BMan Accused Of Censorship

Free-speech advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation accuse the Burning Man Organization of censorship because of a terms and conditions policy regarding the use of Burner photos or video posted to MySpace, Facebook or other third-party sites.

The organization claims BMan reps are bending the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in order to control how personal photos and video taken at the clothing-optional, anti-establishment art festival, held at Nevada’s Black Rock Desert every summer, can be used on the Internet.

An EFF commentary, “Snatching Rights On The Playa,” by Corynne McSherry, accuses the BMO of being sneaky and, well, acting like “The Man.”

“Those Terms and Conditions include a remarkable bit of legal slight-of-hand: soon as ‘any third party displays or disseminates’ your photos or videos in a manner that the Burning Man Organization (BMO) doesn’t like, those photos or video become the property of the BMO,” McSherry writes.

McSherry also claims the policy strips ticketholders of their “trademark fair use rights” and forbids the use of Burning Man trademarks on any Web site – not even to label personal photos on an individual’s Facebook or Twitter account, for example.

“We do empathize with the BMO’s desire to preserve the festival’s noncommercial character and to protect the privacy interests of ticketholders,” McSherry writes. “But by granting itself ownership of your creative works and forbidding fair uses of its trademarks, BMO is using the ‘fine print’ to give itself the power of fast and easy online censorship.”

However, BMO spokeswoman Andie Grace said in her official blog that the EFF’s portrayal of the situation is hardly as black and white as it appears.

Ticketholders are attending a private event and the policy allows the BMO to protect them from “being featured as photographic subjects in ways that might violate their privacy or inhibit free expression” while there.

Specifically, the policy prevents anyone who is photographed or videotaped from a distance without their knowledge from ending up as subjects for porn sites, for example, which has happened in the past, or a commercial venture without permission.

“The EFF seems to think that anyone attending any event somehow has an absolute right to take photographs and then do whatever they want with those images … without any effective restriction or manner of enforcement,” Grace wrote. “While we believe that such rights do make sense for any of us taking pictures in purely public places, this is not true in the private space of Burning Man.”