John Law Sues His Former Burning Man Partners

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

Postby EvilDustBooger » Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:47 am

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Postby Teo del Fuego » Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:53 am

[quote="thisisthatwhichis"]Oh great...... ticket prices will be going up again to pay for senseless litigation.......[/quote]

It's highly likely that the LLC has liability insurance that will not only provide insurance coverage up to a certain limit, but pay for the legal defense as part of its duty to defend under the policy. Insurance premium may go up, but I dont think BMorg is going to a hit from the litigation. If Law is successful, the licensing pie will be sliced smaller, but I would love to think the LLC members wouldn't jack ticket prices to counter that scenario.

What I recall from two BM documentaries and one book I read is that John Law's allegations concerning his role in the beginning are not too far off. (Only the parties know, I suppose, about the other allegations.) So, my uninformed opinion is that he should, indeed, share the wealth since he was instrumental in creating it.

Since my memory is like a sieve, what, again, was the reason Law and Harvey had their falling out? Was it Harvey's insistance that the Man take center stage and the event take on more structure? Or was it never publicly known?
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Postby diane o'thirst » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:34 am

Well, I'm pretty good at changing course on the fly, so while I can't say "I'll be ready" I can say, "I'm ready to dance" whichever way it falls. I'm planning to take a three-year hiatus after this Burn anyway and the ticket prices are already locked in for this year.

Things change. If Burning Man goes into the public domain we'll get a lot of bullshit but it'll also take the brakes off creative people. I see the Man turning into a real cultural icon. Burning Man toilet paper? Hmm. How about Burning Man topiaries, flags and wine? Let's get ready to counterbalance the commercialism with creations that are worthy of the mark.
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Postby The CO » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:42 am

I dunno, I think BRC TP represents on of the most important things about the event...
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Postby sputnik » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:43 am

But nothing stops me from using the images and trademarks of BurningMan LLC in artistic creations right now. I can go out and create a topiary 'Man' if I want to. I can make up flags with the ranger emblem on it. I can bottle wine and label it "Burning Man Merlot". I just can't sell it.
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Postby diane o'thirst » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:46 am

Good point, Sputnik. But question thrown out to the Peanut Gallery here: do any of you have Burning Man tattoos, or know someone who does? Did Burners do them? If so, that's technically commerce and copyright infringement.
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Postby theCryptofishist » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:49 am

Not if they were done for free. Unless someone sees them, says "I gotta get something done by that artist" and pays them to get something whether man or not.
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Postby sputnik » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:51 am

That's a fine line, I think. Is the artist re-interpreting the images when he/she inks you? Is there something transformative regarding the new image?
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Postby The CO » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:52 am

IF I have a Burning Man logo tattoo, will the LLC pay me for advertising?
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Postby Bob » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:56 am

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Postby BAS » Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:07 pm

Since my memory is like a sieve, what, again, was the reason Law and Harvey had their falling out? Was it Harvey's insistance that the Man take center stage and the event take on more structure? Or was it never publicly known?


I don't know, though I have heard the rumor it had to do with attempts to reign in the anarchy aspect of the event. (This rumor was, at best, third hand, or maybe fourth or fifth hand....)


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Postby blyslv » Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:22 pm

Zane5100 wrote:A settlement would be a pyrric victory, and would possibly set the stage so that Law and M2 are cut out of the action altogether when things change in the future.



Not if John Law walks away with a sizeable nest egg for his retirement. This suit could simply be a negotiating tactic.
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Postby blyslv » Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:25 pm

The complaint details the events of the 80s up to the mid-90s pretty well, but left me wondering what's Law done since '96?
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Postby mdmf007 » Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:16 pm

blyslv wrote:The complaint details the events of the 80s up to the mid-90s pretty well, but left me wondering what's Law done since '96?


If I had to guess I would bet that since 96 he has been letting it fester in his gut, until he could bear it no more.

BMORG does do a lot of talking about, non profit, volunteer, barely making it. I too would like to see the proof. As a private business (LLC) I know that they have no obligation to do so, but when you make those kinds of statements, maybe a public accounting, and disclusure of wages is proper.

I have no problem paying for entertainment, and an experience. When I pay ticketmaster 500 bucks I know what I am getting and that it is all corporatry. They make no quams or try to hide the fact that its a for profit corporation.

BMAN makes all sorts of statements, that we have all read. I believe that is what makes the difference and why they should make a public accounting.
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Postby Archantael » Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:19 pm

Anything that forces an aggressive audit of BMHQ's operations would be welcome by me. And I hope the images are put in the public domain too.
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Postby Teo del Fuego » Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:11 pm

[quote="mdmf007"]I too would like to see the proof. As a private business (LLC) I know that they have no obligation to do so, but when you make those kinds of statements, maybe a public accounting, and disclusure of wages is proper.[/quote]

They do post a fairly detailed Financial Summary in the Afterburn Report. I realize its not an audit, but I was surprised to see that they voluntarily (?) undertook that level of reporting.
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Postby Dork » Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:42 pm

Teo del Fuego wrote:They do post a fairly detailed Financial Summary in the Afterburn Report. I realize its not an audit, but I was surprised to see that they voluntarily (?) undertook that level of reporting.

It's a good way for them to appease people who fear they're getting rich off our ticket money without actually telling us much. For example, the 2005 report lists $1.7 million in payroll. We don't know how many people that goes to or what the distribution is. Many of the other categories such as travel, rentals, office and computer supplies, etc could contain perks. We know a lot of tickets are given away for various reasons, but I don't think we know how many or to whom.

I'm not saying that Larry or anyone else is taking advantage of their position or even that it would be wrong to do so, but one of the motivations for the suit might be to expose this type of thing or to simply spread the wealth a bit.
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Postby Badger » Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:47 am

I too would like to see the proof. As a private business (LLC) I know that they have no obligation to do so, but when you make those kinds of statements, maybe a public accounting, and disclusure of wages is proper.


Proof? Why? Why the hell should anyone really feel the need or give a fuck about books, income, purchases, etc. Honestly, it's no one's fucking business. The LLC provides a service, we the consumer make the choice to purchase a ticket (or not). I don't see anyone here aching to see Disneyland or KoA's books or receipts. If you think about it there really isn't that much of a difference. If any of us were actual shareholders in the company then things would be quite different but the fact is we're consumers of a product that is provided.

It's a good way for them to appease people who fear they're getting rich off our ticket money without actually telling us much.


Again, fuck appeasement. If someone's whinging about profit (excess or otherwise) then let them show their displeasure by electing to not go to the event. It really is that simple.
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Postby Lassen Forge » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:33 am

Badger wrote:Proof? Why? Why the hell should anyone really feel the need or give a fuck about books, income, purchases, etc. Honestly, it's no one's fucking business. The LLC provides a service, we the consumer make the choice to purchase a ticket (or not)....
Again, fuck appeasement. If someone's whinging about profit (excess or otherwise) then let them show their displeasure by electing to not go to the event. It really is that simple.


Getting on a soapbox, apparently...

I agree with Badger 100% (Gee, that doesn't happen too often!! >giggles<). I buy my ticket and go to the event and have fun. Or I volunteer and get in for working my ass off which conpensates for the ticket. But I am NOT an owner, part owner, shareholder, stockholder, partner, or whatever - I'm either an EMPLOYEE or a CUSTOMER (aka "Participant" in BRC-speak). Do you go up to your company's CEO and demand to see their books? Yeah, right - do it, and you know where your job isn't.

The Disney/KoA thing is an excellent example, except in those cases, being a publicly held corporation, they have to have part of their books open to inspection. BRC llc, which is PRIVATELY HELD, does so as a COURTESY to it's "participants" through the Afterburns. It doesn't have to, and if they stopped and said, in essence, "Fuck You", they would be WELL within their rights.

Unless you are a fiscally encumbered shareholder of the Corporation known as BRC llc or one of the branch/subsidiary corporations (PM, BM, NP, etc.) It's not your business. SO ask yourself - Do I (a) get a dividend check from the llc as a co-owner, and sit on their board, have an office in SF and draw a paycheck from them, or (b) do I pay for a ticket or volunteer for them or even do rank and file draw a paycheck from them, and attend their event?

If you're the former you HAVE the right to know. If you're the latter, you have NO right to know. Whether you like it or not...

And... Like it o' not, that'z de facts, man... Sorry.

(I can't believe people actually think they have some management ownership stake in an event, like as if they had an ownership stake in, say, the Roling Stones because they're a fan and go to their concerts. Yeesh...)

Getting off my political soapbox now...
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Postby Dork » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:50 am

Unless you are a fiscally encumbered shareholder of the Corporation known as BRC llc or one of the branch/subsidiary corporations (PM, BM, NP, etc.) It's not your business.

True, it's none of my business. I just have an issue with fake transparency. Also, if I were one of the origional founders and was getting nothing in return while I believed another founder was living the high life and setting themselves up as the sole beneficiary in some future payout I might think it's my business.
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Value

Postby metric » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:56 am

If I buy a ticket to an event, e.g., a Rolling Stones concert, the band is rehearsed, the sound man rings out the monitors, the back-up singers are union scale, and I am "consuming" a product that has been entirely composed by the professionals earning the money. They pay rent on the venue, hire necessary services, and so forth, all to put the talents of the performers on display. And the performers are paid. I just have to pay my money, sit there, and suck it in

If I buy a ticket to Burning Man, the "show" is provided mostly by me and my fellow ticket holders. The "venue" fees are paid to the BLM, and BRCLLC also provides significant venue infrastructure, and they are also the decorator, promoter, parking lot attendant, security staff, and union-scale heavy equipment operator. But the VALUE in the event is derived differently. Certainly BRCLLC puts alot of work into "framing" the activities of the event in such a way that people know what to do, but it is WHAT THE PEOPLE DO which ultimately infuse the value into the event. That value is translated into an ability to sell tickets for money.

Cynically, I have called it "tricking" people into entertaining each other, and taking a fee. Suspense of disbelief. Good times. One day everyone will stop and look around at each other and say, "Hey! We're out in the middle of the frickin' desert!" And that will be the end of Burning Man.

But seriously, what I'm saying is that since the participants infuse value into the event, they feel that they have a right to understand where the money goes. They suffer from the delusion, cultivated in them on purpose (and with their consent), that the event belongs to THEM. Recognizing this, BRCLLC does hold itself accountable to them to a higher degree than "normal" via the Afterburn Report. The John Law suit will likely push more of the private business dealings of BRCLLC into public view.

I have to say, however, that Marian really nailed it in her reply. John, Larry, and Michael will come to a settlement about their dealings, they have known each other for a long time, and things will sally forth. It is not in the best interests for any of them to overexploit the "brand" they co-own, since doing so would tarnish the "brand" of the event which preaches non-commodification, thus diminishing the value of their "brand," in a big negative feedback loop. To the degree which the logo/name DOES make money, I think those three should split the proceeds.
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Postby Badger » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:03 pm

Also, if I were one of the origional founders and was getting nothing in return while I believed another founder was living the high life and setting themselves up as the sole beneficiary in some future payout I might think it's my business.


Hence Law's suit (that was just too close to sounding like a pun) - at least in part. I think those demanding transparancy with the org's finances stems from a sense of investiture in the event and that in turns evolves (or devolves) into a mis-placed sense of entitlement that as mentioned, they have no right to. Part of that flawed equation I believe comes from translating what they do at/to/for/during or after the event as a sort of capital or currency that makes them a shareholder of sorts. That has some resonance metaphorically in a social context but in the legal realm it carries no weight whatsoever.
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Postby mdmf007 » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:12 pm

Bay Bridge - Your completely right about BMORG being able to tell anyone they want to Fuck OFF when they ask to see the books.

IMHO though, if you make claims about your philanthropy, your benefits, and that you do not make a cent, at what poimnt do statements construe fraud? If it were not for statements like that I could see no one having an interest in what a privately held Nevada LLC does.

As someone ahead of me said - its the "fake transparency" that bugs people. I think a lot of people simply want them to back up their claims, and not with the breakout they have on the web. A real P&L / Balance sheet. I could make the expense sheet on the web in about 20 minutes off the cuff.

Me? I could give a shit either way. I pay my money, have a blast. I leave no trace, and volunteer with ESD. I had an opionion but thats changed a little this week.

BMAN is what I expect it to be, a good time, with good people, art, music, and a great location and experience.

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Postby meatball » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:13 pm

[quote]Hey! We're out in the middle of the frickin desert[/quote]
true but i like it there !

win lose or draw we are still going to whatever it's called
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Postby blyslv » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:27 pm

I'm not sure that comparing BM to Dinsney of KoA is very instructive.

Disney and KoA were explicitly created as profit-making ventures. The legal structure they chose for themselves and their marketing are all premised on profit maximization. Therefore, when they make public statements to induce people to consume what they are selling, they tell the truth. "Give us your money and get the following things." In general they deliver what they promise.

BM's public statements are often contradicted by their actions. "No Commerce" actually means "BM has a monopoly on coffee sales." "Self-reliance" actually means "BM supplys sewage and public safety services." "radical self-expression" means "BM tells you were to place your art on the playa and reserves the right to censor it." (for an example of censorship find out what happened to the first Jiffy Lube sign.) Add the "mission creep" of the ever increasing amount of LEO out there and the dihcotomy between the Org's public statements and their actions is stark.

Badger is right when he says that anyone of us can express our displeasure with this state of affairs by not purchasing a ticket, and in fact many have done exactly that. But this thread is about Law's suit (ahem) and the fact that he might have leverage to 1) bring the Org's public statements more in line with their actions, and 2) put some of our ticket money into his pocket.
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Postby blyslv » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:29 pm

Oh yeah. "Leave no trace" means "help us externalize our costs by reducing the need to pay for clean up, especially of the marketing materials we give each ticket-buyer ... er participant at the front gate."
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Postby Badger » Fri Jan 12, 2007 1:41 pm

I'm not sure that comparing BM to Dinsney of KoA is very instructive.

Disney and KoA were explicitly created as profit-making ventures.


I use the entities only as examples of something you pay money for in exchange for a service.
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Postby Badger » Fri Jan 12, 2007 1:45 pm

<double>
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Postby geekster » Fri Jan 12, 2007 1:59 pm

Cynically, I have called it "tricking" people into entertaining each other, and taking a fee. Suspense of disbelief. Good times. One day everyone will stop and look around at each other and say, "Hey! We're out in the middle of the frickin' desert!" And that will be the end of Burning Man.


To be honest, it has crossed my mind that having Burning Man pay the salaries of Larry Harvey et al. is probably the greatest caco prank of all time.
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Postby Bob » Fri Jan 12, 2007 2:30 pm

A few of them actually do work for the money.

The Imminent Death of Burning Man may occur about as soon as the Internet's. Or sooner. All I know is the rhetoric used to justify its existence collapsed in on itself as soon as Larry started publishing his fireside chats.
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