Burning Man was built on freedom of expression, and participants shouldn’t have to worry that photos or videos of their on-playa activities might appear online (or elsewhere) without their permission.
Going way back (pre-2000), Burning Man has requested that participants intending to record video on playa sign a Personal Use Agreement (PUA) to protect participants’ privacy in Black Rock City. In fact, it was this policy that allowed us to stop Voyeur Video from broadcasting illicit videos they’d recorded of unwitting Burning Man participants in 2002.
Burning Man’s photo policy is spelled out in the online terms and conditions applicable to all tickets: any participant is free to disseminate photos for personal use only, and cannot use them for any other purpose without the written permission of Burning Man. The PUA simply provides another mechanism to make participants aware of the limitations on photo use, and the distribution of the PUA at Greeters also assists in this process.
Of course, technology is evolving quickly. Back when video cameras were big and bulky and rare, we asked that each be tagged so people could identify the person taking their picture. Flash forward to 2012, and now just about everybody has a video camera on their person in the form of a smart phone or handheld video camera — so while collecting PUAs has become more logistically challenging, protecting the privacy of our participants is more important than ever.
Because cameras are so prevalent, we now only require a camera tag for professional photographers and videographers. However, we still — as always — ask that you fill out a PUA if and only if you’re planning on capturing video with your camera, regardless of how you plan to share those videos. Of course, if you plan to stick your camera (or snazzy camera-equipped digital phone) in your glovebox and not touch it all week, you’re all good.
We do not demand that every participant with a camera fill out a PUA. We simply provide the PUA form as part of the education process, so that everyone attending knows they can’t license photos for advertisements or in a way that compromises the privacy of others. But if you do plan on shooting video on playa, please download the PUA form, fill it out, and hand it to the Greeter who meets your vehicle at the Greeters Station, or bring it Playa Info in Center Camp, or the Ranger outposts at the 3:00 and 9:00 Plazas (they’ll also have forms on hand).
While this may feel like a bureaucratic hassle (we’re working to streamline the process next year), we appreciate our community’s support of this effort, as it has long protected your right to fully exercise radical self-expression in Black Rock City without fear of having it splattered across the internet without your permission.