The Smoking Gun

If you want to know why I was dragged into this whole mess, this document will explain a lot of it. This legal filing for arbitration was served on me by Michael Mikel. To me, it was a complete surprise. In this document Michael names Larry as the perpetrator. Read the document.

Do you think Larry wishes he had Left No Trace?


  1. Al


    Well, unlike many of your commenters, I think you’re doing the right thing here by shining a big light under this particular rock. Good luck, man.


  2. Pingback: Laughing Squid » John Law Sues His Former Burning Man Partners
  3. B MIchael

    Actually sounds pretty reasonable to me. It’s mostly about Larry/BRLLC — he’s only asking you, as a PMLLC member, to kick in for expenses, presumably those that have gone uncovered since BRLLC cut off the PMLLC revenue stream. Maybe that’s unjustified given your level of involvement in PMLLC operations, and of course it sucks to get dragged into any kind of legal dispute, but if the operating agreement is as described and you’re still part of the corp, you do have a responsibility there. Though if he just sprang this on you out of the blue… well, if it were me I’d be fucking pissed. It’s suggested though, that he has previously brought up the expense issue to the partners and is only now turning to arbitration. The bit about attorney’s fees and costs is a little ominous…from whom does he request that they be awarded? I suppose that is covered in the PMLLC agreement.

    I’m not yet clear on what exactly your own suit is claiming. Are your court filings up somewhere? And I also wonder why you are confident (in your “Onward” post) that M2 and Larry will come to some sort of agreement that lets them form a “unified front” against you — unless it’s that your suit so strongly threatens both their interests in maintaining the Burning Man mark that it overwhelms their obvious antagonism. Based on the arbitration filing, I would have thought a more likely scenario would be for you and M2 to get together to put the boot into Larry, which personally I would much rather see than what’s going on now.

  4. DangerAngel

    How deep does this Rabbit Hole go?

    Larry is looking creepier and creepier… not like he didn’t look creepy before.

    I can’t believe he would act in such an underhanded way towards M2… I mean, really. He needs to reread some of that philosophy he’s so fond of spouting… a little Mircea Eliade and Schopenhauer would go a long way.

  5. b r o o k e

    it really does help to see the documentation.
    wow, creepy, indeed …
    sounds like someone should take an early retirement and farm himself out to other event organizers as CONSULTANT EXTRAORDINAIRE…

  6. Caeru

    Thank you for posting M2’s arbitration request, as the others above have said that helps a lot to see what’s going on here! Hah, wouldn’t that be something if as a reward for our esteemed Mr. Harvey’s efforts to unilaterally wrest control of the BurningMan marks he so cherishes from the other two founders he gets left out and has to annually pay fees to license the BurningMan event from them. I’d rather have Mr. Harvey buy out the other two at a fair price if he wants to be sole owner; I predict that’s what will settle out of all these maneuverings anyways in the end. Afterall, deep in their heart of hearts all three founders deeply care about the thing called BurningMan and Larry Harvey by fate or design has become its figurehead and director. He deserves a lot of credit for piloting the Org’s path. There is a lot of good being done. HOWEVER…We still need a Trickster (or two or three or more!!!) in the Org to keep the fun and whimsey and bemusement and radical self reliance in from the top down. Keep the LIFE in BRC!!

  7. Sherlock

    After carefully studying the evidence presented here in the smoking gun case, I have been able to reconstruct the scene which existed a few moments before the gun went off.

    It is quite evident that M2 was holding the weapon, John Law was standing off to the side with his finger on the trigger, and Mr. Harvey was looking down the barrel.

  8. DoggieHead

    Sherlock: You are close – but I see M2 holding the weapon with his finger on the trigger, John Law downrange, and Larry in the sights, but poking at m2 with a stick until the gun went off. 🙂

  9. Tristan

    i found John Law’s law suit very interesting to understand the early history of BM.

    i noticed that several dates on page 13 are in the future, probably a typo (e.g. paragraph 58, “July 22, 2007” and “July 24, 2007”). What are the correct dates of the execution of the Paper Man Operating Agreement?

  10. Jerry James

    It’s easy for some to dismiss John’s motives and ideas as something less than high-minded. Now that BM has become a convention, there are many who comfortably enjoy it. It’s there every year-like Christmas. You buy your ticket, purchase or slave over your costume, theme camp, or over-the-top project, and head for the playa. Well, that’s pretty different than donning a blindfold and dropping into an unknown abyss, hoping that you’ll land safely. That was literally a SF Cacophony event and figuratively John’s contribution to Burning Man. Perhaps I digress. John has integrity and his motives are honest and transparent. His arguments make sense. He is one of the most capable people on the planet, with an exceptional rate of success. I’ve always believed in John and that will never change.

  11. biggie

    Ok now I think I understand. Unfortunately, it appears that you aren’t going to wind up getting what you want without some real strategy. For one thing, this looks like the snarl before the kiss between MM and LH. What I suspect is that MM wants to get a payout for the ‘real’ transfer of the name from PMLLC to BRCLLC, so basically this all comes down to money. In many ways, so does so much of what happens on the playa. You certainly notice different types of capital in the ‘gifting economy’, but you also do not notice the absence of the external world’s capital, its simply kept inside like so many illicit activities.

    If you think MM will work with you to preserve PMLLC’s ownership of the mark, then do so. While you’re at it I would attempt to make the BRCLLC sell tickets without the trademark name for a year, and tax the hell out of them for any unauthorized use. If MM will work with you, partner up, because it sounds like 2/3 members of PMLLC are going to make a partnership and find an exit strategy. If you are the odd man out, why bother spending all that time with the lawyers ? Consult a lawyer (you’re own- hey I’m sure there’s a good burner litigator out there who’ll do some pro bono work), choose a strategy, and then minimize the time you spend on this nonsense. But do keep up the blogging, its exciting to hear about how Lawyered Up the BRCLLC folks have gotten. I’m gonna guess that they will cleanse their souls of any residue left by the legal team by, say, Labor Day weekend ?

  12. Donald the nut

    WOW! I am glad I am in Japan where I am culturally ignorant of such behavior. I was there in the early desert days and beyond! Of course, I was ignorant then too!

    John, I think you have a good argument and that the name may have already become public domain. If PMLLC didn’t make any effort to defend its own intellectual property leaving it to its non-exclusive licensee to decide when and when not to defend and/or abuse the trademark, then I think the case may be able to be made that the trademark is already public domain.

    Now, can we all just get along? Now, I sound naive as well.

  13. Leigh

    Dear John,

    Interesting method of dealing with your former friends. I read both M2’s legal filings and your legal complaint. I don’t claim to understand or know all the details of the history of this conflict. Nor have I chosen sides. But what I do know, is that you are completely wrong about “backroom deals”. First of all, it’s called “communication without litigation”. Egos, power, fame, and fortune get in the way of effective communication. The legal system is the effective equivalent of going to your mother or father to resolve a sibling conflict. When is the last time you three got in a room together (alone), talked about the good old days, had a laugh, had a cry and worked this shit out? Seriously, when is the last time you three hung out together?

    “Well the man in the hat is a power monger” you might say. Well, be the bigger person then, and have a rational conversation with him. If you really had the Burner community’s best interests in mind, you would find a more effective way to work out your differences and solve this problem once and for all.

    Member and Co-Founder of the Mondo Spider Project

  14. nina alter

    Response to the above poster, “Leigh”:

    Undertaking litigation is a very painful process. Running to your mom or dad involves just that- and some whining.

    By filling the suit as John is, he’s essentially wiping his plate clear of anything/everything possibly fun or fulfilling, personally and for his family, for the next couple of years. Litigation is both expensive, and emotionally consuming. John has a new wife, and a new son. If you’re wealthy and have “people” to do this stuff for you, as celebrities do, it is like running to your parents. But for John, it’s not- and it is a big personal sacrifice he wouldn’t do if there were alternatives.

    Unfortunately it takes 3 willing participants, for 3 people to sit down to a table and resolve their differences. 3 bodies, and 3 vested minds and hearts. As persons grow older and more apart, it’s an unfortunate component to human nature that many of us just care less for one another, and/or for common causes we once may have shared a unified interest in. As a friend of John’s, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he either tried or considered your proposed simple sit-down for some time, before pursuing the legal route that he recently chose to take.

    I think that all 3 did the right thing years ago, by creating “Paper Man LLC” as the trademark-arm of Burningman. As things now stand, the system that all 3 parties created for themselves, does dictate that John’s actions are indeed the correct actions to now take- given the history of actions on the part of all 3, over the last several years.

  15. jack lessovitz

    I will always love you john. The purpose of any good nonprofit group is to put itself out of business. If any body should have the right to a space shuttle ticket it’s John.

  16. Jen

    All I have to say is that the Burning Man mark should definitely NOT be in the public domain. It’s right to think that if the Burning Man symbol is made accessible to the public, the first to get their hands on it will be big corporate business and then EVERYTHING imaginable will have the Burning Man logo on it. I reeeally dont want to see this happen. That is the epitome of selling out!

    Everyone should agree that it is common sense to refuse to sign a vague, one-paragraph liscense agreement, full of loop holes. I think it is suitable, and find nothing wrong with asking for a more detailed, specified written agreement where all 3 partners split the income and expenses of the business 3 ways.

    If only one of the partners has been paying the liscense fee for a lengthy amount of time, it makes sense to ask the other business partners to reimburse him the 1/3 amount that each partner is responsible for. Why should all 3 partners be making money from their business, but only one partner be putting money into it?

    I also think it’s very shady and ugly the way Larry Harvey and his attorney are going about things. It seems like Mr. Harvey is trying to own all of Burning Man for himself, and screw his partners out of any involvement or decision-making. All documents in the business should be agreed upon by all partners, before getting filed. I think making such actions without your partners’ consent or knowledge is the essence of going behind someone’s back and putting the knife in.

    I hope all three men can come to an amicable agreement. Even more so, I hope Burning Man doesn’t become… something else. You know what I mean.

  17. Icky Bob

    I believe many individuals overvalue the probable widespread attraction of Burning man. For most (especially evangelical xtians, that clearly outnumber “burners” or “liberals”) it’s too strange, too alien. In my opinion putting it in the public domain would set it free to evolve in a stimulating environment. At the very least, the spectacle would be amusing. It would most certainly become something far more interesting (than what it currently is.)

    Burning man is on a leash.

    Imagine if earlier cultural & music movements were “owned”, patented & copyrighted in the same way…

  18. Twan

    More info please. I know I’m not alone. Many are waiting. I guess it’s more a passing curiosity that it is a festering concern… but still, Mr. Law… Pretty please with magnesium on top… can we get a little more…

    What happened?