Does Burning Man Belong to Everyone?

Open source/public domain.

Burning Man belongs to everyone.

Burning Man is the sum of the efforts of the tens of thousands of people who have contributed to making Burning Man what it is.

The name Burning Man and all attendant trademarks, logos and trade dress do not belong to Larry Harvey alone or to Black Rock City LLC.

If they don’t belong to anyone, they belong to the public domain. If they are in the public domain, the event can still go on and the trademarks, logos and trade dress can still be used. But the event organizers don’t own those things and each and every one of the event participants are free to use these things as they want without permission or interference from the event organizers. There’s nothing to stop the party from being as big and wild as ever.

Some of you know this history, some don’t.

In 1986, Jerry James cobbled together an 8 foot tall human figure and burned it on Baker Beach with Larry Harvey. They got the idea after they had attended Baker Beach Solstice bonfires & art soirees hosted by Mary Grauberger in the early 80’s. Jerry James looked me and the Cacophony Society up in 1988 and asked for our help and by 1990 we were integrally involved in the Baker Beach party.

The Baker Beach parties were beach bonfire parties with little planned “participation” other than attendees picking up a rope to help raise the figure before torching. I recall on the Solstice of 1990 (the last and by far biggest event at Baker Beach) that the entire music presentation consisted of one rock/jazz drum kit ably commanded by Dean Gustafson (god bless him!) Cacophony dubbed the events Burning Man in 1989.

The Cacophony Society was conversant in organizing strange and intense events in dangerous and unusual locations. Once involved, Cacophony influence encouraged and inspired the event to attain much greater and more ambitious goals. The original event organizing at the Black Rock was easily 90% Cacophony members or alumni. My involvement was crucial to the survival.

Kevin Evans and I were planning a Cacophony Society event in the Black Rock Desert for late summer 1990. Earlier in June of that year we all helped out with the Baker Beach party. The police came and would not allow us to burn the figure. A small hand full of us helped Jerry James deconstruct (literally – OK?) the figure of the man and stored it at a lot Jerry had secured.

Unbeknownst to me and most everyone else, Jerry and Larry were in the middle of a very rancorous falling out at the time. Jerry, one of the most honorable and fair people I’ve known over the years withdrew from organizing the event. Michael Mikel had joined Cacophony recently and the two of us developed a fast friendship becoming defacto event organizing partners.

Cacophony events were not for profit at all and the early BM was anything but for profit. M2 (or “Danger Ranger as he became known) and I stepped into the breach after Jerry’s departure and became, along with Larry, the primary organizers of the rapidly expanding event.

By 1994 the three of us formalized our partnership into a business and became legal owners of BM when it became clear that we needed to do things like pay taxes since we had started selling tickets in an effort to finance the ever more ambitious event.
It’s difficult now looking back on those days to realize just how broke we were. All monies taken in by the event were spent immediately on expenses, supplies, transportation, etc.

Although then as now many people contributed much to the event often with no concern for money, M2 & I were putting so much time into the event that we were broke and starving. We needed some assurance that if the event ever got in the black that we would become paid organizers – it would “become our job.” Larry agreed. Two years later on the heels of the disastrous (for the organizers) 96 BM I resigned from active involvement in the event.

A more detailed account of the preceding story can be found in Brian Dougherty’s history of BM: “This is Burning Man” Little Brown Publishers.

In early 97 Larry, M2 and I formed “Paper Man LLC” in order to own the name Burning Man. From that year til 2005, Black Rock City L.L.C., (this entity comprised of M2, Larry and four others became the managing entity for the BM festival) paid Paper Man LLC the minimum amount required (around $800 a year) to pay PMLLC’s annual filing fee. M2 was the managing partner of PMLLC & handled the paper work.

Larry chose not to meet his obligations and convinced Black Rock LLC to default on it’s obligations to PMLLC in 2006. At that point M2 and Larry found themselves at loggerheads and secured legal council to duke it out. M2 filed an arbitration demand naming me and Larry a couple of months back.

Burning Man, since it’s inception has depended upon the gratis efforts of many. Since my leaving active organizing of the event in 1996, it has become a huge business generating more than 8 million dollars a year. Some people are paid quite well for their efforts. If the organizing core of the event believes, as they say quite clearly in their literature that the BM concept is a true movement, and has an opportunity to really make a difference in peoples lives and ideas around community, the arts, etc., then they shouldn’t have a problem releasing the protected trademarks Burning Man, Black Rock City, etc to the public domain where ANYONE can then BE Burning Man. Doing this will not impede their ability to manage and organize the event, sell tickets, pay themselves, and any artists, vendors and tradesmen as they choose using ticket sales receipts.

The only thing that would change is that NO ONE would be able to capitalize on “Burning Man” by licensing the name or selling it or using it as an advertising pitch. There is no other reason to retain these legal ownership titles other than to capitalize on their brand value at some later date.

I was defrauded by Larry and Michael’s actions. I hope they choose to do the right thing and give Burning Man to the people.

If they prove unwilling to do that, then I must insist that Larry and Michael honor their contract with me and honor the intent and letter of the law of our earlier agreements.


  1. Pingback: Laughing Squid » John Law Sues His Former Burning Man Partners
  2. Christain Radcliffe

    It has been a long time coming to this point. John Law, whom I know to be an honorable man, has neither received the credit due him or appropriate compensation for his efforts in organizing, planning and executing Burning Man. John Law and I started a company called Central Sign Service with the primary goal of supporting John in order for him to work on Burning Man part time. Later we added Mike 2 as a partner to keep him from starving too. We all built Burning Man.

    Its far too easy to forget the strong shoulders that the event was built on. I call on those current organizers of the event to repudiate all rights related to copywrite and trademark and place the same in public domain.

    Do the right thing Larry, it won’t kill you.

    Chris Radcliffe

  3. Curiouser

    But if the name vanishes into public domain can’t EVERYONE use it for advertising purposes? If somebody doesn’t own it and protect it, what’s to stop Coke from slapping the man on the side of a can? Couldn’t some porn company hire girls with tattoo and produce “Burners Gone Wild”?

    I understand the idea of wanting to share the man with the world, but by setting it free it seems you’re allowing it to be used by anybody regardless of the impact on the brand or the event itself.

  4. Brad Templeton

    Hmm. While not disagreeing with the view that the participants of Burning Man should not be tightly controlled on how they use the name, releasing a mark to the public domain is not quite so inconsequential an event. The term would, in theory, become generic. People could then sell anything and mark it Burning Man.

    Some such efforts you might wish to defend. You might find it OK if a regional or foreign burn wants to call itself “Burning Man Arizona” or “Burning Man Europe” with no need to ask permission or pay fees to the original.

    But people could also sell “Burning Man Girls Gone Wild” (not necessarily shot at burning man, just using the name to get attention) and Burning Man Cosmetics and a variety of other things.

    Trademark law often seems to us to mostly provide value to trademark owners. Its official purpose, however, is actually to protect the public from being confused when the public seeks a particular genuine or original item. A trademark like Toyota helps make money for Toyota, but also assures me that when I buy a car marked Toyota, it has come from the company we’ve come to trust.

    Should Burning Man vanish as a trademark, I could even create an art festival in another part of the Black Rock Desert at any time I could get a permit for it and call it Burning Man. I could sell “Burning Man Tickets” to my event as long as I didn’t overtly try to fool people into thinking it was the BRC LLC-run event.

    The result would probably be that this event would get a new name to distinguish it from the other Burning Mans and Burning Man-named products.

    This is a long way of saying there might be value to the community in keeping the name to only refer to that Labour day playa event, and not to other events which would be welcome to come up with their own names. At the same time, I expect your goal is that actual participants in original Burning Man not be blocked from using the name to refer to their activities related to it. That’s not trivial, you end up having to have somebody judge why the name’s being used, somebody not financially motivated by commercializing the name themselves.

    Problem there is you will get a raft of opinions on what they would like to see. Some have no problem with somebody selling “Burning Man Boots” which are actually boots to wear on the Playa. Others would be bothered by any such overt commercialization within the community. I’m not saying who is right, just that I know there would be differences of view.

  5. Pingback: Left In SF » Suing Man
  6. Thomas Terashima

    I would like to thank John Law for helping bring “that thing in the desert” to life.

    Anyone have more legal documents that we can peruse (and burn copies of in August/September)?

    Tom AKA “DoubleTee”

  7. Richard Lee

    I don’t want the name ‘Burning Man’ and ‘Black Rock City’ put in the public domain. I think it is important for someone in a trusted position to have some control over how those words are used, as otherwise they will be abused by profiteers seeking to capitalize on the name, event, and movement we have all created. I think there may be some question as to whether BRLLC or LH is the right steward, but I think the free for all and crass commercialization of the name that would result from no trademark protection would be far worse.

    I hope that the three of you work out your differences, and remember that there is a whole community out there that doesn’t need to be torn apart by this.

  8. StevePi

    Just curious – what happens when BM does go into the public domain? Does that mean that Disney can then open up a BM theme park at Epcot?

  9. billysirr

    John, I hope that this does not precipitate the end of the event that we know as Burning Man. I want you, Larry and M2 to find a way to resolve this so that everyone wins—because there will surely be many losers if you three can’t reach agreement. Good luck to all of you.

  10. Matthew Ebert

    The narrative seems to suggest that the “organizers” want to create a sideline merchandising business from the trademark logo and name of the event. I’ve always thought that would be a bit crass, considering all the propaganda about non-commodification. Protecting the logo and name was supposedly to keep them from being exploited by outside groups like pornographers and trinket peddlers. If the “organizers” were to develop and promote a product line, it would put them on the level of pornographers and trinket peddlers, to my view.

    But that assumes intent, about which I can only guess. I don’t think the “default” legal world parses the issues the way that we do– to own copyright is the only way to protect a “brand” from outside exploitation. The event has become a different sort of entity than it was, but its success is built on the foundation of what it was. While I respect the “organizers” for wanting to protect the image they project into the world, I would be dismayed if they started selling those damn disposable Bic (R) lighters with the Burning Man logo on them.

  11. Indeed.

    Well, considering I (an unemployed SF artist) had eBay auctions (my only source of income) taken down because I said some vintage clothes would be “great costumes for Burning Man” and was then read the riot act and threatened by eBay because Burning Man was a trademarked name, the likelihood of these capitalist assholes relinquishing that is about, um, none.

    But yeah! Good luck. I recently left SF after seeing the city change in ways I really could not stand. What Burning Man is now symbolizes a lot of that for me.

  12. dave d

    I was under the impression that the motivation for protecting the name was to prevent some of the worst exploitation of the event by crass elements like liquor companies, MTV and other entities that stand for the exact opposite of what burning man participants expect. I’ve received many gifts in the past from participants with the logo and name and assume that the LLC’s involved have no problem with this.
    But doesn’t the position you are advocating open the door for abuse?

  13. BAS

    After hearing about Burning Man for about 10 years (maybe more), I finally made it in 2006. And was sick the entire time (damn sinus infection!). I hope to go back at some point in the future, hopefully healthier and better prepared.

    I hope that you folks can settle this without too much bad blood. It would be a shame to lose something as interesting as BM.


  14. Jeffrey Gray

    Well said John. Good luck to you. It is shocking how rancorous this has become.

  15. Reverend Hotcakes

    You’re an admirable & honorable man, John.
    Glad to know you. Glad you’re around!
    Best of luck, friend.

  16. factoid

    My .02 – drop the suit. It’s serving no one. Frankly, the community needs the legal protection the copyright affords, and while we’d all like to believe that everything in and around Black Rock City is gifted, people who work full-time on logistics for making a slab of Nevada desert home, stage, gallery and canvas for 40,000 people deserve to make a living at it.

  17. Doug Rutley

    Well, I hope that your intent is to truly live to the ideals of Burning Man. I will be saddened to see Burning Man fall apart if this is nothing more than selfish self-interest, a lawsuit meant as a glancing blow due to a disagreement or a beef between friends, that has a ripple effect of ruining this event. In my judgement, it seems that sometimes ideals can become fundamentalism, and one can become blinded by following the letter of the law, and miss the big picture, and the nuances along the way. It is my want and wish that you all come to an agreement amicably, and we as a community can keep Burning Man safe from becoming a used up whore, and not have to listen to the demonic cackles of all of those who said, “See, I told you so, Burning Man was just a fad, it was only a minute before someone sold out and turned it into a corporate thing, see I told you so, everything you lived for regarding Burning Man was only a fantasy…” I stand here worried and concerned. Please be kind and remember the larger community.

  18. miz jewelz

    Page 9, Line 10 – should that be 1996?

    I’m putting on the popcorn; this should be interesting, John!

  19. howard fallon

    This is why conservatives rule the Earth & progressives are always losing: Progressives fight amongst themselves over issues that don’t really matter. What matters? STOPing George W. Bush before he kills again, global warming, massive economic inequities that result in tremendous social inequities, 50 million Americans without health care, homelessness, 2 billion people on the planet trying to survive on less than $2 US per day, etc. The list is infinite …

    We need to get to work not haggle over the one thing that sustains us all – Burning Man!

  20. First Time Burner

    If all else fails, another group of people can just start their own similar festival and just relinquish and retire the ENTIRE BM apparatus. Call it Fire Girl or something.

    I went to BM for the first time this year. It was a truly unique and wonderful experience.

    What I did not like, however, was all the talk that ‘it is so expensive to host this; the ticket prices don’t even cover the cost of the event, blah blah blah” It is refreshing to hear Mr. Law make reference to the millions that are being made each year. Frankly, I think it is a complete for-profit venture and that pretty much nullifies the event’s purpose.

    That said…. there are a lot of wise comments about tradmarking to protect aganst external exploitation. That’s very true. But there is a spiritual aspect to money and ‘ownership’ of anything. The INTENT of those acquiring and holding money and owning something absolutely dictates how the universe responds. I cite Mr. Craigs List as a PERFECT example of purity of purpose. And he’s doing just fine. Why? Cause he approaches money and ownership as a GIFT, not a legal right. Among other things.

    Good job, Mr. Law. Stand your ground. BM is far bigger a spiritual entity than the ‘owners’ could ever imagine. BM trumps them and their perceived rights of ownership.

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  22. Caeru

    Well this is interesting indeed for as I read down through the legal document there is reference to Mr. Law alleging being denied appropriate compensation for the value of the Burning Man trademarks and logos because the LLC failed to adequately protect them. Hmmm. It seems that this is another common corporate dustup over partnerships that aren’t “equal” and/or where one party feels he/she has been defrauded by another and in the end is all about the money. Thus the claim to wanting to “free” the BurningMan logos and trademarks seems disingenious as that would certainly end any value the partnership’s present or former members could claim for them. For the good of all and the BRC event itself it would be nice if bad blood could be buried, differences sorted out, legal bookkeeping adheared to, and everyone vow to make the world a better place for fellow living things. Heaven help the jury that gets to sort this out if it goes that far.

  23. Bwana (aka: Boggmann)


    Congratulations on your movement on this one, if people would live with honor there would be no need for this stuff, but without it there can be only silence or lawyers. Thanks for not being silent anymore in the face of this disrespect to us all. Contact if you need lawyers, %#*s or money.


    (aka: Boggmann in days of yore)

  24. D Wheeler

    Finally… You absolutely have my support, as well! The truth has to come out. This has gone on long enough…

  25. Toast

    “people who work full-time on logistics for making a slab of Nevada desert home, stage, gallery and canvas for 40,000 people deserve to make a living at it.”

    He isn’t saying that they shouldn’t. He’s saying that one person shouldn’t own it. Espically when so many give so much every year for free. At least that’s my take on it. Read the whole legal brief, it gives you a much better idea of what’s going on.

  26. Dan Glass

    96 was my first year out there, and a mystical event. It was a peak example of a way of living that many people had never considered, even if it’s something they’d been subconciously looking for. To build a spectacular and relevant life using resources like creativity, sweat, scraps, big balls, fearlessness, and friends – and not just money – it became something someone could do right now, for real, without waiting for things to be perfect. And it continues to change people’s lives. After all these years the density of the participation, the personal freedom, and the communal acceptance of risk in order to maintain that freedom has been diluted for sure, and beauracracy/policy sucks compared to person-to-person management of things, i.e. “Hey, what the fuck are you doing, you’ll kill somebody like that, do it over there, thanks” etc. But despite the infighting and divergent visions of whether it should have died young and beautiful or compromise a lot of freedoms in order to stay alive, it remains an amazing and important event. And it wouldn’t have existed in any form without you. I personally don’t think there is an intent to sell merchandise – the real intent may be to just tighten up the business and pare away other “burning entities” for the sake of future potential legal liability. Having a separate entity hold the keys to a trademark tends to make people nervous. It seems the real issue is that it represented, in way too insignificant a way, a payment for your contribution to the existence of the event. It’s a good idea for BRLLC to control the trademark and eliminate that legal weak spot, and protect the trademark from exploitation. It’s also a good idea, bad blood or not, for them to acknowledge that you were critcal to the creation of this thing, and pay you something decent for it.

  27. jacktrade


    Make the name free for everyone. I’ve never believed Burning Man should belong to the LLC. A concept and thing as powerful as Burning Man should belong to all. I fully support open sourcing the name.

    Kevin Mathieu

  28. Madmatt

    That’s quite a story. I usually try to ignore the frequently reported and begossiped infighting among Burning Man insiders and organizers. Who owns what, what the “core values” of Burning Man are, who gets the fat grants for their art piece, who profiteered by peddling their shit on Eplaya, etc. etc. etc.

    As long as all the constant fucking bickering doesn’t keep me from getting my burn on, they can all sue each other into oblivion.

  29. John

    Well. It’s been a good run. I see the points of all three individuals (little that I know), and I guess my biggest concern is the pimping of the name once it’s out there. I do think it sucks that Burners can’t use the name without permission, but I’ve always seen it as a means of keeping greedy paws off of the event. But, I guess if that’s the way it’s gotta go, then that’s the way it’s gotta go.

    Just so everyone is clear though… if it can legally happen, you probably will see “Girls Gone Wild Burning Man Style”, or some such thing, so no whining when it happens. Just sit back, and enjoy the ride.

  30. chainsaw

    Hey miz jewelz, I’ll bring some drinks. Should be fun to watch his next public art project.

  31. Lance Alexander


    The news of your law suit has brightened my day immeasurably. If I can help you in any way just let me know. Meanwhile, good luck… and give ’em hell!

  32. V

    this is brilliant!

    like controlling the name can stop partying well in the desert, let go! who cares about the brand? take ‘burning man’ back to a clean slate. start something new. pretend it’s 1994 all over again and no one has heard of burning man. out on the public domain, it can evolve or die!


  33. sad-dpw-junkie

    How about suing for a cease and desist. Then LH, M2 & JL can reform as a Worker Owned Co-Operative with a base and equal pay rate for everyone participating.

    With today’s technology they could create a completely transparent accounting system that displays ticket sales and event production costs in as close to real time as possible, viewable online by anyone, anywhere with internet access. Sure that’s a shit ton of work, but isn’t that what we specialize in?

    The internet could also be leveraged for governing the direction of the event ergo our “Movement”. A radical move (befitting a global movement) would expand upon the current leadership’s vision of consensus based management, by taking it broadband, allowing anyone buying a ticket in a given year to cast a vote for big expenditures or policy changes, etc. Everyone buying a ticket can cast a vote on what art grants are awarded, if there’s a salary increase or hourly increase, what departments get to eat at the staff commissary, and I know, it’s silly, right?

    HEY! How did I get in the middle of a movement! Can someone please tell me more about this movement? Is it, like, a BM type of movement BWAHHH-HA-HA-HA-HA!
    Get it! Bowel Movement? Burning Man, BM … it sounded funny at first.

  34. Big Cock

    It’s hard to imagine Burning Man belonging to everyone more than it already does. People live for it, die for it, get married because of it, get divorced over it. Does the intellectual property really matter? Seems like the only one who doesn’t own it is you, John. Where have you been? Are we supposed to stop and wait for you?

  35. magorn

    As both a Burner, a planner of a regional burn and …*gasp* a Lawyer I have to say that you are either hopelessly ignorant of the rules of business or being deliberately disingenious. BM manintians a trademark precisely BECAUSE it want’s to protect the name from being slapped on anything and everything and sold to the community. That’s what a trademark does; it is in fact its very purpose in the law.

    I hate to say it though I do also think Mr. law that you are being somewhat disingenious here. In your public statement you talks about wanting to Cancel the BM trademark to make it “Belong to the people” . However the relief you ask for in the actual complaint you filed with the court, is far different. Thereyou ask that the Mark be returned to a Limited partnership that you, conveniently owns 1/3 of and that BRC be prohibited from using the BM name with “paying appropriate licensing fees”.

    To me this sounds a lot less like “making it free for everyone ” and a lot more like “I want a piece of the action”.

  36. Albert Guitjens

    I support your efforts man! Thanks for fighting for the people!
    Albert – Mada – Brooklyn, NY

  37. miss glass

    “people who work full-time on logistics for making a slab of Nevada desert home, stage, gallery and canvas for 40,000 people deserve to make a living at it.”

    He isn’t saying that they shouldn’t. He’s saying that one person shouldn’t own it. Espically when so many give so much every year for free.

    several times, the amount of time and effort that many have given to the BM cause “for free” is mentioned. i don’t see how that is at all relevant– no one forced those people to do anything “for free” and further, i would venture that they would tell you they helped with the event in their own way fully expecting that “the experience” would be its own reward.

    on another point, having looked over the materials here, i’m still unclear on how mr. Law has been defrauded. perhaps i’m being dense, but could someone clarify that? i’m still on the fence about all of this, though i am leaning toward thinking that this is a case of bringing lawyers into a situation that ought to have been solved quietly between the parties involved. i am not a proponent of releasing the BM trademark into the public domain for the reasons already stated by Curiouser, Brad Templeton, and others above.

  38. The Mayor

    Your statement, “There is no other reason to retain these legal ownership titles other than to capitalize on their brand value at some later date” is not quite true. As others have mentioned, there is a protection of the name issue as well, so that the name doesn’t become a generic term – and ultimately get lost to our community altogether. The name does belong to all of us in a grand sense, but someone needs to be the protector of it in a legal sense. And apparently that needs to be the BORG, as you are unwilling to do this. Do I like this situation, not particularly, but it makes sense for all parties involved. I suppose another alternative is to turn the protection of the name over to a non profit, that third parties burning man friendlies can manage and defend.

  39. What Tukusolong

    John Law, alot of people are counting on you.Fairy Larry,Shitty Kitty.Silly Willy.have been packing cash into thier pockets for years.They will let you burn as bright as a roman candle for them untill you want some of the $,Then they put you in the ash can and promote the next person untill they burn out. No looking back,This years theme is GreenMan.Would they be refering to all the cash they have stolen from the artists over the last 7 years.It’s time for all of them to step down,return the millions to the artists,and get real.First camp is larger than anyone,Big fancy motorhomes,balconies and fancy receptions.Have they lost the “vision”? NO! They never had it. Never Will.I will conclude with one single word ,That sums it up for Larry,Marrion,Crimson.Will,and the rest of them.GREED

  40. Rebecca Hotmetal

    What about the idea of insisting (legally) on some kind of ‘copyleft’ of the name and trade marks? Allowing public use of these items but forbidding profit from them might be an interesting solution, hopefully nullifying the fears that the images etc. would be used by the dark side of our fair state of capitalism for BurnMan Brand Burn Cream, and worse.

  41. Dan L

    Top of page 8, in lines 1,2, and 3: it appears that the word “unless” is missing from line 2.

  42. Dan L

    page 10, article 58: “2007” should probably be “2006”. You’re living in the future, man 🙂

  43. Dan L

    same thing in article 60, page 11.
    That’s about as far as I got with detailed proofreading. I’m
    just skimming it for nuggets.
    Good luck with your action. I was a first time burner this
    year, and it was numinous and magical and tawdry and cheap
    all at the same time. I computed the gross using some average
    ticket price, and when I look around, I didn’t see that much money
    being spent, and figured that the project was a strictly for-profit

  44. Sodium

    Good luck John. I’m behind you and agree with what you seem to be doing here. Stop the hijackers and bring it back to a culture of facilitation, cooperation and individuality through expression.

  45. Techno-Solomon

    Whew Hoo Litigating-Man

    I like CopyLeft…Maybe we could have like Wiki-man

    OR, we could just Cut it in half!!! or thirds….We could have three different events. everyone wins!!!

    Seriously though dude, Look at what Magorn says and quit pandering to hippies.

    /grabs your acoustic guitar and smashes it on the wall.
    /hands it back to you “Sorry”

  46. reeder

    Anyone who thinks it is wrong to move Burning Man to the public domain is completely against the true nature of the culture.

    Anyone who thinks burners couldn’t discern between a legitimate burning man activity and “Burning Man Facial Cream!” is a simpleton in the truest sense. It’s an incedibly false argument with no support in the factual world, and belongs in the realm of modern conservative politics and their “with us or against us” domino terrorist/communist philosophy.

    Free everything, let everyone decide on their own.

  47. Vivian Perry

    Dear John,

    As a participant of Burning Man until 1996, and Cacophony member, and even for a very short time the accountant for Burning Man way back in 1992. I would like you to know that you have my undivided support in your appropriate request for compensation and ownership such as it is of Burning Man trademarks. I know just how critical your participation was to the ongoing success of Burning Man. If Larry and Michael cannot properly credit you, the name should be free to become as debased as the current management.

    I was the accountant for Burning Man for a very short time simply because Mikel Michael could not tolerate any genuine accountability. You were never treated with the respect that you had so very clearly, to those of us on the ground in 1996, earned. I hope that Larry will bee able to see his way clear to your quite reasonable request. Good Luck.

  48. Jonathan

    Seems like many folks here are missing the point or are allowing their politics to affect their understanding.

    Mr. Law (apt name?) is in my opinion mistaken for asking for the name to be put into the public domain. That would surely be a Bad Idea due to the opportunism sure to ensue (burners gone wild etc.).

    The idea of Mr. Law receiving due compensation for his ownership and participation in the event seems fair to me. But as I and all the rest of the readers are not in possession of all the facts and are not on the jury, we should reserve judgment on this issue, even if some of us are lawyers.

    Regarding the finances of the LLC, I would tend to think that the people at the top are certainly being rewarded handsomely, both in cash and in stature and authority. So what? That’s how things work in America and every other Western society. Nothing says they have to work for free or for minimum wage. But I would also agree that it would be a bit hypocritical to talk about how expensive it is to run the event if they are indeed cashing in on a great scale.

    I believe some sort of financial report is available on the Burning Man website or at some point during the year in their report to the public. Check it out and ask questions if you want to know more. A few things that many people don’t realize are that (a) there is a huge fee paid to the BLM for renting the land (millions of dollars as I understand it) and (b) there is also a huge expense for the infrastructure that people may not notice – rangers and their vehicles, emergency services, surveying the space, construction and takedown of public spaces, the Man itself, cleanup, etc. Don’t think you understand the finances of this event because you surely don’t, unless you’re on their accounting staff.

  49. sad-dpw-junkie

    I don’t think it’s greed, I think it’s control issues.

    It’s hard to do, but putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, setting aside feelings of anger, rage and hurt, from essentially not sharing the same vision, or not being able to participate at the desired level due to financial difficulties, can enable one to communicate more effectively and reveal a better understanding of others experience and motivations. Thereby potentially creating an amicable resolution for all. We humans are WAY more complex than simple greed.

    I must say (and I hope I don’t get edged out for my comments – OhNo!) that I find the usage of an llc business entity somewhat distasteful for running a “movement” such as Burning Man.

    As for volunteers:
    i don’t see how that is at all relevant– no one forced those people to do anything “for free”
    To me, the issue here seems to be the disparity between the events proclamation of fostering “radical self expression” & “radical acceptance” and the managements somewhat lack of doing same in it’s personnel management practices. For instance, if someone becomes a “Problem” the way they are dealt with is based more upon their perceived value to the “comapny” basically by the need they fill rather than across the board trying to find resolution. For instance, if someone becomes a pain in the butt, even simply by just being socially awkward, they are tolerated if the service they provide is harder to fill or more specific and skilled, but if it’s a general laborer, they are more likely to get shut out even if they’ve given 4 years of volunteer participation. there is definitely an inequality in the personnel management practices which seems unseemly for a cultural movement such as Burning Man. Where is the community in “This person is too much of a pain in the ass to deal with”

    On the flip side, the current llc has had to deal with allot of people with significant substance abuse issues – and frankly, that gets tiring fast. It seems to me though that the result is the baby getting thrown out with the bath water.

    What happens when one has participated deeply with both sweat and financial equity and finds happiness (it is about the Pursuit of happiness in this country, right?) and then can no longer finance all of this deep volunteer involvement that is so deeply meaningful and/ or rewarding. Compensation is required for further involvement yet cannot be secured due to either the simple fact that there’s a line out the door of eager (snipe) starfuckers (end snipe) I mean, eager individuals, waiting to volunteer, or that they simply do not have the proper telegenics as it were. i.e. the radical acceptance for your peculiar oddities isn’t there and you get shut out. Or perhaps someone crossed a line, but rather than dealing with it in a manner that fosters community & individual growth, they simply are asked not to return.

    And what of volunteers who work their way into a paid position and then have that pay rate cut over time rather than increase as with this year’s clean up crew

    And of course, the funny one said around the campfire is “Look at the llc! they’re getting OLD! They MUST be concerned about their retirement! The conundrum here is that they are making money & securing a future from the Festival attendees almost religious fervor over equality and acceptance, yet the nature of personal financial security in our world is somewhat in the vein of exclusivity!

    So what I’m getting at here is that I think there are unexplored issues and motivations at play here rather than simple greed. People sense something is wrong and have a hard time identifying it through their frustration and fear of not being able to participate.

    Another thought: If the Burning Man copyright goes public domain, are burners really going to buy all the Burning Man McDonald’s McNuggets? Or Timberline Burning Man Boots. Wouldn’t the majority of us educate our family and friends as to how “Uncool” that is and simply not participate in buying said products – I mean, aside from the girls gone wild stroke material of course …

  50. Joseph Brenner

    Sorry: but you should probably drop it.

    Pay attention to what Brad Templeton is saying, he knows the way
    these things work.

    Take a look at the Free Software Foundation some time: Stallman didn’t like
    what was being done with Copyright restrictions, so he invented a clever
    legal hack to turn them on their head, the GPL or Gnu Public License, often
    called “the copyleft”.

    If you legally “own” a mark, you have some say in how it’s used, if you don’t
    you’re making it easier for “crass commercialism”, not harder.

    If Larry Harvey were really interested in cashing in, “caving in” to this lawsuit
    might be one of the best moves he could make.

  51. Ms.Terious

    I’d really like to hear your response to “public domain = evil capitalization.” It seems naive to believe that having the names and images free and open to the public at large will NOT result in Burners gone wild!, burningman lip balm and burningman vibrators. You’re not a stupid nor naive guy – so what am I missing?

    I also don’t understand the beef with M2. It seems as though, he’s also pissed at Larry for bypassing the original agreement and the way in which the borg has severed ties with paperman.

  52. j gavin heck


    I’m behind you one hundred (and ten) percent (had to ten up julia solis).

    I was about to apply for a grant to bring a giant digible jazz hand out there, that I’m building for the 2007 kinetic sculpture race at avam, but not any more of my energy or art will gothere till this is all sussed out properly.


    J Gavin Heck

  53. Matthew

    If you are requesting Cash out of the law suit then your motives seem suspect to me. There are plenty of worker owned co-ops out there and I see no reason why the Borg could not move in that direction. I makes more sense to give those who work for the event a larger say in the direction of the event. Also it supports the idea of community espoused by the creators all the way through the event structure and not just for the volunteers/artists/and participants. A capitalistic feudal structure where a small group of people have total power and direction of the event is not a great evolution of communtiy away from the shitty money dependent power structures that exist everywhere in society. Protect the trademark but move the org to a worker owned co-op.

  54. avidd

    Turn the rights to the Burning Man name over to a neutral third party entity called “keepers of the burningman name llc”
    That company can be run by a board of 10 to 1000 people (not current BM staffers) who can lay the ground rules for use of the name. Disputes will be settled by majority vote. There you go.

  55. Phat Man Dee

    John, I have never asked you much about BM, because I knew the painful memories it must bring up for you, but I have always been deeply grateful for all the work you did to create a world wherein I (and tens of thousands of others) might be able to grow and help subvert reality at large. In the decde that I have been blessed to know you and your family, you have been nothing but gracious in your understanding that for alot of other people BM had continued to be something special and important for them. I thank you now only because you are raising this very important issue; I never felt too comfortable bringing it up before.This fight must be just awful for you, but whatever happens, I thank you and will behind you in any way I can.

  56. Some idea

    Public Domain yeah! It’s interesting that everyone so afraid of Coke advertising for Burning Man. First Burning Man is a local culture not as wide spread as one thinks. It’s a festival that no matter how many people it attracts is still not a movement as Larry wants to believe it. I actually see it way more exclusive that the “inclusive” propaganda wants us to believe it. Who knows about the event in China? in Europe? A few, a very few. And actually the regionals there have often been started by Americans… like in Taiwan, Thailand, not a big deal but maybe that’s not for any other cultures than European whites, which is not a bad thing, it’s just another cultural identity. It’s like the Grateful Dead, go around Europe, and ask people about them, there’ll be very few people that really seek unknown stuff that will tell you what a huge band they’ve been in the US, others have never heard of them, which 99.999% of the population.

    Actually what’s ironic is how in the legend it seems that John Law didn’t want Burning Man to become that popular, Larry keeps saying how John wanted it to be sort of exclusive for the chosen ones who could understand it. But by putting the name in the public domain, and having big corporation use that name, it could be creating a lot of publicity, thus attracting all the yahoos that everyone’s so scared off. Let’s say that Burning Man in Larry’s heart is to increase infinitely and change the culture on the surface of this little planet. The event’s cultural identity would not get drowned by the mass embracing it only if it was to happen slowly over many decades… centuries 🙂 Of course this would also mean that the leaders of that community shouldn’t hold on to their dream-jobs to the point where their presence is more negative than positive (we’ve seen this with BORG2, where BORG1 seemed more concerned of being ejected off their seat than really offering new perspective to the community. They did give away some things, but they were crumbs compared to the opportunities offered to Burning Man for change and refreshment). Anyways, so having such large publicity might suffocate the event to the point of killing the culture of the Burning Man community. This would somehow correspond to the idea propagated through the legend that John Law preferred to see Burning Man end rather than become another mass-culture entertainment.

    But the real threat with releasing the BM name into the public domain seems benign in comparison with the ideas that large Corp will use the name for publicity. BM doesn’t really represent the american dream for these Corps, BM is more like a drug festival with some vague art attached to it. And before this idea changes they’ll have to be some real PR work with the media to carry a different image, which the BM team seems totally incapable of doing except to spread some weird propaganda and philosophies that just sound silly because for all of us it takes a long time to really understand what the event means to us, even if you’ve been there 10 years, and so people don’t relate to this propaganda machine. The effect seem to be more of creating the appearance of a cult than a wide open culture trying to reclaim their culture. And so the real threat is more for porn site being able to attach their products to the BM name. Well is this really a threat? Actually it’s already there, if you have a website with pictures of Burning Man, just check your web stats, and you’ll see people typing keywords such as “naked woman burning man”, and more other fun stuff like that. If you go to Flickr… it’s a depository for naked women’s pictures at Burning Man. Look at the most popular pictures. Even BM advertised in their latest JRS a website that classify its pictures of women by breast, ass.. sorry he called it Torso, Booty, etc.. But there’s exploitation right there of the image of naked women at BM. You’ll tell me, yeah but this is someone from the community, he understands it, and respects it… oh yeah?

    I think that by releasing the name in the public domain, it will make the community accept more what they represent and hopefully look at themselves to see if this image they’re generating on the outside is what they want (yeah i know that’s utopia). Burning Man is only a reflection of what our society is out there, with its madness, its sickness, its power, and its beauty. It’s just the environment that’s a little better because we’re forced to look at each other during that one week where the TV is not present. If we’re generating that image of a drug festival, well maybe that’s because people are trying to replace the TV with the drugs a little too much. I also think that BM works in re-creating a separate culture away from the TV… but just for the few that work hard at making it happen because they’re working hard during a big part of the year. If it wasn’t for this few, BM wouldn’t be able to keep the dream going. Hopefully this few is also inspiring new people. But there’s always the few that gave up and are not there anymore to help this happen. John Law might be one. And that’s fine, but it seems that John holds some sort of stake into this whole thing, and he’s trying to use it to impose his idea of what things should be like (maybe i’m wrong) for some sort of improvement? That seems like the weak way to go, it also seems that there’s so much emotion that was put on the 1996 departure that it’d be hard to come back and help fix what’s wrong with the BM leaders without appearing like an idiot. I’d say who cares really. But if right now there are good intentions behind this affair, those intentions should be full, and not half-empty. I mean don’t slap them with a lawsuit, but try to negotiate your way back into working for BM and making the world better like you’ve imagined it.

    Ultimately a victory on John Law’s side would mean that the BM community will have to face its deamons! And it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Our country, our beloved and hated America is plagued with escapism (of course it’s not different at BM). It will be a good challenge for the community to look at each other with their eyes open, and wonder what it is that simple message they want to send to the masses. Is it that Larry is king with his philosophies? is it that there’s no leaders? Is it that mass culture should be made by the same hand that consumes it for the simple pleasure of everyday life, and not for profit? Or is it some of the other thousands of reasons people keep coming back?

    Good Luck!

  57. Big Cock

    Having read the good posts here more thoroughly, I better understand the necessity of holding the trademark. But I can’t go in for BORG beating. BORG and the attendees “own” the event because of their ongoing participation and contribution, not because of what they did in the past. John Law is missed, but shit, he’s been gone for over 10 years! Next!

  58. Reverend CyberSatan


    You have my 100% support, as always.

    This is a noble endeavor, and one that is quite novel as well. The copyright and trademark royalties that could be generated by licensing of the BM logo are staggering. As more and more of the brainwashed masses get co-opted by the original American ideas of independence, individuality, freedom, and liberty, they will come to want a symbol for this break from common idiocy. Increasingly, that symbol is Burning Man. Setting that symbol loose upon the public, without any ownership, is a brave gesture.

    Like it or not, BM has become a cultural touchstone. People are gravitating towards it for many reasons. More often than not, they come back from the event forever altered by the experience. Chapters everywhere have opened, and the phenomenon is now global. Yet, despite these personal affects and widening reach, there is an element within BM’s management that has been obsessed with personal profit and control for a decade now. It’s disgusting to see these traits becoming more and more prevalent, even as they are thinly concealed by mechanisms like the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

    Leaving the BM emblem/mark in the public domain means that anyone can profit from it by producing things like bumper stickers, t-shirts, caps, jewelry, jackets, and any other products that you can imagine. Those producers/creators would not have to obtain or pay any licensing fees for use of the emblem/mark. Burning Man/BRCLLC would nave no control over the symbol or the event name, the use thereof, or renumeration therefrom. No control. No profit. It would be a gift to the public, or whatever corporation chose to profit the most from it.

    This is the ultimate test of the Marketplace of Ideas that underlies our First Amendment freedoms. In that marketplace, we are all consumers. What we buy deterimines what the strongest ideas are. As a growing community and economic force, we enjoy considerable power. That power could be used to control the exploitation of the BM symbol/mark/emblem. It would be up to us, as a community, to either buy or suppress the use of the symbol. For instance, we might be alright with shirts and other items being made, but if Ford chose to release a Burning Man Edition Ford Explorer, we could move en masse within the Marketplace to kick Ford’s ass. This is a tremendous responsibility–to preserve the essence of a symbol while at the same time allowing it to grow and be a means of prosperity for anyone.

    The Man belongs to all of us. Larry Harvey always has been, and always will be, nothing more than a figurehead. He has been corrupted by a former paramour into foolish moves that have alienated many great people who were once central to the event and without whom there would be no event now. Putting the BM symbol into public domain will not bankrupt Burning Man nor cause the event to end. Similarly, it will not bankrupt Larry Harvey or any of the other members of the LLC. For once, the ORG/LLC could show some REalEVOLUTIONARY consideration and think of something other than themselves.

    Viva John Law. Set the MAN free.

    San Francisco, CA

  59. functional_pacifist

    i left BM behind in 2001 when the health inspector showed up to check the sanitation of the kitchen in a dust storm, the cops watched me pee and i felt afraid, more cameras then costumes, and just about everyone i knew, felt like shit afterwards.

    Since then i’ve seen larry around, looking like a celebrity, and he’s not the only “small fry” turn “big guy” strutting his stuff around town.

    it’s not just larry, it’s what money and prestige bring — arrogance and the fear of anyone taking away their “precious”. It’s ugly, but ugly in these days.

    i’ve decided to look elsewhere for the type of kindness and true freedom i experienced at the event that has passed away to what it is now — an 8 million dollar circus… boring!!!

    i hope this doesn’t bring you too much more pain. it’s always a drag to be in a fight.

  60. Curiouser

    If it’s a matter of getting paid, heck yeah. Do your thing.
    The creators and organizers of something that is sacred to so many deserve to share in its success. No prob with somebody getting paid for creating the world’s largest, living work of art.

    But as soon as Clear Channel organizes something called “Burning Man California” and turns it into another Woodstock debaucle with Limp Bizkit headlining, what is special about the original BM will die.


    Because once the name becomes disassociated from the original festival, the people that attend original are likely to share less and less of the festival’s values. Soon, people attending will be there not because they heard about it from other Burners, but because “I saw this thing on Mtv. It’s a place where you can do drugs and chicks walk around naked and woooooo! Dale Earnhardt rules!!!!!”

    That’s exactly what happened with Woodstock. Look at the original, look at 1999. To keep BM out of corporate hands, the trademark MUST be protected.

  61. /\/\/\/

    I am troubled by the very first line of this post, which reads “Open source/public domain.” Seems to me someone is ignorant of the fact that Open Source and public domain are two VERY different things.

    What you’re doing here, John, is *nothing* at all like Open Source. The very *term* “Open Source,” for instance, is not in the public domain, but is trademarked and tightly controlled by the Open Source Initiative. This is deliberate, so that OSI can stop people from calling any old thing “Open Source.” In other words, the term is controlled to *keep* people from unfairly trading under and profiting from the term.

    If you put the “Burning Man” name and whatever else into the public domain, it loses its protection, as a small minority of informed commenters here have already pointed out. You say that you are taking this action so that “NO ONE would be able to capitalize on ‘Burning Man’ by licensing the name or selling it or using it as an advertising pitch.” But if you get what you want — the name in the public domain — what you will have ensured is that ANYONE can capitalize on it. We’ll watch as a myriad of lesser events and organizations (with different aims and values) claim the name as their own, in the hopes of somehow legitimizing their creations with an extant community. Ick.

  62. Ari Gordon-Schlosberg

    Well said, but I have to respectfully disagree.

    Protecting the mark from dilution is not just important for profit but for integrity.

    Democratize it, fine. I could imagine a non-profit that approves use of the mark made up solely of an elected volunteer board, with elections to be held on Sunday at Burning Man itself. The board would receive a nominal stipend (maybe free tickets?) for review requests to use the mark. You have to buy your ticket to vote and actually show up. Makes ballot stuffing hard.

    But setting it free is really problematic. So Ford makes a Burning Man branded Explorer, ’cause it’s hip and cool. The 100,000 people who have been to the desert turn up their noses (or more likely, some of them do). But Johnny six-pack just knows it’s Mad-Max meets Girls Gone Wild and thinks it would be cool. So he (collectively) buys a couple of million units.

    Burning Man is now everywhere in the form of an SUV brand that knows nothing of radical self-reliance, experiments in community and self expression, or high (but lowbrow) art and natural beauty.

    Or MTV makes a “Burning Man Spring Break” out in the desert, filmed in July. Carson Daly and Britney Spears appear with Burning Man icongraphy. Hordes of us know better and laugh. 30 million teenagers don’t get the joke, don’t get the message. Maybe, just maybe it turns them on and they learn something. Maybe it doesn’t.

    I just don’t trust the profit motive of corporate America to get it right in any way. I do trust them to exploit anything they can to make money (they have to, by law).

    I trust the burner community to not horrible tread all over the mark. I don’t trust the rest of the world. And true dilution of what it means and how it’s presented is a true loss to the world.

    So yeah, setting it free? A bad idea. Democratizing? Good.

  63. Mr. Mom

    Boy I love lawyers! Good luck with your lawsuit, and assuming you win, I will be changing the name of my insurance agency to Burning Man Insurance with the man logo in the yellow pages and a big neon man in front of the office. I will change our motto to, “Safety Third!”

    Think about it.

  64. Anthony

    I think Dan Glass summed up the best solution: “It’s a good idea for BRLLC to control the trademark and eliminate that legal weak spot, and protect the trademark from exploitation. It’s also a good idea, bad blood or not, for them to acknowledge that you were critical to the creation of this thing, and pay you something decent for it.”

    Sorry, John, but the “belongs to the people” line is a crock. You want money and recognition — which you probably deserve — and you’re using a populist appeal to get what you want. Destroying the trademark will not deliver BM to the people, it will deliver it straight to the corporations, who will co-opt it and render it meaningless in a flash.

    Do all of us a favor, and settle this thing out of court quickly.

    I used to think it was very odd that BM was run by a for-profit entity, but now I’m neutral on it. Non-profits can be and often are just as elitist and insular as for-profits (and in many if not most cases both sorts of entities are led by the same narrow cultural elite), so I don’t think a switch is going to solve any of the power-and-democracy issues.

    What would be helpful is greater transparency about finances and decision-making processes, perhaps using some of the technological solutions mentioned above. That way, people can make more informed decisions about how — or whether — to participate in BM.

    The most irksome aspect of this discussion is the tone of “freedom without responsibility” in some of the posts — and perhaps in this lawsuit itself. It never fails to amaze me how many people think that an event/movement of BM’s scale could possibly work without a central organizing entity that makes decisions and enforces them. All communities have power structures, and cease to be communities without them. It’s good to question, contest and even transform those power structures on a regular basis, but it’s not acceptable to destroy them on personal whim under cover of “liberation.”

  65. Robin

    To all the people that say Burning Man belongs to the people and that it isn’t right that an LLC should own the rights – when was the last time you put on an event for 40,000 people? Get real! Without the LLC there wouldn’t be a Burning Man event the size that it is today. And when did any of you spend some serious time at BM headquarters understanding what it takes to put this event on. Sure there are thousands of volunteers. But did you ever think who organizes those volunteers? Without people at the top – really talented people – this thing wouldn’t happen. The BLM wouldn’t issue a permit to an organization without insurance and an insurance company wouldn’t write a policy to a bunch of volunteers trying pull of an event this size. There is a logical and rational reason that BM is under an LLC and has owners. The “owners” of BM man are not rich people. Have you seen Larry’s apartment? I haven’t but I hear that it isn’t a penthouse on the top of a condo building! I know one owner that has a second job – you would do that if you were raking in the riches from the “people”?

    Sounds like an old vendetta against people who used to be your friends. Move on, leave your baggage at the check in stand and find something legitimate to devote this energy to….

  66. Dr Deb

    please stop dissin ‘ Marian,Larry, Crimson, etc…
    BM has transformed so many people’s lives and helps many artists .
    If Larry has so much money, then why doesn’t he live in Grand style?
    Where are his movie star friends and his perfect whitened teeth? Lots of people stay in RV’s, especially when they have asthma or kids.
    Let’s just enjoy the event and let 3 old dogs hash out their history.
    love and fire
    Dr Deb.

  67. Shel Kimen

    Very clear logic, John. I’m sorry your head had to explode in order to raise the issue, meaning if greed weren’t on the table we wouldn’t have to debate the issue of movement vs. brand – or the dubious state of affairs pinpointing exactly when brands became movements and vice versa. Nonetheless, here we are.

    If one cares at all about burningman (the concept) then it seems beneficial to regard it as a movement – at least from a historical perspective. I’m sure people were concerned about Situanniste Soda (not!) but you never know. In that example history has proven itself with only a (relative) few scary liftings of their “words” and “concepts” – and they shut down paris! (with some help). Arguably, SI was a substantially more potent movement than burningman – so far anyway with its scholars and credits in the development of dozens of other powerful movements, not the least of which is burningman. The only people who would (or should) be concerned about “protecting” the name are the same people who would not be able to understand the difference between a movement and a brand. The meaning is lost, then, either way. (To them). Weak soldiers, if you ask me.

    To those of us who regard movements as very serious and exciting events, the name is inconsequential because it is the activity that drives us forward. I hope we don’t latch onto movements because of catchy names. That would be very ugly indeed.

    If we are worried that people will become confused and lose “what is real” then I feel even sorrier about this debate. People are well enough equipped to do their own research and if a movement is not strong enough to weather a battle with commercialism then I wonder what credibility that movement has to suggest it is not interested in commercialism. Know what I mean?

    I have enough faith in burningman as a powerful movement to take care of itself, name and all. If it can’t then I’d rather see it fall in an ugly Toyota vs Nissan road race on the playa then witness tens, maybe hundreds of thousands traipse foolishly in its shadow. We are not such delicate flowers in so much need of protection! Geez.

    Good night, then, and good luck.

  68. marleyman

    It belongs to everyone but you have to buy a ticket to own a piece.
    STOP commercialization of the Man.
    Don’t give the logo to commercial, corporate America.
    We trust in Larry more than we trust corporate America.
    Let our Larry GO!
    Stop the lawyers,too!

  69. Lopaka

    I suggest forming a non-profit corporation to administer the trademark and copyrights.

    The NPC could be controlled by a board elected from amongst Burning Man members, themselves comprised of Burning Man attendees who register to vote in the board election.

    The advantage: all the monies received for commercial use of the trademark can be returned to the NPC, which in turn can use them at the Burn for things like social services, ecological preservation, and enhanced facilities.

    The board would have the ability to license or restrict use of the trademark as a matter of policy.

    This approach satisfies the popular component, allows for control of the trademark, and returns the money to the festival.

  70. Third and Eternity

    The fears about “multinational corporations” swooping in and making Burning Man trinkets is laughable. There are so many things that are in the public domain and they remain un-exploited. Outside of the Bay Area & Reno, Burning Man is something that makes people say “Huh? What’s that?” It’s not a huge target for Coke or any other big corporation.

    It belongs to everyone – not just Larry & his minions of false truths.

  71. Daddy Mojo

    You’ve always had cajones John and I admire you for that. As someone who works with contracts and legal issues every day I’ll say up front that there is no right or wrong answer in the method, only in the execution when it comes to this issue.

    If the partnership (or a new controlling entity) were to maintain it’s intent of protection vs profit then things could perhaps continue as they have, for the greater good. But if one party wants to wrest sole control of it then it would be better to take it public and let the culture vs commercialism struggle take its course.

    There is no way to predict what would actually happen and what the effect would be on the event/movement/organization and the experience of those who would attend future burns. Many replies here have described various scenarios that are all plausable and may all happen to some degree or over time. What’s left standing a year, five years, and beyond is not a known fact and won’t be until it’s happened. It’s a risk that can only be taken, not controlled.

    So what matters is achieving the intent through whatever solution best does so in reality, not in theory. I just hope the Burning Man community can deal with this factional wrestling match of its founding fathers over the very name of it and all of the great things about this unique tribe can survive… Thanks.

  72. Bob Shilling

    I don’t really agree that the Burning Man name, logo, and other trademark stuff should be in the public domain. I generally DO support open source technology, etc. But…the Burning Man event has gotten to the point of being a cultural icon – which is sort of your point also. The problem of making it public domain is that I have no doubt that it would become quickly commercialized.

    I, for one, do not want to see a line of Burning Man products at Wal-Mart. OK, I don’t go to Wal-Mart, but you know what I mean.

    If you have a problem with Michael and Larry, that’s another issue, and you should certainly deal with that as you see fit. But, as to the Burning Man trademark stuff, some burner should own it, to protect it from commodification.

    Bob Shilling,
    Berkeley, CA

  73. Cindy Lou Who

    Who cares if the logo becomes public domain? Besides San Francisco and maybe maybe maybe a few other select cities, I highly doubt Burning Man will become the new advertising campaign across America. I really can’t see my relatives in New Jersey having any interest in buying Burning Man chapstick. Or Burning Women Gone Wild or whatever porn video everyone’s worried about. Go John Law! Hopefully we will be hearing “I fought the law and the Law won!”

  74. Pingback: eBlips » Legal Dust-Up Between Burning Man Founders
  75. David Kaye

    It is interesting to note that Black Rock City LLC (that is the group without John Law) has already trademarked “Decompression”, “Flambe Lounge”, “Black Rock City”, and the Burning Man image in the oval. However, the stick figure NOT contained within the oval has been abandoned as a trademark and thus is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN!

    See for yourself:

    I agree that it is probably not a good idea to release the Burning Man name into the public domain, as it can (and will) be used by everybody from “Burning Man Girls Gone Wild” to, oh, “Burning Man Bath Oil Beads”.

  76. k0re

    i vote for john!

    if people need a brand in order to throw a party in the desert then they’re better off letting some big corporation co-opt it then. maybe then volunteers can get paid, you get better and more porta-potties, and the big evil corp. can better keep BLM at bay.

    for those who truly want an anarchist vacation, public domaining it is an opportunity to improve on it so there’s no more “IT WAS BETTER LAST YEAR” whining.

    what a great test to see if BM is a brand or a bona-fide social phenomenon.

    good luck!

  77. Megilla

    Point one: Rage on against the dying of the light, blah blah blah, John Kicks Ass, if it weren’t for something you helped organize I never would have met my husband or had my 2 kids, blah.

    Point two: What am I missing here, when it comes to caring about the commercialization or manipulation of the name ‘Burning Man’? True, I haven’t attended since 2000, but still I am filled with the intense desire to yawn at the potential of Burning Man Backdoor Action videos or CokeBM. So other people in some other sphere are exchanging money for crap goods with those two words on them. In what way does that negatively impact the six days of blowing shit up in the desert? If hamsters decide they want to start wearing Tshirts with pictures of me cooking dinner on them, and trained space monkeys start manufacturing them and marketing them, it will not change the taste of the mac and cheese on my table tonight.

  78. Richard Dhikens

    I’m a little confused by all this. I’ve been attending BM for about ten years now, so I’ve picked up a little history along the way. I don’t know any of the involved parties personally, although I’m sure they are very nice people. I agree that the event only exists by the efforts of the participants. How is releasing the trademarks to the public domain in my benefit or more generally to the benefit of those who make it happen? That just means Coca Cola and RJ Reynolds can brand some merchandise or maybe I can buy some “Burning Man” Nikes. Its one thing to cleverly quip about giving Burning man to the people, but what it really means is giving it to corporations who have the capital to leverage a marketing machine. Is this merely some way to get back at former associates or perhaps a way to capitalize on the event personally? There is mention of a contract, but I haven’t seen it. How did LH and M2 defraud JL? I understand if its a personal matter one might keep that under wraps, but if this is being tried in the court of public opinion, don’t the “jurors” have a right to know the details? If the details are kept out of sight, it all seems a little fishy to me. If this all stems from 1996 why did you wait 11 years to do something about it, why not in 1997 ? It seems from the text in your Blog that you are doing this for everyone, but no one asked me. I’ve put a lot of effort into this whole BM thing that I haven’t been payed for and I don’t want someone making a lot of money off of my efforts. Would I have your assurance that you or corporations you are associated with will not capitalize on the usage of “all attendant trademarks, logos and trade dress”, If you intend to leverage these things, I think you should come out and say it.

  79. pathetic

    I’m frankly surprised to see so many responses that claim there are millions the org is pocketing. Sorry folks, but apparently you could actually research what the event actually COSTS before making an ass out of yourself. The fees alone are into the millions. Igt is detailed here:
    or charted here:

    Not to mention the actual lawsuit itself is not about returning the trademark to the public domain. *Read* it, folks.

    And if you don’t like it, start your own event. Sheesh, quit whining hippies and do something about it.

  80. DangerAngel


    I’m so happy I’m dancing around!


    Nice to see the old guard commenting on this blog… those who were there know what happened and how incredibly bad certain people behaved – self serving, egomanical, or slightly delusional… whatever anyone thinks, it was wrong and we all know it.

    All the newbies who think that the BMorg are honest people who are creating BM for the good of the people without thought of personal gain obviously weren’t there when that really was true.

    And to quote Larry Harvey in the Bay Guardian in March of 1996 : “If Burning Man gets too big we’ll just shut it down and do something else.”

  81. Joe Burner

    Regarding comment 78:

    Why is it in the bay area tha the first thing people do is suggest a non profit to solve all problems? Please.

    When I hear talk of nonprofits, I reach for my delete button.

    If Burning Man was indeed “founded” by these three men (I personally know all three men for over ten years, I have to concur that this is a reasonable statement) and they legally jointly control the marks as equals and two of them went off and made the for profit business we know as Burning Man (who’s last ten years turnover approaches $50 million in revenues! then the three men need to be equally compensated for licensing the “essence” of the business to the commercial festival company that produces the event now.

    The squeeze play, that the two that went off and created the new company are trying to squeeze out the first one doesn’t pass the legal smell test in my not humble opinion. If they didn’t want to compensate John Law going forward, they should have bought him out, if he didn’t want to sell, they are stuck with him as a joint beneficiary for the license of the IP and should have compensated him accordingly along the way, not tried to hijack the partnership’s assets by self dealing and giving away the IP to the current commercial enterprise for the sole purpose of denying Mr Lay financial recognition commensurate to the commercial success of the venture.

  82. hyper-crittercal

    i thought hell co. already settled this matter years ago. the organizers have done a commendable job of keeping the event true to it’s original spirit while negotiating the increased numbers of participants, encroaching law enforcement and a growing media interest over the years. in short, burningman has evolved. not standing still is the best way to avoid stagnation. this is just another spat of growing pains. the lawsuit apect is yucky to be sure, but that’s the american way (while it might be a kick, i just don’t think a duel would work in this case). and if it ruins burningman forever, it’s better to have loved and lost than (yawn)…

  83. JollyJane

    Well, this is a good conversation, and I agree with the public domain.
    We need to place all such things that belong to all of us in the public
    domain. Not important if people try to make money, and as one other
    person here commented that makes it Much Less Attractive to the
    Corporate image makers because someone else can make the same product
    with the same name.
    Everyone knows what is a BEATNIK, what’s a HIPPIE, and they will get it when you say your’re a BURNER etc. You’re still a BURNER when you are NOT at Black Rock,
    n’est pas? True THAT!
    Burners can write the media and complain if their name is “slurred” upon
    like “dirty hippie” used to be.
    LONG LIVE the FREEDOM of SELF EXPRESSION under any name whatsoever !!!

  84. julia

    ciao john
    i am glad to know you are alive and i hope well…the last time i saw you was in 91 the day we loaded my VW bug into the back of the RV that i believe you drove back to SF…was a very long time ago…all the amazing happenings you brought to my life thru the Cacophony still sit strongly in my heart…i’ve always taken the prankster/anarchy side since this was at the heart of Cacophony, early BM and even further back to all the various Zone Trips etc…i miss your clear spirit on the playa and sometimes i catch glimpses of it still flitting between the dust motes…

    take care of yourself and may you find peace in all this sooner rather than later

  85. Former Kool-Aid Drinker

    Not sure how I feel about the actual lawsuit, but I think this particular circus shows another one of Burning Man’s dirty little secrets: John Law is one of the first in a long line of folks who have poured their hearts and souls into the event, volunteered hundreds of hours of their time and gone away feeling like they’ve been kicked in the teeth as a thank-you for all their hard work. Apparently human “collateral damage” is quite acceptable in and around Black Rock City – after all, the party must go on! (See #57 above for more discussion of this.) Every time I hear the word “community” used in conjunction with Burning Man, I roll my eyes. I’ve seen more than my share of folks treated like crap when they don’t fall into lockstep with the official party line, despite having the experience and knowledge to actually have a valid opinion on how things are being implemented. Burning Man may be a life-changing experience, but it doesn’t always change your life in a positive way.

    Good luck, John. Glad to see someone stirring up some shit.

  86. eric xxiii

    Make no mistake, despite your better intentions John, and the better intentions of the bmorg, if BM becomes public domain IT WILL BE CO-OPTED BY CORPORATE BRANDING! Yes it is unfortunate that the name is held in a for profit LLC, but look around, that is what it takes to protect somthing as important, and big as BM. No amount of altruisim is going to keep the REAL greedy corporations, from selling us to the rest of the world, as just another vapid consumer product.

    As it stands now, the only commercialism we really are forced to deal with at BM, comes from within the org, and we can see, through attending, and open accounting, where that money goes. We make that choice. If MTV were to put on a “bm” event, then we all will have been sold out.

    I do feel for your position, and I wish you well in finding a resolution within BRC. But please leave the default world out of it.


  87. Toast

    “IT WILL BE CO-OPTED BY CORPORATE BRANDING! Yes it is unfortunate that the name is held in a for profit LLC, but look around, that is what it takes to protect somthing as important, and big as BM.”

    How is it not now? BRC, LLC won’t let you use the term Burning Man either you know, and seems to have a history of covering up things that are unfavorable to it, carefully controlling it’s image and message (whether it really aligns to the reality), and kicking people out that rock the boat. How is this different from any other for-profit giant faceless corporation that you all seem to hate so much?

    Also y’all seem to think that the name of Burning Man is worth a lot, that giant faceless corporate America would just kill for a chance to steal the brand. 30,000 people does not a demographic make, and honestly, Burning Man just ain’t that cool. Sorry to say so. I know that it means a lot to a lot of people, it means a lot to me too. But it’s such a drop in the bucket overall that all this hysteria about giant corporations trying to make a buck off of it is silly. I’d be willing to bet $20 that there are more people driving Subarus in the Bay Area then there are folks that go to Burning Man for example…

  88. Jon Sarriugarte

    Kimeric, Bill and I started a hardware store in Gerlach called Blackrock Hardware in 2003. Kimeric and Bill were 9 Kimeric, Bill and I started a hardware store in Gerlach called Blackrock Hardware in 2003. Kimeric and Bill were 9 year veterans of BM at the time, and were responsible for pyro/burning of the man each year. I was a ranger in 96, did pyro for Pepe’s opera, and Hellco, and had put a lot of years and work into BM.

    The store we started was a theme camp in Gerlach poking fun at the event. We sold tiki torches and guns and ammo (items no longer allowed at the event), we also brought along useul things such as hardware, camping gear, hats, and free hose water for the morons who thought they could buy it there. We were the first theme camp, and the last capitalist stop.

    One of the things we brought out was a shade structure designed and made by us drawing on all of our years of experience.

    The following year (2004) we decided to sell off any shade structures not sold at the store during the 2003 BM . I put an ad on Craigslist for “Burningman shade structures”. The following letter was sent to me. Our store was called “Blackrock Hardware” and was in the old Blackrock bar in Gerlach; directly across from Burning Man headquarters. After speaking with John Cornwell, I was informed that not only could I not use the word “Burningman” in a post, I was not allowed to use the words “Black Rock” either! During this conversation, I was told that this was a cease and desist letter and that they would follow it with legal action if I again used the word “Burningman” in a Craigslist post.

    From: Brother John []
    Sent: Friday, August 06, 2004 1:45 PM
    Subject: black rock hardware posting on craigslist


    I’m John Cornwell and I’m with the Burning Man media team. You may not have realized it, but the Burning Man name and logo are trademark protected. I’m guessing you’re familiar with the event, so you understand how sensitive participants and organizers are when either are associated with a commercial endeavor, like your use of “Burning Man” to promote your hardware store on Craigslist.

    I’m sure it was an honest mistake but we simply don’t allow our name and image to be used to sell or promote commercial ventures.

    I’d be very grateful if you could simply remove our name from the posting title by the end of the day tomorrow.

    If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at

    Thank you kindly for your help.


    John Cornwell
    Burning Man Media Team

  89. km

    from reading the responses here and elsewhere, it sounds like:

    the people who are concerned most about co-optation by OTHER corporations like mtv, disney, etc. sound like they think BM is a brand and are more comfortable pretending to be alternative anarchists playing within the safe corporate sandbox of their choice.

    those who are willing to see what happens on the public domain believe BM is a movement, and get that partying in the desert, burning something big, creating art, etc. is something no one entity can or should own.

  90. Safety Third

    I want to see Jonn Law and Larry settle this once and for all in the Thunder Dome (R)

  91. Perspective

    Burning Man should hold the trademark, but STOP using the name.

    What does the name “burning man” signify for all you burners? I understand the name itself means a great deal to people with a vested in interest in making a profit off of the event, but why should we the citizens of BRC care at all what the event is called. It’s actually quite cheezy and “in-groupy” to call it anything.

    Also, from a phychological perspective, that name is just another thing for people to mis-identify with, people who are not yet beyond that need.

    I’m fine with people making a profit off of the event, if that is the motivation they need in order to produce the event, so be it. I love going to the playa and spending time and energy with everyone else who is there in late August. It would be better if it were not called anything. People who knew about it would continue to go, and if the event had no name, ideally, the size of the city would not grow too large, and then, realistically, costs should go down. The name has gotten too big – it has become another “Daytona Beach” or “Mardi gras” or “Spring Break.” That is why there are so many responses expresing concern that there will be a “Girls Gone Wild: Burning Man” video. The name is now saturated with meaning beyond, and I’d say below, what the event was orginally about. Let’s retire it. That would be a bold and progressive move, but I fear the people who work for the LLC are too conservative, they care more about keeping their cush jobs than doing anything inovative, sad

  92. jim mason

    john, this is a disaster. well actually, it is just embarassing. for all
    parties it is embarassing.

    on a surface read, the notion of having the mark in the public domain
    sounds swell. grass roots populism and all that.

    but in practice, a public domain mark means it is open to any and
    every use. available for any crass consumerist adventure the addled
    minds of the advertising industry can muster. the burning man term
    becomes equivalent to the term “spring break”. the negative
    associations that will accrue to it though any and every commercial
    use will be terrible. many attempts to do as such have already been
    made. with the mark public, they will no longer be able to be

    and yes, those so called “real burners” will see through these
    efforts. but that is not the point. the point is the masses of
    yahoos that will be encouraged to show up after consuming mass public
    imagery and gross titaliation referencing the burning man name.

    those who complain about the challenges the event faces growing in
    size and educating new comers to why this is an interesting social and
    creative engine and participating as such, should be terrified of
    eliminating the llc control of how the burning man mark is used. this
    is not a “give it to the people” move. it is a “give it to mtv and
    the porn industry” move.

    the heavy handed media control by the borg over all imagery and use of
    the burning man mark has been necessary to prevent the mass
    consumption, appropriation and exploitation of this whole thing in
    ways that would have otherwise been terrible. all this can be easily
    sold media wise as a bunch of naked hippies in the desert. and in
    representing it as such, at mass media scale, it will be further
    nudged towards exactly that, as well as made “not ok” in the eyes of
    the permitting entities.

    burning man would have long ago ended if the borg, mostly through the
    efforts of marian, had not put such efforts in controlling the imagery
    of the event, and use of the mark, in the public sphere. yes, this
    was media manipulation. as all pr is manipulation. and they did it
    very well, to a point where we are now not facing a yearly threat to
    basic existence of the event. the abuses that have happened through
    this media control have been minor in relation to the GIANT benefits
    that we have all enjoyed from it. we WANT the borg to control all
    uses of the mark and imagery of the event. they are doing a great job
    maintaining a gigantic fence to keep the eyes of the fun stoppers out.

    as for the other main claim here . . .

    the notion that this is all a big scam so that someday larry et al can
    cash in with a huge merchandising and licensing scheme is a bit
    ridiculous. i remember john law musing as such in 1996 after the
    event, mentioning something about the “burning man vegas casino” that
    will someday be, and the smithsonian someday wanting a MAN for their

    we are not going there. (well, maybe the smithsonian acquisition will
    happen in time). otherwise, the claimed “cash in” just over the
    horizon is not happening. it if was going to happen, they would have
    long ago merchandised the poo of out this and they would be in the
    money in a very large way already.

    on the contrary, the llc has consistently resisted this temptation.
    everyone here has proven themselves excellent stewards of this mark
    for non-commercial purposes. many of us may disagree with the llc on
    this or that other aspect of their stewardship of the event. but
    their intent to keep the uses of the mark non-commercial and without
    broad consumerist exploitation is obvious at this point.

    so i find the lawsuit to be little other than a paranoid
    conspiracy theory, wrapped in faux populism, towards very destructive
    ends. it is sneaky manipulation of populist sentiments, with unclear

    so will someone please give john the large brown bag full of money
    that he so very much deserves?

    and while handing him that bag, also remember to express deep
    gratitude and impress for his tremendous contributions to the
    existence the event logistically, as well as its cultural particulars,
    as well as many of its core people. and also while handing him the
    money, remember the many things the event has become after john left,
    while he was initially hoping and trying to end it, but really, just
    not seeing that it could be much other than the small scale manson
    anarchy of which john is often so fond

    we love you john, but this is no longer the event of 1996. it is a
    much broader social and cultural engine, spinning off and partaking of
    many forms of participatory practice and play, across many stages. it
    is everything you ever wanted it to be.

    but yes, sometimes it can be difficult to see this through all the
    blinky lights and fun fur. though at least in the case of the blinky
    lights, i think we must ultimately blame YOU for that particular mess.
    it was YOU john who started all that crass neon lighting out there.
    you and all those neon sign hangers you brought out there, insisting
    to light man as such, as well as install neon everywhere across the
    desert floor.

    from there, the path to crassly lit ubiquity was shorter than we
    might have, umm, otherwise desired . . . 😉


  93. MW

    Not getting into the relative merits of John Law’s suit: hardly anyone one seems to be mentioning that John was *responding* to a suit filed against him when filing his own lawsuit. This is key to the situation — it’s practically *required* in order to defend yourself, isn’t it?

  94. nina

    RE: Comment #95
    “if BM becomes public domain IT WILL BE CO-OPTED BY CORPORATE BRANDING!”

    … and, it’s not currently being run by a corporation? How is CocaCola different than the corporation that currently owns the rights to BurningMan? It’s executives wear suits, and BM executives wear khaki shorts and beat-up Fedoras?

    Vanilla or chocolate, Burning Man IS currently being exploited by a corporation… and that’s the whole point to John’s suit, it seems to me.

    So what if MTV and CocaCola produce “Burning Man” products? So what if they profit from them? They’re not getting ‘the point’ that the people at the heart of the movement spent years cultivating as a community. And with integrity at the center of the equation, that’s their own loss- not Black Rock LLC’s loss. With greed at the center of the equation, then John’s suit makes no sense- and THAT is the whole point. It’s about restoring integrity, and acknowledging/obliterating the greed that has grown from this event’s unpredictable success.

    Consumers walking-around in BurningMan branded sneakers should be welcome to tromp around like idiots flying the branded-flag of a community that eschews capitalist systems of trade and profit. Che Guevara tee-shirts and Burning Man sneakers I think make great company for one another.

    Disassociate the greater community from this system once and for all, by encouraging the selfless commitment of the name to the public domain. John- I really applaud your willingness to stand-up and take personal responsibility for this personally burdensome and expensive initiative.

  95. Borg2Fraud

    Jim Mason, as an artist (i.e. a trustfund-baby with pretensions) is hoping to get some of the grant money handed out by the Black Rock Arts Foundation. He has every reason to suck up to BMORG. Please disregard his self-serving cant.

  96. marc powell

    i think john law’s recent writings constitute deft strokes in the battle to save the freak soul of san francisco.. john law for mayor.

    dear hippies: nobody cares about trademarking the “rainbow gathering” and there isn’t even a ben and jerry ice cream flavor named after it yet!!

    selling out to approved outlets (the smithsonian, wired magazine) is still selling out- it shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of those wily enough to get the other art freaks to subsidize their 24/7 existence-

    i think sustainability is great, but is administration and doling out art grants to people you party with really art? shouldn’t the ticket sales go to support the lives of actual starving artists?? shouldn’t starving artists be allowed to use the trademark, since they contribute to the event??

    even if bmllc pays off john law to drop this suit, that still says a lot about how they view their own event- they’d rather pay one influential person to keep quiet than share the trademark with everyone (gift economy!!)

    i support you 100% john and am proud to call you my friend.

  97. Bud Ugly

    borg9 knows exactly which punks should get smashed.


  98. Jefe

    Have all of you that are jumping on John’s side actually read the suit? It makes a very weak case for cancelling the trademarks, which would put them into public domain. The main case that it builds is that these trademarks belong 1/3 to John, and that the project should be paying “fair market value” for them. It even projects that value at $300,000 to $1,000,000 per year. It is about the cash folks.

    Yes it does sound like there has been real shenanigans in how Larry and the Borg has dealt with John via Paper Man. And there could be some real damages there. But I think it highly unlikely that those damages against John would be redressed by freeing the trademarks. The BORG has actively protected the trademarks, even in cases where it made them look bad (See Black Rock Hardware above), which is what they have to do to maintain them. So I doubt a court would see fit to just toss them to the wind.

    More likely $’s would change hands. This money will not come out of Larry’s pockets, but from the LLC. So tickets will go up to cover the expense, and John will be one more mouth to feed next to the BLM, Washoe sheriffs, and Johnny on the Spot. Does he deserve it? Yeah, maybe. Could it be a gambit to free the name because he is pissed off and wants to stir up shit. Yeah, maybe.

    One last thing. Why isn’t this going to arbitration as M2 requested.

  99. Fly

    Holy christ on a crutch. I don’t give a deep dung heap about your stupid petty squabbles and drama. What a bunch of babies and bickering brats you first Burners are. What I do, however, care about is seeing Burning Man end up in a f’in’ Pepsi commercial or used to sell Girls Gone Wild videos or to pimp a hip new brand of cigarettes. I don’t care how you do it, but keep that trade mark locked up tight so I don’t have to have my favorite event commercialized and sold back to me time and time again, not to mention watch it get soiled by the unscrupulous corporate profiteers who would undoubtedly use it for their own gain (and have, in fact, already tried).

  100. Tara Fire Ball

    Use some strong thread in that needle and remember to sharpen it.

    Respect. I believe in you.

  101. Toast

    “It is about the cash folks.”

    If it was, why is the option for opening it up to public domain on the table?

    If it was, why didn’t John just get BRC, LLC to quietly buy him out?

    If it was, why didn’t John just go sell his share of the name to some large corporation?

    It’s not about the cash. It’s about John doing what he thinks is right.

    And yes, I’ve fully read all the materials posted to date about this.

  102. Chuk

    I would like to know how much art funding is being sacrificed for the sake of this lawsuit! If ANYONE involved in Burningman thinks a lawsuit is the right way to solve their problems, then this festival is dead, at least to me. So much for “burning the man”, since The Man will have the final say. Bend over and kiss his ass!

    I have attended 7 of the last 9 events, and it changes every year. I highly doubt this is the same event that started on the beach. Putting the name in public domain, would be the end of it for me. I simply refuse to put my time, effort, and minimal funds into an event so people can sue each other over the “proper use” of the name.

  103. Limerick

    “Two years later on the heels of the disastrous (for the organizers) 96 BM I resigned from active involvement in the event. ” – So …. what the hell happened in 96 ?
    From the Burning Man timeline
    Height of Man: 50 feet
    Location: Black Rock Desert
    Participants: 8,000

    Burning Man becomes Internet phenomenon, attracting participants worldwide. Activity begins to spread beyond event, spawning troupes and performances across U.S.
    Villages, micro models of the macro whole, begin to spontaneously form.
    A pyramid, designed by Dan Miller, now extends height of Man to 50 feet.
    Chris Campbell becomes chief designer of Burning Man, introduces curving ribs and modified face.
    Art pageant features machine art by San Francisco’s “Seemen” troupe. This year’s theme: the Inferno. HELCO, a supra-national conglomerate, attempts to buy out Burning Man and fails.
    Pepe Ozan’s lingam becomes a full-scale pageant and opera.
    Other art includes “Mudhenge,” the “Piano Bell,” the “Stupa of Limbo,” and Jim Mason’s “Forest of Fire and Ice.”
    Larry Harvey founds committee to manage Burning Man event.
    Infrastructure strained by increasing influx of attendees. Plans begin to relocate Burning Man to Hualapai Playa.

    “HELCO, a supra-national conglomerate, attempts to buy out Burning Man and fails” — Seems like John Law took the flight approach when the going got tough. The event has grown 5 times since you left John. It seems to us that the BMLLC has done right by the people. M2 aka Danger Ranger has been at every event and has been an active participant. I hope you guys could resolve this amicably without taxing us hoipolloi – a LOT of us save year round and dream year round so that we can make it in to the playa.

    Jason Limerick

  104. napacabbagescallops

    glad that john law is doing this now- if nobody suggested shedding a little light into the larry harvey personality cult that is burningmanLLC, in a few years we’d be shocked and surprised at a jonestown scenario– turns out everybody was training for years for the “final burn”, the ultimate self-expression- self-immolation of the 5th largest city in nevada.

    this year in san francisco there was at least one “burning man” candidate on the ballot, it’s only a matter of time before the bmllc starts funding statewide candidates ABOVE the table and the entire “northern california desert” is annexed from nevada as a great eastern spielraum. before the Burner party makes another move, don’t we deserve a little democracy above and beyond “vote with your ticket money”? a smidgen of transparency about the accounting books, a modicum of accountability?? does anybody remember the political clout the People’s Temple enjoyed under Jim Jones (another man in a hat)

    bmLLC’s pr department seems good at encouraging “dialogue” about all of the positive aspects of bman and suppressing discussion of the negative aspects- things like the devastating environmental impact and their use of BLM as a club against the 4th of July Event Formerly Known as Burning Bush.

    WAKE UP people, larry harvey is not your messiah- “authorized events”, just another name for franchise- he’s making a power grab, and john law’s trying to cut him off at the pass.

  105. Burner Since 96

    All the negative publicity, distraction, and bitterness this lawsuit is going to cause … how is this supposed to help the Burning Man community, again?

    Seems like there’s a whole lot of egotistical bull on both sites here.

    As a burner since ’96, all this just makes me sad.

    The Burning Man I loved is dead. And you’re kicking its corpse around the playa.

    If you really loved the BM community, you’d cut it the hell out.

  106. Toast

    “Seems like John Law took the flight approach when the going got tough. The event has grown 5 times since you left John.”

    Uh… that whole Helco thing was a joke. You do know that don’t you, it was a sarcastic commentary on corporate culture, not a real buyout from a real company. It was the theme of that year. I was there, I remember. The fact that you think it was real I personally think speaks volumes of the preset agenda you must have.

    If you must know, a close personal friend of John’s died in ’96, on the playa, in a rather horrible and traumatic fashion. It’s my understanding that this event, along with the other organizer’s response to it, is what mostly lead John to leave Burning Man altogether.

    Look, I know a lot of people must be upset, confused, and angry about what’s going on. You should read more from all the parties involved, however, prior to jumping to completely wrong conclusions as you have here.

  107. SeaShell

    Here’s the thing. While Burning Man, and all it stands for, cannot be “owned” by anyone as everyone that participates helps to create it, it is important for it to remain under legal ownership of dedicated burners. This protects the event from corporations that want to “sponsor” something and casually put their ads within the city limits that is my home. To me, this would be the equivelent of Pepsi “giving a gift” and painting their logo on my living room wall for my friends and family to be bombarded by.
    Larry Harvey attends the event each and every year, and has a camp open to all whom wish to discuss the direction of Burning Man. John Law gave up on the event in 1996. With all due respect to everyone that had a hand in starting the event, I think that it is important to turn to those that are actively working to keep corporations out and art spreading. This past year I was absolutely amazed at the amount of art. I was particularly impressed with the fire/firework art involved in “Serpant Mother” which WAS funded by B-Man. (I just now looked it up on the B-Man website to find out it’s name and ensure they did fund it.)
    When I talk about the art I saw at Burning Man 2006, the Serpant Mother is one of the art instalations that I speak highest of. However, that does not discount any other art in any way, down to each individual person’s personal camp. It is all art, and Burning Man does what it can to fund as many artists as they can, and the Serpant Mother is an excellent demonstration of ticket money going to fund a spectacular opportunity for a group of very talented artists. For other funded projects of 2006, please see
    As you can see, Burning Man (with it’s current guidance) has followed closely to what it is supposed to be. Why change something that is not broken? I could understand John Law suing if the other co-founders of Burning Man had done something unjust. However, from the looks of things, Mr. Law realizes he walked away from a success and wants “his piece of the pie” when no “pie” exists. Money is going to where it needs to in order for Burning Man to be the magical place it is. Please, don’t try to corrupt it-and that goes to EVERYONE.

  108. SeaShell

    I would also like to point out that when someone posts on this site it says, “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” This shows that this page, which seems to be John Law’s, is set up for a moderator to be able to censor what is posted. I do not like restrictions on my freedom to say what needs to be said.

  109. StupidAsshole

    The way Larry, Marian and BMORG conspired to defraud John is absolutely disgusting — though hardly surprising. They have a long history of acting in a despicable manner: after they had their final falling out with him in 1996, they accused him of embezzling funds, simply because he made sure that all the people who’d volunteered for clean-up were properly fed and sheltered. Despite that, he made a generous agreement with them and kept it honorably for ten years.

    Those of you who bleat away that you’ve been a “burner” since 1996, should find out more about the history of the event before you open your woolly little mouths.

    Burning Man was the product of a whole community — not a community of “artists” (as in the pretentious little trustfund-babies like Jim Mason and Chicken John, to whom Larry successfully marketed the event in the mid-90’s), but of artisans and eccentrics. Larry rode the wave of that community, obsessively seeking press coverage in which he promoted himself as the founder of an event. He exploited all his friends — which is why he’s surrounded by such creeps and losers now, all of whom are, of course, looking to exploit him in turn.

    I guess what comes around goes around.

    Good luck, John. Have you considered setting up a legal fund? Because I sure would like to contribute to it.

  110. Storyteller

    I admit that I’m in no sense of the word educated on the matters leading up to John leaving BRC LLC, but attending Burning Man over the last 10 years I’ve come to appreciate and trust perhaps above all else the lack of commercialism in the movement. After reading of the pending lawsuit on, I came to to hear both sides of story…and what is the first thing to greet my eyes upon the page loading? An advertisement from Microsoft. I trust the skull and crossbones on a bottle of poison more than I trust the merry-morphine flag of sedation, but undeterred I continued reading.

    In honor of the Hope and Fear of the Future theme from this last spectacular burn:

    My Hope: That John Law can get rewarded and recognized for the time, work, and vision with which he graced the community, and that BRC LLC will continue to protect the interests of the community; Keeping an open ear and an open mind to new ideas that may not immediately fit into their existing plans.

    My Fear: That my last trip to Burning man will be to pee on the “Microsoft & Starbucks Present: Burning Man” sign, turn around and get back in the car and drive home.

    I’m an Open Source enthusiast and have been completely free of closed source software for years now…I fully appreciate the idea of Open Source, but what happens when the media (Which has proven itself time and time again to thirst for the blood of Burners) is free to spread these lies and misinformations unchecked? Linux is Open Source and time and time again Linux Torvalds has had to stand in defense of an entire community, which would not have been possible had Torvalds not held the copyrights in his protective little hand. Burning Man has just as many (If not more) people who would like to see an end to it than Linux…but I would rather loath running a Mac every day than miss my 1 week of recovery from advertisement assaults every year. If John Law was proposing some other measure of protection against these things I might see some glimmer of hope and honor behind this action…but with the information that I’ve been presented with it appears to me to be a simple act of spite. I most certainly could be mistaken, but I see nothing of virtue that could possibly come of this. Perhaps Mr. Law would be kind enough to give a proposal of what he would like to see Burning Man become in the future…until then I can’t see anything but a threat looming.

    Love and Respect
    The Storyteller

  111. SeaShell

    After reading “A Fable” (which was EXREMELY hard to find, so you may wish to re-link it here), I think that a good solution may be some sort of board so that the community can retain control, but someone still holds the legal control. That way this whole thing can be thrown-out and the community can once again be put above the arguing. Take it to the playe, not the courts…solve this like beings, not puppets of the courts.

  112. Toast

    “After reading “A Fable” (which was EXTREMELY hard to find, so you may wish to re-link it here)”

    Uh dude… it’s the second post on his blog… It’s not like it’s hidden…

  113. Toast

    “I came to to hear both sides of story…and what is the first thing to greet my eyes upon the page loading? An advertisement from Microsoft.”

    Laughing Squid is just a web hosting company with an owner who blogs. It has no direct connection to the lawsuit, John Law, or Burning Man (other than the fellow who runs it hosts for them).

    You’ll also see if you read more of the Laughing Squid blog that the owner recently auctioned off the laptop Microsoft gave him, and gave all the money to the EFF. He’s also a strong supporter of Open Source software.

  114. SHEEPLE

    So what the dissenters (of JL) are saying is that they’re not really innovators nor creative, they’re sheep that want a leader even if that leader has not shown themselves 100% trustworthy. As long as those taken advantage of is not them, it’s ok. As the blog says, a power grab for sole control has been made violating a contract between 3 people. Michael Mikel has filed for arbitration, John Law follows suit as any reasonable person should. Not too many are getting that.

    Instead these are the people that would rather not own or control something they claim to hold dearly (public domain) but would rather abdicate control to someone who they think hasn’t screwed them over yet. No spectators indeed. They’re the kind of apathetic spectators who don’t recognize a gift if it knocked them on the head and associate public domain with commercialization instead of opportunity to shape something better with it themselves. Same kind of people that find themselves defending a charismatic leader ilke Jim Jones or Hitler. SUCKERS.

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  116. geekboy

    “the burning man term becomes equivalent to the term “spring break”.”

    Now that I like. Put a big swoosh on it, drive a cadillac through it, pumping Zeppelin and snort Vegemite™ off a dwarf mime’s ass.

    The more things change and all that.

    Good luck John.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled bacon…

    In Succidiam Involutum

  117. /dRAT

    Wow fascinating! I agree fundamentally with Law that putting it public would mean that the symbol of BM and what it stands for is open to everyone — and that is in the spirit of what Burning Man is; but unfortunately I then lean towards Harvey that he needs to protect the image and symbols of the event from corporate pirating that would probably occur (at least on some level) if it were public domain —

    Arg!, that’s a tough one… Since my first year at BM I’ve thought it to be interesting that corporate symbols were covered up (which I liked a lot) but that the BM symbol (really, the same thing) was everywhere at the event! As a greeter I’ve been given patches and T-Shirts with BM on them; at the gate you get a BM sticker for your car; my camp over the years have made T-shirts, stickers, necklaces, and matchsticks all with the BM corporate symbol on them … yet we say we cover up corporate symbols …

    This is probably a point of human nature that is difficult to let go from — using a specific symbol to represent something — and then passionately clinging to it! But can we continue to change the fundamentals of society and human behavior?

    So I then come back around and say, fuck it; make it public and see what happens — just as the internet being owned and controlled by no-one specifically has really made it an amazing tool for the world — and the best stuff on there is free (email, google, wikipedia, craigslist, firefox, open source software) the fundamental of what burning man is should be the same. When you look at the financials I’m sure Larry has put a cool million in his pocket every year. He is doing just fine, personally, and will continue to do so no matter what happens with the symbol.

    The question then should be what’s best for burners, and shaping the world — but can even Larry let go of HIS corporate symbol — apparently not.

    I mean, dammit, Larry was in Seattle a few years ago and said himself that he could see the BM event going away entirely, but the concept of it occurring everywhere all the time, unconnected to the BM corporation in SF except by participation and association.

    Larry should gift what he (with the significant help of others) have been able to create through the BM to everyone. We should be able to have any kind of event, put the BM symbol up — and people would know what meant to come to such an event. Any corporate use of it — well people expect the symbol to come to represent freedom, self expression, and gifting — if they want to put the Man on shoes and give them away to anyone that needs shoes — go ahead!

    So fundamentally I agree with Law; then my fears of what corporations and greed will do with it side me with Larry; then I think of BM last year (fear vs hope) — and say that Law is right! The symbols of BM should be free and public domain. If Larry really wants BM to change the world, and if he really is against corporate symbols, then the coporation of Black Rock City, LLC should put it out there for the world and LET GO of their own corporate symbol.

    Gift it, Larry. Change the world.

  118. Get BMORG Out of Burning Man

    The attempt to defraud John Law is not the only example of BMORG’s corruption and of why it is so unsuited to be in charge of this event.

    A couple of years ago, one of the (male) principals of BMORG was involved in a very ugly assault on a woman that was subsequently covered up by the organization (the person who committed the assault is still one of BMORG’s senior executives). You can read an account of it in Piss Clear here:

    You can also read an account from an eyewitness (a long-time member of the DPW), who was involved in stopping the assault, in this thread on

    Here’s the relevant post:

    “Because I worked for the company as a fulltime worker, before I got a job with the DOD in Iraq. I had to resign. Among other things, besides refusing to take care of employees hurt on the job, paying less money than anyone in a 100 mile radius, forcing employees to live in unsafe conditions, feeding them from a kitchen that still falls short of county health codes, the real reason was when I was a worker, one of the owners of the Burning Man LLC, Will Roger Peterson, threw a female worker into a fire and refused to give her medical treatment unless she had sex with him. NUMEROUS PEOPLE HAD TO INTERVENE TO SAVE HER LIFE. The entire DPW revolted. They fired those who talked and they still let this man live and work among the employees–and your ticket money pays him $40,000 + and his rent in Oakland.

    The event is alright, but with Larry Harvey, and the rest of his company refuse to follow human decency, abuse woman, let the man get away with it and still live and work among the DPW, AND in the past three years, they lowered the pay of the DPW $30–they pay the least and think it is OK to physically abuse workers–yeah, I have a problem.”

    So, those of you who are posting knee-jerk defenses of BMORG and Larry Harvey, please realize what kind of people you are actually defending.

  119. Dan L

    I posted up in comment 50 that I didn’t see where the money went.
    “Pathetic” in comment 88 helpfully provided a link to a financial report,
    with the exception of the payroll, I can now see where the millions
    went. Openness about finances dispells fear and distrust.

  120. Strange Rover

    Control and Greed are reactions of the egoic mind to situations that it thinks will threaten it in some way.

    I suggest that everybody get into the state of presence and call up a solution that will create peace and sustainable harmony.
    These solutions should be in sync with the intentions of this event we have all developed as a community.

    For example – why not re-name the event for this year- change it up to illustrate that it is beyond definition of form.
    We – the community – have that power within us. Lets just do it. Never utter the BM word again and keep changing it.
    This provides a new-ness and unpredictability that precipitates the fresh magic ahead.
    It can become the un-utterable, the un-describable the vast potential of the unified field from which it arises collectively. It is almost there. A quantum shift in the community can now push it beyond the current paradigm and ensure an essential eternal state of presence in flux of creation.

    I have been hearing about supposed “founders” or “leaders” of this event for years. But I have never met one and I dont care to know about them.
    It is easy to start a cult of personality because it plays on peoples egoic need to “belong” or “be in the know” or associate with fame or power. The people are the ones who fuel it with their attention.
    Don’t be fuel.

    I for one am taking the stickers off of my car and from this day forward will no longer refer to what consider my yearly haj into a community of peace, love, giving and suspended judgement by it’s given name.

    A name is not the thing it names.


  121. Kevin Evans

    “It’s so empty, it’s full” A small piece of history and a commendation for John Law.

    Labor Day weekend, 1989. I, with my roommates Miss P., Dawn & a mutual friend Cindy attended a wind sculpture event in the Black Rock desert sponsored by Planet X pottery in Gerlach Nevada. We hauled a lightweight mobile canopy bed (our sculpture) on top of a tiny sedan out to this remote, inhospitable area. The surreal local combined with mobile sculptures was both incredible and inspiring. That weekend was one that had a great & lasting impact on my life. I never wanted to leave. The desert attracted & stirred me, & I knew I had to go back.

    Dawn once said “it’s so empty it’s full”.

    When I returned to the Bay Area & started my final year in art school, I rallied a few friends & schoolmates around the idea of planning a Labor Day weekend trip to the Black Rock desert. I had been reading Hakim Bey’s “Temporary Autonomous Zone” & his ideas struck a chord. At that time I was into the youthful notion of destroying parts (if not all) of my artwork as a meditation on impermanence & the importance of flexibility. These concepts fused into a plan of generating a “creative incident” in the Black Rock desert with a central theme, the ritual destruction & immolation of both structures & artwork (a lager manifestation of the “meditation on impermanence & the importance of flexibility”). For an impoverished, young & naive art student, this vision seemed far too grand & expensive to accomplish alone. I decided to present the scheme to my good friend John Law (whom I had met through my involvement in The San Francisco Cacophony Society) and that was when the idea for “Zone trip 4, Bad day at Black Rock” was officially hatched as a cacophony event. I approached this individual because I sincerely considered he was (& is) person of great veracity & he would respect and lend a hand in my somewhat delusional concept. I was correct in my impulse & the event was to happen. Along the way, a few months from the target date of the Zone trip, I attended the Baker beach burn of the Burning man. Fortunately, (via the intervention of both the San Francisco police & fire departments) the monolithic figurine was not razed. Amidst chants of “burn it anyway!” and pagan-like drumming, a few of us cacophonist including Miss P. & Dawn thought it would be a great idea to invite Larry & his man along for our strange ride out to the Black Rock. If anything, he had the biggest, most expensive & elaborate piece of firewood that would make a glorious conflagration. It was a magnificent, awe-inspiring weekend. I would return and participate for the next 4 years, 1995 being my last year. (In all, 6 years every Labor day)

    The event morphed from a Cacophony event into Burning man. In my opinion, it eventually got too big, supercilious & aloof. It had lost its soul (For me at least) & I felt a profound need to no longer contribute or attend. A year later, after the disastrous 1996 event, John and a few other key participants would renounce. In following years, other members of “the old guard” would trickle away for (I believe) similar reasons. This is not to diminish the importance of what others have contributed & experienced in the years since. The event is what one makes of it & I know countless have had their own, life changing occurrences in that desert. Since 1996 I’ve silently watched in admiration as numerous fresh & astonishing examples of creativity debut on the playa. I’m delighted to know that so many have had that same “feeling” I did Labor Day weekend so long ago.

    This is severely circumcised history of my experience, but I feel I needed to regurgitate further the early conception of that desert “art” festival. A more concise history may be found in Brian Doherty’s “This is Burning man”.

    That said, I wish to wholeheartedly express my support of John Law & his decision to go forward with his current legal actions. In the 20 or so years that I have know this man, he has been a wonderful and loyal friend, part of my family (he was the minister at my wedding) and an individual of great integrity. He has brought countless invaluable, “eye opening” & enriching experience to my life & the life’s of many others. In short, I would not be who I am today without him. For that I am forever grateful.

    -Kevin Charles Evans
    January 12, 2007

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  123. SeaShell

    You know, I spent all night in tears over the controversy surrounding my home. The default world feels trapping to me, and home is all I could perceive having as a sanctuary. However, this morning I woke to a snow-dusted field that reminded me that the magic that I seek on-playa is always all around us. The magic will prevail, regardless of who says what…you really think that many thousands of people will forget their gains simply because of a name or idea of a name….well not Burners. Those who get it will keep it, those who seek it will find it where/when they are supposed to.
    Hence, I am done being upset about this. I may/may not have more to say about this in the future, but for now I’m simply going to say that I love Burning Man and the people that make it happen….remember to love and discuss ideas for that is all this is- discussion over ideas. Just like on-playa, sometimes we must learn when to just let go and let things work themselves out for the better.

  124. Storyteller

    Perhaps I should have waited until I was rested before posting. I did not mean to intimate that JL was a microsoft puppet or some such, simply that if the playa has taught me anything it’s that behind every seeming coincidence is a message…should one have the ears to listen. My comment on the M$ ad was metaphorical and simply stated to show just how fine the line that separates us from the commercial assault of the default world truly is.

    In 2004 I arrived at the gates of Home to find that my last minute ticket would cost me $350 and I had to borrow $50 to get my ticket…I was rather upset (Having been an attendee since ’97) at the price of tickets. Never one to sit idly with my disapproval, I attended a question and answer session with the bigwigs of BMORG at Otter Oasis. My intent was to ask for clarification on just how the funds raised were being used. before I could ask my question someone else posed the question to Larry Harvey himself. Having never heard Mr. Harvey (Or any of the ‘Elders’) speak, it was a real treat. I have heard few people in my life who spoke with such deliberation as LH. Some of those who were gathered were less than happy when LH discussed some of the projects funded by BMORG as several of the expenditures stated were at best peripherally related to BM. As for myself, I found the method underlying the madness to be downright inspiring.
    I’m afraid my earlier post may have sounded critical of John Law. It wasn’t at all meant to be one sided, but instead an appeal to JL to clarify his position of what the future of BM should look like and how he proposes to protect the interests of the community from those who would do us harm.
    Being a 25 year resident of Nevada I am quite familiar with just how hostile this redneck little state is to anything expressive. I have seen firsthand Washoe County Sheriffs beat people with nightsticks simply for the length of their hair, sexual orientation, style of dress…the list goes on. I have watched carefully over the years as every agency that wanted a peice of the BM pie attacked the event and threatened to end our community unless they got their piece. And I have watched BMORG dance around these attacks time and time again with grace. My earlier post was an appeal to John Law to give some clarity on just how he proposes to protect the community from such political maneuvering in the future should BMORG be stripped of their right to speak and act on our behalf.
    One other point I would to bring to bear is the overwhelming number of people who post blindly supporting this suit without understanding the scope what is involved in placing the trademark in public domain simply because “I liked Burning Man better in 19**. I’m seeing spanned over a number of forums, “Burning Man belongs to us…the Burners…let’s take the power back and make it like it used to be”. News flash: This is 2007 and the changes you complain about were mostly made by “Us…the Burners” (When not forced by Authorities) and not BMORG. Burning Man is and has always been about dramatic and radical change. The man who obsesses on yesterdays apple can never enjoy todays orange. Every year I’m engaged on the playa by people who preach about how BM used to be. And every year I wonder what these brothers and sisters might find if they just lived NOW.

    With that said, I am more than willing to hear John Laws hopes and fears of the future…but above all else I feel that Burning Man is an experiment…nay, an example of a working, supportive and progressive community…and I feel that JL springing this matter on the courts rather than presenting this info to Us the Community shows a surprising lack of faith in the unity and independence we all strive for. I appeal not just to John Law, but also Larry Harvey and Micheal Mikel to bring this case before the only jury that matters: A jury of your peers. We have all become so numb to political maneuvering and mudslinging that it has lost its impact. It is my opinion that if JL, M2 and LH truly hold the communities best interest at heart, they should leave the courts and present their respective cases to the community, and hold the communities decision as LAW. If any of the 3 parties fear the judgments of the community then they cannot possibly represent its best interest.

    Hope to see this whole thing end in one big group hug at Otter Oasis 🙂

    Love and respect
    The Storyteller

  125. Storyteller

    My apologies as it seems I’ve singled out John again

    Was more deservedly directed at M2

    Love and Respect
    The Storyteller

    –Kiss it once, let it go. It will return again you know…–

  126. Storyteller

    oops…apparently I used bad characters

    “I feel that JL springing this matter on the courts rather than presenting this info to Us the Community shows a surprising lack of faith in the unity and independence we all strive for.”

    Was more deservedly directed at M2

  127. Observer

    As quoted from the back of every ticket printed, “…You appoint Burning Man as your representatitve to take actions necessary to protect your intellectual property or privacy rights…” This means that you give up your right to sue without first discussing the issues in a rational way…if that is what becomes necesary that is one thing, but for everyone to find out about all this in the newspapers instead of a playa discussion is pitiful. Besides, whatever happened to being a self-governing, fully functional city without the need for outside interferance?

    Before you respond, please consider that I do understand that this was not an on-playa incident that is being litigated. However, this is our chance to show the world what can happen though discussion and the will of the people instead of going to court where neither side of the story can be properly represented. I’m with The Storyteller. If any of the three founders have anything to hide, the courts will keep their secrets. On-playa there are no secrets, as freedom and secret-keeping do not go together. If you all have nothing to hide, I’ll see you in the group hug at the Oasis.

    I also understand that there is a lot at stake here. We are discussing in front of the world the future of Burning Man. Michael Mikel (otherwise known as M2) may have started this, but John Law filed as well. My hope is that all three of the founders can let go of their personal position long enough to agree to settle this burner style. Show the world that people really can get along without the need for courts.

    Remember, this dispute is between three people that started something that is now bigger than any of them. BBMORG has protected the event from comercialization through 2007, so the argument that this must be resolved in courts now for the sake of BurningMan is negated. The only reason to settel in courts now instead of on-playa in August would be for personal gain.

    M2, John Law, and Larry Harvey, please do not let us down. Curently there is a link from asking people to write letters to the BLM explaining that we are capable of self-governing and do not need increased law enforecement. How are we supposed to show a stable society that would be capable of living (whetether for a week or indefinately) as free beings that get along without courts/law enforecement if our founding fathers won’t agree to settle this before “the only jury that matters: A jury of your peers.” as Storyteller put it.

    Spread love, and the Truth will reveal itself.

  128. violet crumble

    It has been painful and isolating to have had a personsal Burning Man experience that was shared by few others. While thousands look upon Burning Man as the container of their very large and sprawling, yearlong community, my own relationship to Burning Man has been tainted by much more negative emotions and events. I have not been able to think of Burning Man as my family at all. The only person with whom I could speak about these things and be understood has been John Law, who has experienced his own exodus from the “garden”. John is an honorable man who has been unfairly maligned for years and the abuse continues to this day. I fully support him in his current endeavors and would hope that others can manage to support him now.

  129. bugfuker

    how about this…

    JL, MM and LH each throw a BM at the same time. one two three right down black rock lane. now THAT would be fun. make sure they are close enough together to make tomato wars possible.

    i would ‘participate’ in 2 of the 3. the 3rd would be the target all my tomatos.

  130. Storyteller

    Sorry if this is not the place, but could someone please give a link to info regarding M2s suit? I can’t find any info at all regarding what apparently started the legal proceedings in the first place.

    The Storyteller

    –I have forgiven myself for every trespass but the inability to forgive–

  131. Dean G

    way to go John, this is AMAZING! thanks for shaking up these new ideas and waking up the histories.
    wishing all the best!

  132. Richard Washbourne

    Thanks for taking a principled stand on this, John. If Tracy and I can do anything to help, please let us know.

    BTW, when you negotiate a settlement (it definitely sounds like the law is on your side here), please make sure that it includes a clause specifying that the Man must have a neon smiley face in perpetuity.

  133. Don Paul Swain

    Sounds like a case of corporate identity crisis. If the pyjamas are too tight, erect new symbols of masculine iconoclasms. You would look nice with some glamourous makeup. The masses making somnambulistic peregrinations into fortean poker games are unqualified opiners, but they’ll still buy the book. The prince will ride his pony apocalyptically into the black sun. Hi mom!

  134. Gardenia Garlic

    As a long time Cacophany member (even before there was a Micheal Mikel) and one of the original zone trip # 4 trekkers in 1989, I have known all the parties involved for a long time. In 1990 and ’91, I ran Center of Camp for Burning Man, and in 1990 it was my phone number listed as the contact number on all of the publicity material and the one page “desert trip guide”.

    I left Burning Man in disgust in ’92 because I saw that what had been a wonderful experience shared between a small group was growing into a Big Business side show, and at that time I had no idea how big the carnival would finally become. I was never rewarded for any of my work, in fact I have been written out of Burning Man history because I began to question the direction that Burning Man was taking. If there was any way that they could have written out John Law I’m sure they would have tried, but he hung on much longer than I did.

    There are so many issues involved in this whole matter that many people who are writing cannot possibly understand because they were not there. Many “Burning Man” converts see it as their experience and don’t want to lose it, but the reality is they have no idea of what has gone on behind the scenes.

    I have always felt that Michael Mikel’s influence was a big contributing factor to the gradual dissolution of the Cacophany Society in the mid-’90’s with his desire to publicise and commodify the experience – selling franchises and giving magazine and newspaper interviews – making it impossible to do underground events with the local papers publishing listings of them. He deserted Cacophany when he saw bigger fish to fry with BM, but by then, the damage had already been done.

    John Law remains a close friend and I can only hope that this entire affair, which was not started by him, will bring a bit of the truth to light. Like all close knit families we have our dirty little secrets and skeletons in the family closet, but John has always remained honest and above board, which is more than I can say about some of the other parties involved.

    Gardenia Garlic (AKA Nancy)

  135. DangerAngel

    I like Richard Washbourne’s idea of demanding the man have a smiley face in neon – but I thought of something even better the other day: the main road out of BRC should be always named John Law Boulevard (regardless of the theme names given to other streets). That way they’ll have to talk about it on the radio all the time.

    I can’t believe that Will Roger is still in the employ of the LLC – I hadn’t heard that story about the girl being pushing into the fire before and it made my toes curl.

    So dysfunctional.

  136. Mister E

    I wasn’t going to add my .02¢ here until I read #115 Limerick. What happened in ’96 that made John leave? Michael Furey smashed his motorcycle into a truck killing himself. Then on Monday morning the infamous speeding truck vs people sleeping in the tent accident happened. It might be easy to rationalize away from the comfort of your home 11 years later but at the time it had a profoundly sobering effect. It became obvious the only way to prevent disasters like these would be to organize and make rules. I can’t speak for John but I don’t think that this ‘new event order’ was something he wanted to be a part of. So, before you go spouting off about why John left and that he walked away from it so he should keep his mouth shut now learn something about what the fuck you are talking about. Thank you Toast #118 and StupidAsshole #121 for keeping it real! /end of rant/

    As to the dispute at hand, first off this is not a power grab by Larry. Larry has been gradually neutered and stripped of any real authority over the years by others in the LLC so that today he’s little more than the event figurehead planning the theme and helping design what the man will stand on. If this is a power grab it’s being done by other individuals through Larry.
    Don’t forget that this never would have happened had the LLC simply kept up their obligation to service PaperMan, LLC to the tune of only $800 a year. I guess all the yes men they’ve surrounded themselves with convinced them they didn’t have to do that along with anything else they don’t want to do either.
    Secondly this dispute started between Larry and M2. My guess is that M2 finally got tired of being marginalized and decided to make a stand on something, good for him. This leads me to my third point…
    The LLC has a rich history of not being grateful towards the many people who over the years have been instrumental in putting them in the position they enjoy today. To paraphrase an excellent quote; if they have seen farther than others it’s because they stand on the shoulders of giants, and John is one such giant. The LLC has the shortest term memory I’ve ever seen in an organization. They rarely if ever extend a thank you, they do not recognize people for their contributions and achievements that benefit the event, and finally when you have been away long enough someone else takes full credit for what you did. This way of treating people leaves a trail of disgruntled former organizers in their wake so it’s no surprise that the LLC enjoys very little support from the ‘old guard.’ They have made this bed and will have to lie in it.

    Finally I’d like to say that as this post is highly critical it probably makes me sound like I’m bitter about the LLC and my experience but, in fact, that is not the case. If you care to know how I feel overall about the BMorg read the post I made in the BM Staff Quitter’s Tribe here:

  137. Richard Washbourne

    I can personally attest to the hugely important role played by Gardenia Garlic (i.e. Nancy) in the early years of Burning Man. Unfortunately, BMORG weren’t the only people who wrote her out of the official history: just as he overlooked in his book the contributions made by a number of other women to Burning Man, Brian Dougherty failed to acknowledge Nancy’s role, instead preferring to focus on the struggles between the event’s various leading male figures.

    I also recall Michael Mikel’s and Larry Harvey’s obsessive quest for publicity in the early and mid-nineties (of course, I believe the official BMORG narrative is now that “Burning Man never sought out any publicity; the media just came to us”). I remember how strange it was at the time to see two people who claimed to be associated with Cacophony, an organization famous for playing pranks on the corporate media (remember the “Fantasia” protest, anyone?), so eagerly seeking out validation by that same corporate media.

  138. tym simpson

    Interesting to read Eric Close’s comments.
    Eric worked year round for the llc in 2003\4 pulling permits and shmoozing Washoe county – nothing odd or strange about that, it is a nessicary task and one he did to the tune of not less then 50k/yr by his own admission. Apparently he quit while he was ahead. Lucky him. Thats a lot more than John Law ever got out of it.

  139. Mister E

    Posts are coming in so fast that I waited overnight to submit my last one and it’s already almost irrelevant.

    Thanks Jon for saying it! Have enough spine to use your real name people (or at least your playa handle) so those who don’t know enough to deduce who you are from your writing aren’t left in the dark.

    In response to #130 Get BMORG out of BurningMan you should not believe everything you read on the internet and especially what you read on Tribe.
    I will not take the position of defending Will Roger’s actions either overall or relating to the incident in question here. I will only relate the true facts surrounding this incident which are different from what was posted on Tribe and has been subsequently copied to here. I was also employed full-time by BRC, LLC and I worked in NV for DPW. I was the head of the DPW medical team that provided care to workers before and after Pred’s ESD came and went for the event. I was also present when the incident where Rose was thrown against the burn-barrel by Will.

    First off you should know that Shooter’s (real name Caleb Schaber) the person that made the post on the BM Tribe that was quoted here has a major axe to grind with the LLC and Will in particular. Because of his bitterness he never misses an opportunity to talk trash about or bash the LLC. I’ve known Schaber for several years. He’s an interesting guy who is a bit of a prankster and has done some funny things including running for mayor of Seattle. He’s always been one to mix it up a bit with people to get a rise and have some fun and he’s never been above exaggerating the facts a little, or leaving some out, to make the story better. For the most part this has been all-in good-fun to stir up some drama and keep life interesting. I like people like this and I like Schaber for this reason.
    This time however he’s gone too far and crossed the line of decency and unlike his past exaggerations to spice up a story this one contains out-right lies. So, here is the real story as it really happened…

    I think it was a night-before-a-day-off party which would have put it on a Saturday. I could be wrong though because I also seem to remember a general strike by the crew the next day. The strike might have been a Monday though after our Sunday off as the repercussions and the crew’s unhappiness with Will due to this event lasted for quite some time, until Will left the work-ranch.
    Anyways, the point is it was a pretty heavy partying night. Everyone was drinking and Will was hosting a bunch of the crew at his camp as he often did. There was the usual trash talking and chest pounding going on that seasoned DPWers like to do to unwind after hard work in the desert. Well, this turned into some people horsing around and wrestling and, not that it matters but, Rose challenged Will to wrestle. Will took her up on it and probably due to being very drunk found that Rose had quickly gotten the better of him and had him sort of pinned / was on top of him holding him down. I think he got frustrated that he was beat, over-reacted maybe and use a little too much force to push / throw her off of him and this is how she hit the burn-barrel. Because of medical records confidentiality laws (HIPAA) and the fact I am still a licensed health-care provider I can’t discuss the details of her injuries but I will say at no time were they EVER considered life threatening. Had they been considered even critical she would have evacuated to Reno immediately. Furthermore the statement that the victim Rose was refused medical treatment until she had sex with Will is a flat out lie. Hands down untrue. there were several of her friends and also EMT medics there that looked after her immediately.

    So those are the facts. As I don’t want to take a position of defending Will’s actions I also don’t want to be seen as undermining the suffering that Rose has had to endure. I understand from her own words that she has scars to this day from the incident.
    Finally I will add that regarding the DPW crew revolt it happened due to this incident being the last straw that broke the camel’s back after several of Will’s much less severe indiscretions, many involving women, were not dealt with by the LLC. Since this incident happened Will has paid dearly in almost every way you can imagine. He lost his status, has hurt him financially no doubt and has lost a ton of face. For someone who also put his life and soul into making the event work it’s been punishment enough in my humble opinion.

    So, while ‘Get BMORG out of BurningMan’ does have somewhat of a point about Will’s past character, it’s not as bad as he has been led to believe, and we’re still only talking about 1 member of the LLC.

  140. Mister E

    Ahh Tym, still nothing better to do than shadow me.

    It ain’t all about the Benjamin’s.

  141. Susanne One Love

    Blessings to all who have taken the time from surviving in the default world to action on the home front. I have thought that the best thing for the spirit of Burning Man would be to cancel it one year and see what happens. If there wasn’t an event the BLM and the law enforcement etc. would not get paid their fees and people would go and camp or not. Let’s try that as an experiment. So pay the Paperman LLC what is due with whatever interest at a reasonable rate, own up that the accounting is screwed up and perhaps not as honest and clear as it could be and keep living lives accountable and full of diversity, art, acceptance and reliability. Stand by your agreements and discuss changes to those agreements when necessary. Keep moving forward. Cancel the event and live. Change the guard every 3 years to bring in new blood, evolve, relax, surrender. Know that people do things for different reasons and behind all of our actions lies some spirituality whether we admit it, are conscious, or not. The lives of each other do not cross paths accidentally. We are not embroiled with one another without attachments to form or to let go. Perhaps bringing the money aspect into the law suit is the only way John L could make his point. Perhaps not. Perhaps John L wants to respond with the only card he thinks he has. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter to any of us. We can all ive in a country with a president we didn’t vote for right? Work individually and watch what happens to the group. Much love and hope for the only true thing to prevail – Remember our connections – remember.

  142. zil

    I’m oh so tired of reading the petty crap that’s getting oh so personal. So there’s this idea that BM is owned by these 3 individuals. You can already see in commercials, movies and other media many of the facets of the event that originate out on the playa. I challenge all burners to show that it belongs to US. Use the damn logo and trademark everywhere and anywhere you please. I hope for connection with other burners and what better way to show your identity. Burn, baby, burn

  143. Dan Miller, aka Burning Dan

    Touché John. Long time no hear from. Such a talented culture jammer. Now there’s a term I haven’t heard since the good ‘ol days. I’d like to chime in and acknowledge some contributions (true gifts) that I have great admiration and much fondness of. I’ll start with you. When I roll back my memory of all the outrageous fun that was had through the heyday of the marriage of Cacophony and b-man. Really, there are so many over the top great times and people I achingly would love to acknowledge, I realize that would fill up a whole volume so instead of going into stories I’ll defer to the list of names that was published in both the Hot Wired, Burning Man book and I believe, Holly Kreuters book, Drama in the Desert. Each name there gets props from me, from small to large contributions — all wonderful and perfect.

    I like your fable, It’s cute, but the image I get more is you as kind of like Peter Pan. After ’96 you adamantly wanted b-man to end in a blazing, never-never land, legendary glory. Larry’s vision was to grow up. You dropped out and new people stepped up to fill the gap and grow the event out of its turbulent adolescence, into a more organized adulthood.

    I have full faith that the name of the event is in safe hands with those that sustain and uphold the integrity and mission of the event. Criticism is healthy, but mistruths born of misplaced anger, in my view, seems to foster further mistruths born of misplaced anger. Larry sparked the first man in ’86, it was not a major construction project in that humble beginning, Jerry was integral but it was Larry’s impetus which took the small summer solstice gathering reins that year into the incarnation of the seed of what continues to grow to this day. John, your contributions are awesome!!! dude. There are many thousands of witnesses. I don’t know the exact definition of ‘open source,’ but I have a feeling that it fits pretty much what Burning Man is, a protected trust, held for the best to freely contribute to, for the betterment of all, how ever anyone may see fit. Your gifts are cherished by me and I never heard anyone deny the wonderfulness of them.

    Larry, in my very clear view has never been in a position to try and grab, steal, take or whatever, the name, idea, or concept of “Burning Man,” from anyone, because he clearly instigated it, not Jerry J., Mary G., Kevin E., you, Michael, me, all the other original carpenters, of course this list of names has now grown into the many tens of thousands of contributors/participants. Larry in my view is only guilty of two things — protecting his vision and not being particularly thorough at sending out notes of appreciation.

    One final note I’ll offer. Larry does not hate you. If you doubt me, ask him…

    Best wishes to all, Dan

  144. tym simpson

    I won’t dignify Eric’s post with a reply other than note he’s made a lot more Benjerman’s out of BM than John ever did. Believe me Eric anything to do with you is a very very very low priority in my life despite your whining.
    So far I haven’t seen any realistic problem with the words Burning Man being public domain. Indiviguals aside the event ego can stand a little trimming for its own health.

  145. Mister E

    Tym, other people have, and still do, make a lot more $ from Burning Man I did.
    I had a very difficult job that I performed very well at and I almost got paid what I was worth for it so, what is your point?
    This blog is not about me so give it a rest.

  146. tym simpson

    Exactly my point! Its not about you its the fact that many folks have made much money working the man (not always illigitimatly though some arts grants have been rather dubious)and that John never did. You’re just one example i know of.Its really got fuck all to do with you,- sorry you’re still paranoid. Burners always make a big point in saying noone ever gets rich off BM but 50k a year sounds like pretty good money to me- rich is sort of a relitive term i soppose. I’m not saying that people who get paid that much don’t deserve it and i have no doubt its still below prevailing wages for stuff like that but its a lot more in the ball park than the dpw kids ever get.($30/day is less than $5/hr- prevailing wage should be at least ten-15 for that kind of work)
    Thats not the point though.Lets agree to not get into that here.
    If Bmllc could pay you(or whoever) upwards of 50kplus a year, they could have have offered to buy John out and have avoided all this instead of pretending it was never an issue or Larry’s apparent little power grab.

    Thats a good question. Did they ever make an offer? John?

  147. chris campbell

    I swore I’d never give this topic anymore ink. But under the present circumstances…

    Let “burning man” revert to common everyday lexicon like terror alert’, ‘baseball’ or ‘apple pie’. We could make it an adjective to describe something loud, hot, dirty, self-aggrandizing, massively wasteful, polluting, and destructive. It’s perfectly American. Come to think about it, so is trashing agreements and cutting out your partners for the sole purpose of profiting further. Come to think about it, so is capitalizing on the idealism, sweat and blood of others. Come to think about it, so is spewing enormous amounts of toxins and co2 into the atmosphere. Come to think about it, so is sending enormous amounts of trash to landfills in Nevada. So is dividing people into camps, and polarization. So is giving tens of thousands of dollars to oil and gas interests. So is hanging out with an unknown number of cops and agents. So is being in nature with 39,000 of your closest friends and making so much noise you can’t hear or see nature. So is putting untold acres of timber to a match for the sake of entertainment. So is doing it at night so you don’t have to see the miles wide cloud of smoke and ash. So is telling yourself how original and unique and right you are. So is telling everyone else how original and unique and right you are. So is cranking your stereo so loud the whole block can hear it. So is claiming exclusivity to a 5000 year old cross cultural phenomenon. So is charging “what the market will bear” for the privilege of bragging rights. So is altering nature to suit our whims. So is expecting convenience. So is worshipping false idols and false figurehats.
    Burning man stopped being cutting edge many years ago. It initially wasn’t about the art anyway. It was about freedom, self-reliance and immediacy without all the usual safety guidelines and perimeters. It was about really putting yourself out there with your wits and imagination, and then having a good time at the edge of survival. The art was a manifestation of the experience out there.
    There is life after burning man. The term already refers to someone or something to do with a bunch of weirdos. Let it go. Don’t be such a “burner”. If you’re worried someone might use the term “burning man” for their personal gain, forget about it. It’s already happening at your expense. Come up with your own bm product and start selling it. At least start making it so you can get a jump on when the market opens up.

    P.S.– I hear from a source near the source of sorts, that any settlement from bm will be used to fund a halfway house and counseling center for huddled unwashed ex-burners. Deprogramming services will be available as well as micro-loans to help the poor and idealistic get back on their feet.

    Happy Trails,
    Chris Campbell / “Keeper”
    Designer-Builder-Destroyer ’92–>’99
    Orbicular Affect ’97,’98,’99

  148. Mister E

    I got paid what I was worth and so did you Tym. Stop trying to use this forum to drag me into a debate over things you’re still bitter about, I’m not participating.

    If John wants money I have no doubt he will get it. The lawsuit is part of a negotiation process and, unfortunately in our society, it’s often how disputes are resolved. Also, don’t read too much into the relief requested. People rarely settle without feeling like they’ve won some sort of concession so people always ask for more than they want so they have things to negotiate away.

    I’ve said what I wanted to say here and now I’m done. It was great to read what some of the old skool guys had to say, the quote about kicking the corpse of BM around the playa alone made this a great read.

  149. blake more

    I first encountered burningman in 1996. A magician I once knew took me to an Anon Salon party, and it was there I met the first of an odd brew of desert going characters who convinced me that I too must make the trek to Black Rock.

    I did and had a great time, and returned and returned. I am happy to say I never purchased a ticket, nor did I hock my resources on a not so behemothly “funded” behemoth art project, which is to say, I never worked for the LLC nor did I declare bankruptcy. I did expend copious amounts of energy, art, freedom, expression and love and felt much of the same come back to me. I always went out early and contributed however I could, either through my own projects or those of others.

    burningman 2000 was my last year. What started out as a quirky, wild, colorful do-what-you want scene had become a watered down suburb of attitude, rules and imposed structure—just like real life except with blinky lights and naked businessmen. That year, I watched friends get busted for drugs; I got hosed down with a chemical fire retardant by a BLM semi truck while dancing a dwindling fire; I had cameras in my crotch nearly every time I tried to sneak off to pee; and my cousin came into my happy camp and was snubbed since “nobody knew who he was.” There’s more, but that’s enough evidence to make my point: my utopia had become the world I was adamantly trying to change. I live in a mass, culture-hungry society with cops and cluelessness, so why put so many miles on my car to go to a generator-fueled PVC imitation of it. I wasn’t even thinking about all the useable wood products wasted for the “cause”.

    Yes, there were great things going on, but life is full of great things. I couldn’t stop thinking about the early days of the Haight Ashbury, when the Emmett Grogen’s of the world were creatively working to bring about an exchange society—passing out free food and teaching people how to tie die, grow vegetables, make candles, and barter to get their needs met. Angling into the action, the neighborhood merchants joined together and formed the “Haight Asbury Merchant’s Association.” Guess what? They began selling the very things the diggers were giving away for free. As the crowds swelled, the digger image stuck, but for a price, and their message got buried on the bus of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I felt I had entered a parallel world, only this time it was a burningman LLC power grab monopoly on an “art” car full of burners, ecstasy and techno.

    Rumor says six figures for the elitist of the elite, which is pretty damn impressive if it’s true, and by the number of “burner” stickers and t-shirts I see in Santa Rosa, I’ll bet someone’s got both hands in the online “Burningman Marketplace.” cookie jar.

    Many thoughtful, creative maverick types, like John Law, gave their mind, heart and body to create an event that was as free as could be imagined at the time. When it stopped being so, we moved on. But you can’t really escape it, public domain licensing or not. I was at a friend’s cd release party at a club in the Tenderloin, and a bunch of “burners” came in for a birthday party. They all wanted me to know how “cute and playa and burningman” I looked. Gosh, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but does burningman hold the license for creative dressing as well? Even more disgusting, the next day in the Mission, I said the word “Werner” into my phone and some guy rushed over to me and said “I heard you say burner! Do you know where the party is tonight?” Ah yes, the sweet watering down of counter culture.

    I say bring it on John. Burners gone wild at Bianca’s—just don’t make me watch it with dinner.

  150. StupidAsshole

    So are John Law and some of the other old-timers going to organize a Free Burning Man event this Labor Day weekend? I’d much rather go to that than to the “Black Rock Arts Festival.”

  151. Toast

    Burning Dan, I’ve just got to say: you pretty much personify the reason the term ‘burner’ makes my skin crawl. Your strange combination of nillisum, hero-worship, sad hippy cliche, and self-centeredness typifies way too much of the Burning Man ‘life’.

    “I have full faith that the name of the event is in safe hands with those that sustain and uphold the integrity and mission of the event. Criticism is healthy, but mistruths born of misplaced anger, in my view, seems to foster further mistruths born of misplaced anger.”

    Right, this is about John being ‘angry’, ‘misplaced’ anger at that, not the fact that he was dragged into court by Larry and M2. And John has no right to be angry even, huh, from the events that happened years ago? So simple to explain the uncomfortable things away that way, huh Dan?

    “I don’t know the exact definition of ‘open source,’ but I have a feeling that it fits pretty much what Burning Man is, a protected trust, held for the best to freely contribute to, for the betterment of all, how ever anyone may see fit. Your gifts are cherished by me and I never heard anyone deny the wonderfulness of them.”

    Heh. Yeah, a ‘Protected Trust’ that’s a for-profit corporation with a small circle of people controlling and profiting from it (while encouraging everyone to freely give all they got to the cause). You’ve got some funny ideas there.

    “Larry, in my very clear view has never been in a position to try and grab, steal, take or whatever, the name, idea, or concept of “Burning Man,” from anyone, because he clearly instigated it, not Jerry J., Mary G., Kevin E., you, Michael, me, all the other original carpenters, of course this list of names has now grown into the many tens of thousands of contributors/participants. Larry in my view is only guilty of two things — protecting his vision and not being particularly thorough at sending out notes of appreciation.”

    Why the need for a hero? A great leader? You seem to really need Larry to be some kind of idol. Is it because it makes everything easier?

    Since it sounds like you know Larry, tell me, what has he done that’s so great? Honestly. Why would someone think Larry to be a hero. I don’t know him. I know he’s the creative director and media figurehead of Burning Man. I have yet to be really impressed by his ideas and his words. I think they are lame. Burning Man is a fun stupid party to go to, but it’s not high art (well, some of the art folks bring is, but the event itself not so much). But then to judge someone purely off of their work is short-sighted. So then tell me, without talking about Burning Man, why Larry is so great. I honestly want to know.

    See, I could go on for days about why John is someone to look up to without even once mentioning Burning Man or Cacophony. And while this isn’t a contest of who’s the better man, I honestly don’t know why Larry renged on the original deal with John, and started legal infighting with M2 over the name. Why did Larry feel like that was an OK and noble thing to do? Why do YOU feel like this is a perfectly noble thing to be doing?

    “One final note I’ll offer. Larry does not hate you. If you doubt me, ask him…”

    Oh god, I’m gonna puke. You really think the world so simple? That this is all because John is some hurt and wounded soul who only needs to ‘reach out’ and ‘love’? What a shallow and horrifying way to look at the world.

    That if only we would all understand, we could bask in the glow and love of Larry, and live some magic utopian Burning Man life forever? Seriously, why the cult-like attitude?

  152. tym simpson

    Right on Toast for hitting the nail dead nuts on the head.
    It seems even ex-burners who profited get a little touchy and overly defensive when faced with any real criticism or anything even vaquely approaching it.

    Wonder why that is?

    You just put into words whats bothered me about bm since before i was “let go” of by the dpw in 2003. “Burners” really get wicky when you start stepping on their sacred psychological alters and rationalization crutches. Oh it is most certainly not “all good”.
    Dan is a good man and means well but he’s definitly drunk his share of the kool aid.Missionaries who brought small pox to hawwaii meant well too.

  153. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Burning Man Dispute
  154. Sebastian Hyde

    Good luck John! This is one hell of a tangled mess! You have my support and blessings. I think only good things can come out of all of this, since it wakes us all up to the amazing times we all had and the life changing experiences we shared, good and bad.

  155. Dan Miller, aka Burning Dan

    Ok, let me give a little more info. I am friends with Larry, John, Michael, Chris, Blake,Tym, … a lot of people that have posted here I befriended through, what else might we call it but…. anyhow, I’m sorry to have this forum as an odd reunion opportunity. Really I happen to have very fond feelings with all the people I worked and played with over these years that span my experience of the extended guerilla theater run of this burning archetype — and way beyond. I was there as a first hand witness as an original organizer before John or Michaels arrival and as director of construction and erection of the wooden man and pedestal from 1990 through 2000.

    John is angry with Larry. He said some things in his posts that I know to be different. Let me clarify my use of ‘misplaced’ anger. It’s my judgement that it’s misplaced because I know that Larry is trustworthy from 25 years of close friendship, John mistrusts him and that’s our difference of opinion. There is a lot of Larry bashing, and discrediting. I never heard Larry bash or discredit John but I get the impression from John that a part of his issue is he is not given due credit, so I responded by giving acknowledgment. It also seems Johns grudge with Larry is because Larry held onto his vision of his creation even as John tried rigorously to wrest it away (Johns vision was to shut it down after ’96 because it was more responsibility than he could fathom and made his view clear that it was headed toward disaster). ’97 was a triumphant success that seemed to only make John more bitter. Burning Man has continued to grow in success because of Larry’s focus that started it and attracted Cocaphony… taking back personal power from the consumer marketing machine of our modern times. John is a master of this, on a smaller scale. Larrys vision to change the world and I think he’s making an impact.

    Some corrections…

    From Johns post: “In 1986, Jerry James cobbled together an 8 foot tall human figure and burned it on Baker Beach with Larry Harvey. They got the idea after they had attended Baker Beach Solstice bonfires & art soirees hosted by Mary Grauberger in the early 80’s. Jerry James looked me and the Cacophony Society up in 1988 and asked for our help and by 1990 we were integrally involved in the Baker Beach party.”

    My first hand experience was that Mary, whom had put together the summer solstice gathering on Baker beach in prior years, which I attended, decided not to organize the gathering for June 21, 1986. Larry declared he’d take it on, and decided to do things a little different, to build a wooden sculpture to burn. He called our friend Jerry James to collaborate. As I recall they built it in a few hours the very afternoon of the 21st, I was among a small handful of others that met them at the Baker beach parking lot at dusk, we carried it down the beach and… It was not called Burning Man that first year. Each subsequent summer solstice at Baker beach through 1990, it grew.

    John claims: “Cacophony dubbed the events Burning Man in 1989.”

    This is an untrue statement. I don’t remember the first uttering of the namesake, but there were cards and flyers printed and distributed publicizing “Burning Man” in 1988, prior to John or Michaels involvement.

    John’s fable: “Three old white guys own the trademarks. They all hate each other’s guts.”

    Hatered is a strong emotion. I asked Larry how he felt and he told me he did not hate John nor Michael.

    I have stepped into this fray because I saw some inaccuracies and I believe that that Larry is not a hero or an idol but witnessed him founding and leading the event fully from the beginning though to the present. I believe he started it, has grown it as its director and as such, rightly owns the event and its name. As he signed partial ownership of the trademark over to John and Michael, it’s between them to sort things out. I think Johns idea of putting the name into the public domain, though an interesting contemplation, serves nothing more, unfortunately, than an act of spite. I would love to see John receive lots of money for his contributions, it just seems wrong to take it from future participants as it would for any other past contributor to do so. It’s been over 10 years… how time flies.

    The money that b-man organizers make, I feel, is fair and reasonable compensation for the effort of what they produce, holding space for a lot of freedom, creativity and connection. Being a volunteer organization, only volunteer if it is your desire to do so… Burning Man was founded and remains today to be an ideal/principled venture, the corporate status is a necessary means of functioning on its scale, not a wall street traded, profit making model. It’s mission has never wavered, and I have faith and belief that that is the secret of its success — it lives in an economy of gifts. One last point, I don’t think everything about the event is perfect by any means, but I’ve seen a lot learning and improving over the years to have hope.

    I remain, best wishes to all…

  156. p0s1t1v3

    i gotta say … and i’m no 20 year veteran, just a human being on an evolutionary sprial skip … that the biggest disappointment for me about the whole burning man ‘family’ is all the ego tripping … from DJ’s thinking they are the sh#@ for ‘slaying the crowd’… to people tying their identity to the number of burns they’ve been to and the funkiness of their attire … whatever … is all a fleeting dance of light and form … get over your Self … we are all common people … compromise / mutually agreeable solutions, please

    so, this is the year i do my best ‘burner’ impersonation … i think i finally have met enough cool people to really get the look down … i’m looking forward to the compliments…

    lots of love / real connections shared as well … genuine transformation …

    back to the source

  157. Payday

    Sure hope John wins! That way I can own the rights to “Burning Man Music Fesitval”, “Burning Man Clothing”, etc….

    Always wanted to cash in on the work of others!

  158. poo poo head

    What really makes poo poo head puke is when artists and tech types need to display their ignorance about the issues of the lawsuit or the applicable law. they should save their comments for a tribe blog under the heading “all the great shit i did to make bm so great”

    The reality is that only 3 people know what is going on here and the agreement states what it states. This will case will resolve and no one but the parties will know what happens and the result will remain confidential. So everything else is just a bunch of blowhard b.s.

    Conclusion: artists are really good at making art and blowing it up, burning it etc. tech heads are good at using iphones.

    BRCLLC is really good at organizing the event. Can any of you geniuses do it better.

    question: how many anti-corporate hypocrites out there buy gasoline and drive cars? So why are you so sad if you have to buy BM brand shotguns and peanut butter?

    Finally, have you ever seen such a bunch of arrogance as idiots commenting on how revenue is spent on what and who makes what!!?! What right do they have??

    Do those morons have any idea the logistics of organizing the event and keeping 40,000 ravers safe and artists types happy? I think the organizers should get a 50% salary increase (with 16.66% going to john) just to have to deal with all the babies complaining about how hard it is to but their cheap tickets and having to hear every opinion spectators have on how they would do it better if they were not so high.

    poo poo head says: lets meet at the temple at midnight on the 3rd night. half of us will dress as sunni and half as shiite. we will hold hands and make peace, record it on our iphones and send it to iraq. then we’ll go make love.

    se yall on the playa!

  159. Toast

    Ok, let me give a little more info. I am friends with Larry, John, Michael, Chris, Blake,Tym, … a lot of people that have posted here I befriended through, what else might we call it but…. anyhow, I’m sorry to have this forum as an odd reunion opportunity.

    “Really I happen to have very fond feelings with all the people I worked and played with over these years that span my experience of the extended guerilla theater run of this burning archetype — and way beyond.”

    I don’t really care about your fond feelings toward everyone there Dan. I care about what you think, what you do, and why you say that you think and act that way.

    See, this is one of my personal problems with the ‘burner’ mindset: that as long as *they* feel good about things, everything must be great. It’s great, it’s just that everyone else doesn’t understand how great it is. It’s like your awareness of others stops the moment anything uncomfortable comes up. It’s bogus.

    “It’s my judgement that it’s misplaced because I know that Larry is trustworthy from 25 years of close friendship, John mistrusts him and that’s our difference of opinion.”

    Can you give examples? I mean, ok, so you’ve known the guy for a long time. I’m looking for stories of why I should think Larry to be great, or why he thinks his legal fighting to own the name of Burning Man is the noble and right thing to be doing. I don’t know Larry. I don’t know you either, you know, so I have no idea what you consider to be “trustworthy”.

    “There is a lot of Larry bashing, and discrediting. I never heard Larry bash or discredit John but I get the impression from John that a part of his issue is he is not given due credit, so I responded by giving acknowledgment.”

    Well that just fixes everything now don’t it.

    “It also seems Johns grudge with Larry is because Larry held onto his vision of his creation even as John tried rigorously to wrest it away (Johns vision was to shut it down after ‘96 because it was more responsibility than he could fathom and made his view clear that it was headed toward disaster).”

    Wow. That’s not the way I see it. I think his grudge with Larry has to do more with how Larry and others acted after ’96. The whole money embezzlement thing, the being ok WITH PEOPLE DIEING AT THE EVENT thing, I mean, come on man. ‘Wrest the vision away’? “John’s vision”? I think John’s vision was for no one to get hurt or killed.

    You know what really kills me tho, is the line about John not being able to handle the responsibility of the whole thing. See, I once went to jail with John Law. I sat in a cell, in handcuffs, next to him. We were just participants at a event. Some friends of ours snuck a group of folks into an abandoned hospital. It was a large group, they weren’t well organized, and to our horror a young lady fell through a skylight to the floor a story and a half below. Broke her ribs, which punctured her lung. We called the ambulance crew, otherwise she was going to die. Everyone else got out (barely in time) while two of the event organizers stayed behind, as did I (I used to be an EMT so it would have been wrong to leave) and so did John. Because he’s John. So we went to jail. Not knowing if the girl had lived. She did. John went and visited her every single day in the hospital. John and I didn’t even know this girl, she was dating one of the event organizers. We had nothing to do with this event, other than just being there. This was a truly horrible thing. But John did what he felt was right and responsible, which was to make certain that the girl got help, and that she was going to be ok. So you can take your idea that John can’t handle responsibility and, well, let’s keep this civil.

    “‘97 was a triumphant success that seemed to only make John more bitter.”

    I went in 97. I didn’t think it was a success. It was kinda lame. It felt more like some kinda paid art festival thing instead of what it was in ’96. ’98 was better, but the whole nebulous entity idea was so sad and lame. The thing actually said ‘wheres the beef’ at one point. I liked the sculpture a lot, but the idea was just so bad. I was happy when I herd it got burned. This last year was incredible (if crowded). Also where you getting that Burning Man’s success after he left made John more bitter? It hasn’t been my experience.

    “Burning Man has continued to grow in success because of Larry’s focus that started it and attracted Cocaphony…”

    I didn’t get into Cacophony until ’97, so I can’t say much about this. Except that your story doesn’t line up with what other folks say. It sounds like it was a very mutual thing. And it was Cacophony that took it to the desert.

    “taking back personal power from the consumer marketing machine of our modern times.”

    Right! My power! And no consumer marketing machine shilling t-shirts of Burning Man to muddle up my life… oh wait…

    “Larrys vision to change the world and I think he’s making an impact.”

    True believer, huh? OK, so nothing I say is probably going to matter much to you. You cup is full, and you’ve got the power of god at your back. Must be a comfy way to live, what with all the complexities of real life not getting in the way much.

    “Hatered is a strong emotion. I asked Larry how he felt and he told me he did not hate John nor Michael.”

    Why is hatred bad or wrong? What is it with you? Anything uncomfortable is somehow wrong? Maybe John does hate Larry. Maybe he has rights to.

    But again, Dan, tell me without mentioning Burning Man what makes Larry so great?

  160. BlueTunaYoYo

    I have really enjoyed reading the posts–I have read the Doherty book, and the voices on this blog help add some colour to my sense of what Burning Man is….or was…

    I have attended for 9 years, and at the momement I am not going back in 2007. I will miss it. I will also be having other adventures that will make life more vivid.

    I have volunteered for: set up/clean up,teched center camp stage, and I have earned meals. Of my 9 years,I have created deep playa art installations for 6 of them.

    Did anyone notice that on the 2:00 street there were only 3 or 4 music spaces this year? Is it because funding is more for “art”(of people who kiss ass well) then music?

    Would the current organizers rather have a curated wine and cheese tour of burning man then an edgy dangerous exciting particapatory experience?

    I miss the anarchy-

    I hate the damn fence–are we being kept in or out? I know it exists for good, but so does the patriot act. It feels good to piss on it every year, although you have to do it fast. Last year, within 3 minutes of pissing on fence, a white pickup truck with “keepers” arrived with dire warnings of leaving.

    I think there is a deeper reason for the gate facists. It is about control, and that should scare us.

    Some Greeters on the other hand are some of the greatest burners i know.

    I dislike the fact that I have realized for several years that there are mountains of steaming hypocrites that tend to hang out in “First Camp”(elitist prima donnas). But accepted it, because it does take a shit load of work to make the event happen, and I am grateful(and usually drop beer at the local dpw depot).

    For the first time, I was not front row at the burn, I was dissassembling my art and creating a small bon fire on the deep playa. Watching the man burn from a mile away does give a one a different perspective.

    Of the 35 people in the group I camped with, I will be surprised if 10 return again this year. Are we voting with our pocketbooks?

    The most important night for me is the temple burn. I will miss that the most, and have to create ritual for myself that fills that void.

    Of the newbies that camped with us this year, ALL were blown away. And I could see myself at my first burn through their eyes. They are returning.

    i dont know what it will be like in late august when I realize i will not be there. The event has changed. and not for the better. I dont know any other place yet, that is this unique. However, It is starting to reflect the flaws in our society that we all go to BRC to escape from, and if this lawsuit does a little shock treatment to the powers that be, thank you john law.

    If burning man is going to be aroudn for another 20 some odd years, the top of the pyramid will need descend and become a more wholistic part of the event, and not be the capitalistic tyrants protecting us from “ourselves”.

    We will go elsewhere. John Law did.

  161. Toast

    “Did anyone notice that on the 2:00 street there were only 3 or 4 music spaces this year? Is it because funding is more for “art”(of people who kiss ass well) then music?”

    This is something that I’ve always been really sad about. Rave Camp won. I remember in ’96, there were tons of bands. Bands driving around in vans, even, just playing and blasting music. And all kinds of music too.

    Now it’s all just rave camps. No music. No bands. I guess it got to expensive for the bands to haul their equipment to the middle of nowhere and also pay so much to get in.

    I mean, I remember in ’98 incredible stages that folks set up and bands playing everywhere. This last year, in ’06, when we went: no bands.

    Same with Art Cars. Man, in ’96, lots of art cars. I mean that drove there, ‘real’ art cars. Not parade floats.

    If you really wanna get a good idea of what Burning Man has become, simply hang out next to the Burning Man DMV. Them hippies love rules. It’s crazy. A friend of ours, with a real art car, that he drives year round, worked like crazy to simply cover his car with lights. It’s an amazing art car. And yet, no driving around for him. No special bumper sticker, for he didn’t get his stuff into the office in time and didn’t know anyone to pull favors with. It’s just so sad…

  162. napacabbagescallops

    dan it appears to me you are not taking john at face value- you are not believing what he says. you are intuiting “the real reason” john is responding to this legal action perpetrated by harvey and m2- without addressing why it is that harvey is resorting to the legal system for his power grab. you are intuiting “the real reason” is that john wants money, after he has said that he does not. man you must be a nightmare in a relationship!

    why do you think larry “deserves” the trademark, when clearly he has only owned a third of it?

    you are a religious zealot who thinks the law does not apply to you or your cult leader, since you answer to a higher calling, the Man- i suggest you watch the recent Jonestown movie that just came out and meditate on this:

    “if you’re doing business with a religious sunofabitch, get it in writing. his word isn’t worth shit, not with the good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.”
    -william s burroughs

  163. iris

    I love that the self-rightous, b-m organization is going to finally be subject to some scrutiny. bm is a shadow of it’s former self, and cookie-cutter hipsters fetishing the event as some kind of religous totem. i think john is just recognizing that it’s time to let it play out. let’s let it die and be reborn as something new.

  164. Dan Miller, aka Burning Dan

    Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate the opportunity to look closer at how my writings come across and hopefully better clarify my position. Thanks Toast for the story of John and yours experience with helping that woman. I believe fully in John as an upstanding soul and your account attests to this and helps me rethink the stance I’ve pontificated…

    I’ll back up here. John asked, “Does Burning Man belong to everyone?” Then proceeded to say why he thinks it does. He points out “some of you know the history and some don’t.” , then tells his story of events. Some points of his story I experienced differently. Back in the late ‘80’s John met Jerry James first, maybe that’s why he credits him with founding burning man, though I really don’t know why. I ‘intuited’ that he, out of anger, discredited Larry’s as the originator. That felt unfair to me. I apologize to you John if I’m wrong about that. This not a question of cult worship here, it’s simply a question of who does the name ‘burning man’ belong to. Not being a lawyer, I could only express my gut feelings on this… as I elaborated prior… I believe Larry owned it as being the originator. I retract my second guesses as to Johns motivations, perhaps I’m guilty of calling the pot black regarding drawing conclusions based on reacting to what I perceive as mistruths. With that said, I’ll simplify my position sans accusations… As Larry founded it, directed it, stuck through with it, has seen to the stewardship consistently through the present, I recognize that should constitute ownership. I’ll completely stay out of the issue of the legal agreement of Paper Man. I really have no business to go there. I don’t remember where I read it but I recall John stating that if Larry didn’t release the name to the public domain, he would then sue for money. John had asked for money from the event back in ’97 I believe it was… so this point I didn’t ‘intuit.’

    I’ll exit here with apologies to you John for anything I’ve said that was unfair. I stand by my corrections based on first hand experience and my belief that the trademark should be managed by those that have founded and sustained it, to keep it private or make it pubilic. And lastly, that I support you in your effort to do what you feel is right.

  165. denzil/barnyard man

    hmmm.. I had intended to stay out of this because, really, who can say what is right & what is wrong when 15 years & thousands of people are involved. but reading all these comments has changed my mind —

    what I am hoping at this very moment is that the whole thing we’ve called BM crashes & burns & DIES as soon as possible. get 39,000 disgustingly dirty & wasted & polluting humans the fuck out of the playa wilderness, let all the “burner” sheep find some other drug party to be faux-spiritual about, and make all the BORG find another way to make a living.

    all this talk about the ORG, the origins, community, control, the rights to the brand, the money involved reminds me of another special community I was once a part of — I worked for a guy who asked “How big can we get before we get bad?” well, we found out, and it sucked ass. why did the company have to get bigger? the bosses’ egos, hubris, and greed (defined as “too much money is never enough”). we employees lived it just the way it was, and we continue to remember, but those days are gone, and once they were gone, there was no getting them back.

    I’ve attended BM ten or eleven times between 1992 and 2006. made things, built stuff. like lots of DPW freaks, I love being out there early, when its quiet & we can work in small groups & get our asses kicked by weather. a few years, I’ve gone early to build and then left before the “event” started. increasingly, I find the party that is the event to be wasteful, shallow, stupid (frat boys have no special claim to unconscious living), and boring.

    I’m not bitter about any of the politics, but I do think BM has become crassly suburban and frankly, Small, in its vision & ideals. “no spectators”? give me a break – BM is an interactive theme park for most of the 39,000.

    the death of BM will not prevent any enlightened or confused visionary from experimenting with new adventures. the death of BM will not prevent caring people from connecting authentically & building community. the death of BM will not stop one single artist from creating something magical.

    I reject the notion that BM provides some unique service to the world. make something real & creative & experimental yourself. don’t publicize it with a lecture tour & don’t invite 39,000 people. you’ll be better off. guaranteed.

    death to BurningMan.. and if there is an ’07 event yes I’ll likely be out there early again enjoying the wild open quiet. sure I’m conflicted about the whole thing. everyone should be.

  166. StupidAsshole

    Toast et al:

    I disagree with Dan’s views, but I do feel compelled to point out that he’s not your typical $300-ticket-buying, BMORG-worshipping, Kool-Aid-drinking, Burning Man groupie. He’s actually a very decent, sweet, and interesting guy whose perceptions, IMHO, are shaped by the fact that he’s a very old, loyal friend of Larry’s. Which, of course, is quite an achievement, as all Larry’s other old friends have long since seen through him (as everyone knows, Larry does have a very bad habit of fucking over all his friends — even Dan admits that he’s an ingrate).

  167. napacabbagescallops-buddy

    Burning Dan – the perfect example of the typical idiot burner. Not only long-winded but asks the same thing over and over again hoping that maybe one more time will hit the jackpot. As you can see, he goes by ‘gut feelings’ rather than facts.

    “This not a question of cult worship here, it’s simply a question of who does the name ‘burning man’ belong to…Not being a lawyer, I could only express my gut feelings on this… as I elaborated prior… I believe Larry owned it as being the originator. I retract my second guesses as to Johns motivations, perhaps I’m guilty of”

    Guilty of being a moron it seems like. One more time for the ‘special’ readers: It doesn’t matter if YOU think Larry should own it. The claims (both John’s and M2’s) were made because an agreement between the 3 of them (sorry even if you say you were there, you obviously don’t count) was breached.

    Repeating your questions until you get the answer you want just reinforces the KoolAid drinking, cult following burner stereotype. RTFM people.

    And ditto to the death of BM. Get rid of the creatures of habit routinely trying too hard to be alternative and spiritual. Time to start something new, get creative! All is not lost. There’s other ways to get laid you know!

  168. iris

    The first year I went, ’98, I was new to SF. The person who introduced me to the event was surprised and delighted that I “got it” so quickly. But I had simply found another place of many where others shared my artistic spirit. It wasn’t the first time. There’s lots of inspiration out there! BM does not *own* it. That proprietary attitude has made it in institution, and the groupthink that’s resulted is a bit sickening.

    I’m reminded of a scene in Frederick Wiseman’s film “High School” where Rev. Jesse Jackson is holding forth to an auditorium of kids. “Repeat after me! We’re individuals!” he yells. They dutifully all shout together “We’re individuals!”.

  169. biggie

    This is purely a matter of strategy. Once it has come to the point of a lawsuit you need to recognize what you are dealing with and handle it professionally. Its not about doing what’s right any more, its about winning and then doing what’s right. Only the threat of a catastrophic loss of control will get the BORG to listen. If I were you I would take the “releasing into the public domain” option off the table to be brought back as a decent compromise, and instead go for keeping the rights yourself and simply pursuing your necessary legal course of action. Already we have a MicroSoft commercial using the name Burning Man. As you own the rights to the mark, license it to some companies for advertising – the Bic Burning Man Lighter, the Burning Man Coke, get a few big corporate sponsers to pay some legal bills. In the face of a De Facto loss, the BORG will give you the De Jure rights (which you should already possess) to release the name into the public should you so choose to do so. In the meantime all that will happen is that you will have made some (evil evil) corporations pay to use a mark that they will very soon be able to use for free. And yes, I’ve chosen to spend plenty of year bringing my ass out t o the playa and building art for humanity’s wandering dustbin (so don’t question whether I grok it). Again, keep in mind that this is no longer about doing the right thing, you have already done the right thing, and you intend to do the right thing in the end. Playing dirty to win is the name of the game right now.

  170. SeaShell

    Brothers, sisters, friends and family please stop fighting. I understand that this is a heated issue, as everyone involved has had their own personal (for better or worse) Burning Man experience that they are here to defend. However, the defensiveness only creates walls between us. We have enough people in the default world that would like to put a stop to us…we have overcome their opposition only through unity and determination. While there are things that each of us find to be imperfect, we must band together to make productive changes instead of destroying our home. Let go of your position and consider the other side. You may not agree, but seeing the other side leads to understanding, which then in turn leads to finding solutions that best acomodate both sides. I will not point a finger at BMORG, M2, Larry Harvey, or John Law, as they are all doing the best they can with the tools they have to do what they see as the best thing to do. We all do things that others do not like. Sometimes we have good reason, sometimes those things are mistakes. We cannot find “truth” to decide for ourselves if actions on all sides were done w/ good reason or mistakes when in such extreme emotional states that we are openly putting-down each other (our allies). However, by letting go of our positions and emotional attatchments, we can seek truth and resolution to move forward instead of remaining stuck in a perpetual bitching match.
    Regardless of who did what, we must remember that our community is based on love which also includes forgiveness from time to time. Please, before posting consider if what you have to say is constructive (even if harsh) or simply attacking another fellow burner. If it is the second, try to re-word what you have to say to be constructive so that we start moving towards a solution and have a loving community to sustain us through the darkness of the default.
    Much love my brothers and sisters.
    Love Always,

  171. tym simpson

    I just wrote a whole bunch of not nice stuff about what you just said and erased it.
    So the intent of what you said wasn’t lost entirely but…
    Oh Never mind, have some more kool aid and look at the pretty lights.
    (and no, i don’t have any spare change, get away from my beer.)

  172. Vic Stevens

    Its´s like watching a messy divorce – three partners sign a contract (marriage) and then a few years later split up. When the first split happened 10 years ago there was not too much to fight over. The arts festival that they and many others created was not doing well financially, and was in danger of collapse. Unfortunately, these guys did not get a divorce, they just agreed to separate. The two partners that stayed on helped to build a successful, financially stable organization and put on an annual festival that evolved to be much different than the original version. The first partner (John Law) does not like the new version of the festival and is generally pissed off at his former buddies. Lots of emotion here including righteous indignation and probably some jealousy. In any case, it seems like Mr. Law wants more credit for helping to design the old version, and would like to punish the current management.

    Now the two partners that stayed on are fighting over control of the organization. This is not unusual – partners fighting over the control of a successful outfit.

    The distressing part of this is conflict is that these personal fights will drain a lot of resources away from the production of the annual arts festival. In my opinion, the current management does a good job putting on the festival and I don´t like to see them distracted by these ownership disputes.

    I suggest buying out John Law´s interest – he can then use that money any way he wants. For example he could use the money to support his time (and others?) to write a book on the origin of the festival, or make a film, or both, just to set the record straight. Or he could use the money to start his own new festival. Let him have his settlement, make the divorce final, and let those of us who like the current version of the festival get on with it.

  173. Jorge de la Playa (George Post)

    Eeeeuuuuw, you guyz, like, ick. Why don’t the three of you get together down at the beach where it all began, have a smoke, take a nice long walk along the Pacific shore, and work it out Man-to-Man. Lawyers, feh!

  174. Pingback: The Burning Man trademark controversy at FactoryCity
  175. Jay

    As a Burner since 2002, it’s interesting to know more of the real story behind how BM got started. Also as a relatively inexperienced Burner, I don’t really care! Thank you so much for thinking of this amazing thing that has become Burning Man but you don’t really matter anymore. The people that work their asses off year round and the people that make Black Rock City happen every year are the ones that own Burning Man now. Although I’m not sure we know what we’re doing with it……

  176. tym simpson

    Acrtually Jay the people that make BM happen do not own it- most of them just pay the bills and sometimes eachother.
    95% of “burners” would not have the wherewithall to do it on their own without a concentrated focused effort of a paid staff. “Burners” are not homogenus and all of one mind either.
    Burningman is not a consensus run operation. It’s organizational structure is well with in the terms of a corporate for profit paridign.
    I never understood why they insisted on advertising it and selling it to its existing patrons much the way a product is advertised and sold…then i realized that was the market and that was the only paridign those running it knew (most of them are corporate drop outs). Nothing revalutionary and new though they all(and some of y’all) often so desperatly want to believe that is so.
    It is profitable (though they could make more elsewhere more than a few do walk away with 50k+ annual paychecks and benefits) to be fair the BMLLC has chosen to place most of their profits into arts funding but they are not ever trieing to run BM as a non profit its not exactly a lovefest always either.
    To a a soul lost and looking for meaning in the void it serves the same functions of organized religion with an illusion of a year round community for a price. Mostly the price is the price of attending the event but there are other prices besides money- not always nice or cheap prices.
    The emperor is still nude, the event is not at all a bad thing (indeed its done many people good as well as ruined a few)but it is NOT all that is good and pure as the driven snow. I am sorry but there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy.
    You ( or rather y’all) do not own burning man. Literaly speaking none of you legaly own the words “burning man” in relation to the event in the desert. You may not like this, you might deny this, but this is irrefutably so.
    The world is much bigger than what you percieve- take off the blinders and you’ll see more. Some of it you won’t like but some of it is even better than drinking the kool aid.
    Namaste as i wanna be

  177. Vic Stevens

    Ownership and credit – big terms in this discussion.

    I have attended the festival for the past five years. Like many, I have put considerable time and money into my participation – helping with art projects, organizing a camp, helping to put on various events at the festival, and so on. I do this just for the fun of it. I don’t expect credit, profit, recognition beyond the immediate experience, or a sense that anybody owes me anything. I also do not feel ownership of the festival – I am a participant and a member of a limited duration community. When we leave, it’s over, we leave no trace. It’s never going to happen the same way again. There is nothing left to own out there on the playa.

  178. wolfe desert dog

    Eeeeuuuuw, you guyz, like, ick. Why don’t the three of you get together down on each other at the beach where it all began, ya know, some hot man-on-man action, have a smoke, a drink, take a nice long walk along the Pacific shore holding hands, and work it out Man-to-Man. Lawyers, feh! boys on boys can figger it out!

  179. Emory Moody

    Well, now…

    I’m a transplanted midwestern geek who learned of Burning Man from the Bruce Sterling Wired article, and found himself in the middle of the organization a few years later. Now I live in Reno because of BM.

    I spent 3 years working as DPW’s night dispatcher, which meant that I soberly observed the ‘fearless leaders’ during their off duty hours. Wheee.

    The only principal in this I have yet to meet is John Law.
    Interesting that I know ( but not intimately) Larry, M2, Marion, Will, and many others ( as well as Mr.E and Tym, who have been nipping at each others heels… Hi Guys, howzit hanging? go beat each other up off-line, K?) But never knew that John Law played the role he did until reading all of this… and if I did hear of him, it sure didn’t stick.

    This speaks to the “colloquial” knowledge of who was responsible for what. Honestly, I should have known who he is.

    The only issue I have with the lawsuit is the implication of “evil”. I seriously doubt Larry ever gave it that much thought, y’know what I mean? If I have observed one thing about this group of people, it is a practicality that can be learned from. I truly believe that getting the day-to-day business done was the overall goal, and the best choices were not made. Gee, that wouldn’t be the first time. By last year the lack of communication got to the point demonstrated by M2’s demand for arbitration, and Mr. Laws Suit.

    I am disturbed by what seems to be a contradiction in the goals of lawsuit as stated in blogs, and other press, and the actual wording of the lawsuit, in which remedies are requested in such a manner: public domain *or* restoration of the ownership to it’s original configuration, or one that acknowledges Mr Law’s contributions, and fair ownership. Honestly, which is more likely? A lawyer may be best to answer that.

    To speak to that, it may be that the lawyers will always concentrate on money ( so they can get their share) and Mr. Law has the more altruistic goal in mind.

    In any case, what needs to be remedied is acknowledgment of Mr. Laws contributions.
    Certainly, the publicity surrounding the suit is doing that. Sad that it had to come to this…

    ” Why does it always have to come to that?” Flynn Mauthe, after hearing from me that if I didn’t part ways on that very day, I was likely to shoot someone specific.
    ” I don’t know, Flynn. Why *does* it always get left alone until it comes to that?” I replied, and resigned my ( Paid) position.

    To all who were responsible, thanks for giving me the chance to know what I know. ( wink)

    ET clear

  180. Jean Clare Law

    You go, Big Brother. I know what a righteous man you are. I saw all the years that you put both your time and money into the Burning Man. Never wanting anything, other then to share unique artistic ideas and endeavors with those that appreciated it. Good luck to you. Sincerely, your little sis.

  181. Kid Klone...One Hope

    I agree with your idea 100%, but the problem with it is (which is inevitable) is the fact that corperations WILL exploit Black rock city/burningman for they’re own profit if made public domaine. The simple fact we have to face is the fact that burning man is Not a baby anymore, and an event that has grown to almost 40,000 people can not be public domaine. I do think that the owners of the event can stop selling coffee for one, and lower the price of the tickets. You have to be an idiot to thing your $250-$280 tickets are not making Larry and gang filthy rich…that money is not all going back into black rock city.

  182. unclear

    TO all the public domain haters:

    You are all unclear on the concept. No company would brand themselves with BurningMan® if every other company and joe blow on the street can do the same.

    Public Domain is a gift to all burners. Go forth and multiply! Party in the desert, *ONE* company can no longer monopolize all desert events! Or profiting off of franchises in other cities that are funded/produced by the hard work of volunteers!

    If not, opt for the 3-way. This way no *ONE* person can continue to raise ticket prices while not paying workers reasonable wages or providing a reasonably clean and safe working environment or under-reporting income to throw BLM off their back.

  183. David Madison

    This is very sad.

    First of, I want to give thanks.

    Thanks to John Law, Larry Harvey, and the multitude of others who either intentionally or inadvertently helped create Black Rock City and Burning Man. You have changed my life, and bless you all.

    It is, however, very sad that there are such seemingly insurmountable differences between the people who all deserve credit for this extremely powerful creation.

    I wonder if perhaps all of these issues, about ticket prices, ownership of the event, control over the name,.. I can’t help but wonder if these are not the core issues. I wonder if this all comes down to an issue of respect and honor.

    I for one would love to see Burning Man respect and honor all the people who helped create it and give it life. And in some small way, that includes those of us who are a part of Burning Man now, in every part we play.

    But if there was a way that Larry Harvey and John Law could be given the respect, and could somehow give each other the respect that they so richly deserve, then I can’t help but think these issues would be worked out. I feel like they both have accomplished miraculous things and I would love to see a place where both of them could feel comfortable with BM of today as well as yesterday.

  184. T-Bone

    Iam amazed to hear he was part owner of bm whatever…..

    8 Million in ticket sales and 600,000 plus, from the “cafe that loses money”……

    They payoff BLM to use the land, give a little to John…….

  185. StupidAsshole

    Here’s a video of a recent protest against BMORG by the DPW workers (that’s the people who set up the event and clean up afterwards) — who have seen their pay cut in half over the past few years, and who have been subject to dangerous conditions (one of them was killed in 2001) and even to sexual harassment and assault by a senior member of the BMORG staff. Towards the end of the video, which was shot outside the BMORG headquarters in SF, you’ll see how BMORG sends out a group of people to try to disrupt the protest and intimidate the protesters. It’s pretty fucking disgusting and sinister — reminiscent of Moonies or Scientologists:

    If you’re as disgusted by this video as many of us are, please help us spread the word to the media.

  186. harriet

    Hey John are you free 10//20/07?

    The emergence of a new event, Nihilman.

    1. The event known as Burning Man splits into two different festivals
    2. A occurs in desert every labor day, accommodates 35k
    3. B moves around, in 2007 it will happen in SF, or maybe southern US, in October(?), accommodates 10-20k
    4. Larry is in charge of A
    5. M2 is in charge of B

    At this point I will address event B October 2007.

    We will need a voting system, Fiasco can set it up

    We will need a council. I recommend GXAOUI, Fiasco, Frank, John Law, Nat the Bat

    This event, we need a name, will take place somewhere in Hunters Point I think

    We will not fund art. We will not fund anything except maybe a portajohn or two. We will charge $10. It will be a one-day affair. We will make approx $800.

    Let’s show Larry we can do it better than him.

  187. The Truth

    John Law is right. The other guys want control. Open it up. If it really works, it will continue. Why can’t another event be started?

  188. Nocturnal Steve

    I remember back in 1997 the Washoe County Sheriff was seizing gate ticket money to make sure the port-o-potty, water trucks and other outside service provides got paid. Not because the organizers were mismanaging or misappropriating funds, but because the event had been breaking even , or operating in the red (losing money) for many years. If Larry Harvey et al motivation was to capitalize on the event, they would have licensed vending (collected a fee from and allowed third parties to sell soda, T-shirts and trinkets) or gotten corporate sponsorship (imagine; Coppertone Sunscreen the official sun tan lotion of ….) . If the organizers and senior staff are finally making a decent living more power to them . They stuck with it, devoted their lives to the event year after year. I feel safe having then be the owners and stewards of the Burningman name . If John Law feels he has some claim on the event, more power to him go for it but not under the pretence that Larry et al have some selfish motive in wanting to maintain ownership of the B.M. name.

  189. Josh Wilson

    This is a fascinating exercise in the limits of private ownership vs. public domain, directly related to the larger struggles of open-source/free culture in a capitalist economy …

    Despite all the philosophical principle invoked here, right or wrong, the precise legality of this case will make or break it, because that’s the kind of system we live within.

    I want to point out that public domain has been abused of late. Disney, invoking the late Sony Bono, managed to upend copyright law by extending its hold on Mickey Mouse far beyond the traditional limit for copyright ownership:

    “THE MOUSE THAT ATE THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: Disney, The Copyright Term Extension Act, And eldred V. Ashcroft ”

    “Copyright Term Extension Act”

    What would it mean for Disney to suddenly lose ownership of its primary icon, Mickey Mouse? And all the other historic characters that would follow?

    Billions of dollars of revenue …

    Is Burning Man LLC the Disney of the “alternative”/art world?

    This is in fact directly related to the larger issue of Free Culture that is endemic to the Internet era. Music downloads, film downloads, copyright, sampling, mashups, etc. … the use of icons, creative works and intellectual property for financial vs. cultural purposes is the defining struggle of the open-source information age.

  190. cosmic playa

    Thanks John for bringing to light TRUTH long hidden.
    We all who believe in the source will one more time gather in the place where you took the event to start.

    i’d like to see the event devolve into the idea you had of it way back 11 years ago, of a place where all can gather of their free will, of their own ability and express themself in anyway they imagine.

    good by trash fence. good bye small minded power trippers.

    Hello to that day when the Man stands on the playa again.

  191. Man of Ash

    I am burnt, bent, broke and baptized in the fire that is my birthright. Be it known to all that words drawn on paper create no boundries for those that speak with fire.

  192. NeeKo

    NOOOOOOO, Please do not throw Burning man into the Public Domain…Larry, M2, and John must come to an agreement…
    Please protect the rights of the Man…

    Only one man should burn once a year!

  193. bronco

    would a proxy lawsuit (out of the control of john law, et at) solve this? i’m a bit tired of the dance and the teasing. it almost feels like mr. law is playing a game amongst friends or whatever. i thinking about putting a stop to this and the other.

  194. bronco

    so many lawyers, so much time. it’s a love afair, really. is that… is that the smell of fall in the air? i love fall. i love winter, too.

  195. bronco

    it would be a class action lawsuit on behalf on the participants. or an unauthorized proxy suit. these do happen. just updating yáll. will post more soon.


  196. howey

    who’s right? who’s wrong? who gifted who with burning man? someone who really cares about this event wouldn’t litter on the playa, am i wrong? Someone who really cares about this event wouldn’t watch girls gone wild burning man, am i still wrong? people who don’t care will ruin the event for themselves. what you focus on and consume is your decision.
    it’s the only way to keep this thing real…
    so what if everyone else goes corporate and sells the name…
    it only matters if the founders go corporate and sell out,
    that is what will hurt the event,
    not if mtv tries to sell it.


  197. bronco

    i’m giving this until december 4th (for whatever reasons)… if we don’t pull out of this mess (i suppose i’m the one who measures this), i’m going to do everything i’m allowed to do to usurp this lawsuit. this isn’t a warning or anything. i have no hard feelings. i wish everyone well. perhaps i have no legal basis… anyhoot. dec 4 is when i don’t or do move forward.

    in the meantime and forever, i hope everyone has fun.


  198. rc

    Why should only one man burn once a year?

    Shouldn’t the idea of a burning man be stronger than the object itself.. This is like saying only one person gets to read Hamlet each year.

    If someone wants to make Burning Man hamburgers, or Burning Man x-flics.. so what. Everyone is entitled to creativity (or should be).. Although i think it should be illegal to have Burning Man girls gone wild forced on me by the media (or even the real Burning Man event), i don’t think other people should be prevented from exploring these ideas themselves.

    The good ideas should be separated from the bad by people experiencing them, not by enforcement. If you want to go to the “real” Burning Man, then do some research, and go.. If you wanna go to the Burning Man 2 down the street – because you like the people there more, then you should be able to..

    The “real” Burning Man is not an object or place. Its an idea. And it seems like a good one that everyone should have access to.

    Think of it this way. We presently living in a world where no one, anywhere, can write a computer program and call it “windows”.. (Of course, who would want to now.)

    I’ve never been to BM yet… I’d like to — maybe — but somehow it feels stronger in my imagination. I’ll savor that for a while.

  199. MINDFLYER58

    Just like all this Intellectual Property BULLSHIT –
    I’m quite sure neither of the 3 put the words Burning Man
    into the english language or any other language – I am also quite sure they are not the first to burn a man wooden or otherwise – If I remember correctly, Richard Pryor did this in the early 80’s – Come on give credit where it is due.

  200. MINDFLYER58

    How about a little fire Scarecrow –
    Really none of you saw Wickerman ????? Come on Now

  201. MINDFLYER58

    Left Over Deadheads – Mad Max – Mardi Gras – Neo Kiddie Hippies
    There’s really nothing original about this –
    Come on, anyone can burn things –
    Create something from the ashes – That’s real Magic