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Burning Man Festival Owners Sue Voyeur Video

4 Jul, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner


The owner-operators of the countercultural mecca Burning Man Festival have sued Voyeur Video, asserting copyright and trespass claims against the company for publishing footage of the well guarded festivals since 1997.

Unlike similar cases in which women have sued the producers of the Girls Gone Wild videos for videotaping them baring their breasts on public streets at events like spring break in Fort Lauderdale or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Burning Man organizers hold their event in a remote desert locale and carefully control use of cameras on site, requiring a permit for each camera allowed in. In addition, the event is dedicated to noncommercial self-expression and forsaking profit is a condition of admission.

“All tickets contain a contractual provision in which the ticket holder agrees that no commercial use will be made of any images obtained at the event without Burning Man's prior consent and that the ticket holder agrees to guidelines which provide that attendees will not film, videotape or record any images of participants at the event without the recorded participants' permission,” the complaint states.

Instead, the organizers allege Voyeur Video recorded hours of footage and put out videos under the titles Burningman '97 Vol. 1-5, Burningman ‘98 Vol. 1-3 and, after festival representatives served a court order, changed the title of footage from subsequent years to Rainbow Fire Festival to dodge detection.

“They have flagrantly abused it for five years. We didn't see the 1997 video until 1999,” said Marian Goodell, part owner and communications director for the festival. “A participant was in a video store in Seattle and rented it. They called us and said, ‘not only is it available, but we're in it.’

Spokespersons for Beverly Hills-based Voyeur Video did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but the lawsuit alleges the company surreptitiously taped naked women, enfringed the festival's trademarks and violated its participants' privacy.

The festival organizers seek a court order barring further marketing or distribution of the tapes or footage or of the festival's name and trademarks; and to claim the profits from the tapes and additional damages.

participant told us about it in 1999, we didn't find it until 2000.


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