….and we’re all the worse off for it.

    something tells me if the california culture wasn’t so strong at burning man their bullshit camera policy, and the excuse they use to justify it, would have received a hearty ‘fuck off’ a long time ago.

    • California has tried arguing

      The main issue is they take in $30 million a year, and have shown that they are 1000x more likely to spend that money suing Burners than funding public art works or spreading Burner culture. Despite being a charity, they would gladly spend their money on lawsuits trying to own everyone’s art – which, as you’ve pointed out, they earn lucrative royalties from.
      They can get legislation changed to suit them in the US, and are so arrogant that they have their PR people lecturing judges about the law in the media. It’s great to hear that the world’s legal systems aren’t buying their bullshit.

      • The overt things the the BOrg does to trample the rights of Burners is amazing. I wonder if it will all soon collapse under the weight, or mutate into a bizarre negative of its stated goals. Obviously their efforts to have mostly virgins attend suggests they are hoping for the latter. How soon until they become Larry’s Burner Land, with the larger Larry’s Burner World in Florida, and Euro-Larry in France?

  3. Would be nice to see this in a US court, though the BOrg has deep enough pockets to get a blessing from SCOTUS. I suspect they would get support from the same Justices who subordinate women’s rights to arbitrary religious dogma.

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