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Freetards bully Burning Man

You're oppressing Burners with your wicked copyright

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Here's one to savour, for which any sarcastic comment (from us) is unnecessary.

The Burning Man Organization, which looks after the Californian apotheosis of "gift culture", has come under attack from freetard extremists. They've been stirred up by a call to arms from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has berated the Festival organisers for trying to protect the privacy of attendees, and the rights of artists who exhibit at the event.

Part of the ethos of the festival, developed over 20 years, is that everyone who attends is a creator. Burning Man discourages gawkers and voyeurs. It's what makes Burning Man and its spin-offs (for example the European Nowhere) unique. The BMO uses copyright as a tool to try and protect this cultural phenomenon.

So the terms and conditions state that if third parties use attendees' photographs in a way the organisation doesn't approve it would hit them with a DMCA takedown notification, and it forbids attendees from allowing third parties to reuse images they have taken. Enforcement is next to impossible - but it sets the standard for what attendees should expect.

The character of Burning Man would certainly change if it was overrun with gawping nerds, filming everyone on their cameraphones.

But freetards don't view copyright as a tool for protecting creators - it's all a wicked oppressive instrument of The Man. In a supercilious article titled Snatching Rights On the Playa, EFF lawyer Corynne McSherry gave the BMO a jolly good telling-off. The BMO was failing to live up to its principles of "individuality, creativity and free spirit" and indulging in "sleight of hand".

Burning Man's T&Cs are little different to the T&Cs to any live performance venue. And a less likely bunch of pigopolists would be hard to find.

The BMO thanked the EFF for its contribution, and very politely bade it fuck right off.

"There are but two essential reasons we maintain these increased controls on behalf of our community: to protect our participants so that images that violate their privacy are not displayed, and to prevent companies from using Burning Man to sell products," explained Andie Grace on the Burning Man blog.

"It’s all done precisely in the interest of supporting individual creative expression, not suppressing it," she explained, correctly.

Grace also pinpoints the bullying manner, and peculiar sense of entitlement of freetards, to which the EFF has given voice:

"One could nearly infer that the EFF places the rights of the photographer/videographer (who may or may not have been participants and contributors in BRC before arriving at its gates seeking a photographers’ paradise) above any rights for the subjects of those images, the people and artists of Black Rock City whose creative works and self-expression are on display."

She adds that Creative Commons licences (a cybernetic vanity designed to benefit the "network", not the creator) have been examined but found to be wanting.

Now look at the reaction from the anti-copyright dogmatists. In the EFF's world, the rights of the technology users trump everyone else's. Copyright is evil, and any application of it is wicked.

"I just love the dissonance between the comments here and at BoingBoing’s response" notes one, referring to the site where angry freetards gather to vent.

There's lots of blather about tyranny, exploitation and torching the village, all of which misses the point - there's a unique cultural event here, and copyright is simply a tool with which the BMO seeks to protect them.

What a contrast with the dogmatic anti-copyright mob. The EFF was founded in 1990 to protect computer users from loopy abuses of the law; but on copyright, the EFF has driven down an intellectual cul-de-sac, and got stuck there.

One thing in addition to remember is that in the US activist lawyers bypass the political process, and see themselves as rather superior to it. Politics means engaging people, building alliances, and converting hearts and minds - things nerds aren't very good at.

So this isn't just a failure unique to technologists, but also of faith in political engagement itself. ®

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