The photo policy needs work

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

The photo policy needs work

Postby sandfly » Sun Jul 18, 2010 5:26 pm

The Photo Policy at http://www.burningman.com/press/pressRandR.html needs work.

#1 – The Policy is not easy to find, so most people will never have read it. The URL looks like it just applies to Press, as it expressly did in prior years, but now it applies to everyone who takes photos.

#2 – The policy expressly requires registration of every camera capable of taking movies. I can't remember the last time I saw a digital camera that was not capable of taking movies, so that rule essentially requires every digital camera to be registered. I'll bet the number of digital cameras is about equal to the total number of participants (since some people take more than one). Is the media center really set up to register 40,000 cameras? Can they seriously imagine that more than a tiny fraction of participants will comply with this? It is a bad idea to set up rules that are mostly unknown and ignored. Really.

#3 -- The policy is inconsistent. It says "All video cameras and film cameras must be tagged." So, a camera that cannot take videos still must be tagged, but it doesn't have to be registered??? How does anyone get it tagged without it being registered? And, the policy now suggests notifying a Ranger every time you see someone using a non-tagged camera. If many people start doing this, we’re going to need a lot more Rangers.

#4 -- The policy mixes "should" and "must", suggesting that the "should"s are mere requests. E.g., "... You must ask permission before ... photographing ... performances and obtain signed ... release(s) from all appropriate parties before using them commercially.
* You should ask for permission before photographing or filming any participant. "

The policy page then further undercuts the "should" about asking permission by saying, of participants’ rights, “You have the right and reponsibility (sic) to ask someone to stop taking a picture of you, recording your image or recording your voice in any way if you desire. However, keep in mind the nature of radical self-expression, capturing expression is a form of self-expression.â€
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Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:31 pm

Rumor has it that Larry Harvey occasionally reads this board. There is one LLC employee that has posted recently, but there's no indication that she's reading more than one or two threads. It is my experience that posting and sort of idea on the eplaya does anything to change policy at the event.
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Postby Elorrum » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:11 pm

The first year I went, I printed and filled out the form (perhaps there had been a note about it in the jackrabbit speaks, or in the preparedness info on the website.) I had my crappy little kodak C300 (ebay $10) tagged by the greeter, it took all of 2 minutes. That compared to being advised to camp near the man, as a newbie, was no hassle. Haven't been asked since then.
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Postby sandfly » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:17 pm

Elorrum wrote:... I had my ... Kodak ... tagged by the greeter, it took all of 2 minutes....
If BRCLLC were serious about the "tag every camera" policy, I think they would have the greeters ask everyone "Do you have a camera?" because I think almost everyone coming to BRC does have a camera (including cell phones that have a camera function). Most people would honestly say "Yes", the form would be filled out and the camera tagged at the gate. However, 2 minutes x 40,000 cameras would add 1,333 hours (if I did the math right) of processing to the entrance gates.
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Postby Zhust » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:43 pm

There's a metric fuckton of baggage that comes with figuring out how to manage photography.

I like the concept of people trying to remember the event for personal reasons. I don't like the idea that pictures are taken that make the individual subjects of the photograph a commodity (i.e. boobies!)

I like the idea of people recording another person's art. I don't like the idea that people think they are making art by taking pictures of another person's art. Formal permission, attribution, and compensation are in order.

I have mixed feelings about photographers. On the one hand, I don't think they are participating: behavioral justification aside, I know the security of hiding behind a camera. On the other hand, that may be the way they are able to engage in Burning Man at all.

I have taken pictures at Burning Man myself. I have never seen a picture of Burning Man that remotely captures what the whole thing is all about. I declare it is impossible to do so, and have put away my camera and instead tried to drink as deeply as I can every year. (I write better than I act, and choke easily after just a few sips.)

I think that the act of photography diminishes the value of the present. It is like a wormhole to the uncountable number of future viewings of the photograph. I think this is the foundation for the "stealing one's soul" concept. It's also why we say one "takes" pictures.

I think the photo policy may be less broken than you think it is.
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Postby oneeyeddick » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:16 pm

Does using the flash on a camera at night disqualify you from being a "darkwad" ?
We have an obligation to make space for everyone, we have no obligation to make that space pleasant.
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Postby ygmir » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:18 pm

oneeyeddick wrote:Does using the flash on a camera at night disqualify you from being a "darkwad" ?


it does if it's pointed at your own zipper
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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:34 am

sandfly wrote:
Elorrum wrote:... I had my ... Kodak ... tagged by the greeter, it took all of 2 minutes....
If BRCLLC were serious about the "tag every camera" policy, I think they would have the greeters ask everyone "Do you have a camera?" because I think almost everyone coming to BRC does have a camera (including cell phones that have a camera function). Most people would honestly say "Yes", the form would be filled out and the camera tagged at the gate. However, 2 minutes x 40,000 cameras would add 1,333 hours (if I did the math right) of processing to the entrance gates.


...part of Greeter training is to ask this very question, and to collect the forms back...I agree it is not feasible to actually do this (most just handed out forms and advised them to go to the Artery to complete the process and get a tag). The Greeter Trainers were very insistent about getting all cameras tagged though....just saying.
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Postby Bounce530 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:52 am

The way I read the BM page is that those guidelines are for "press" not for the general public of BM.
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Postby Teo del Fuego » Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:03 pm

the one time I was asked (2005) I showed them my digital camera. I was shocked to learn it could take moving pictures since I bought a few days before and NEVER read instruction manuals for some reason. Now, I just say "no"
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Postby dr.placebo » Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:30 pm

I agree with the original post that the photo policy does not adequately describe what people actually do. It would immensely frustrating to try to write down a policy that satisfied everyone. My understanding is that the photo policy just provides a basis for going after exploiters, not for harassing most amateur or professional photographers.

My personal policy is simply to respect the art and the participants. If there is any indication that the artist of the participant does not want pictures, then I don't take a picture. Even in cases where I get full permission I don't post anything remotely R-rated in a public place. But any objection has to be specific, a general whine on ePlaya does not count.

I don't distinguish between still and video, or between digital and film. I don't mind getting a tag.

I don't sell anything. I don't argue about the art of photography (you either think that it is or you don't).

The pictures I take are for sharing. Some people want to remember, some people want to see something they missed, some people have never been and are curious. I like the sharing process, and I like the reminders of art, friends, beauty, and humor.

And during most of the time out there I don't carry my camera. I use the pictures to remind me of the experience, not to replace it.
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Must tag "film cameras"

Postby portaplaya » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:54 pm

There is a section under Participant rights and responsibilities that reads:
All video cameras and film cameras must be tagged. If you see someone using a camera or recording device of any kind without a tag, request the videographer or filmmaker to get a tag at Playa Information if he or she is recording for personal use; or, if a member of the media or commercial filmmaker, at Media Mecca. Also, please point out to a Ranger the person who is filming or recording without a tag on their camera.


This seems contradictory to previous instructions, but is actually referring to film cameras that shoot moving pictures, not to still film cameras.
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"Every digital camera takes movies"

Postby portaplaya » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:04 pm

Yeah, I call "bullshit" on that notion.

For DSLR cameras, that has only been a standard feature for six months. Previous to that it was only on the top-end cameras.

And for Point-and-Shoot, this feature has only been on cameras under $300 for a year and a half.

I doubt people buy a new camera every year they go out.

But, regardless, the whole idea is that participants who see people shooting video without a tagged camera are supposed to be doing the enforcing (with the help of the Rangers, if needed). If there are 40,000 cameras, there are also 40,000 people that should be helping those cameras get a tag at Media Mecca.
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Line by line rebuttal

Postby portaplaya » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:28 pm

Hey, you are right. These policies are not perfect. But some of your assertions I find hard to agree with.

#1 – The Policy is not easy to find, so most people will never have read it.


Agreed. Although the back of the ticket has a blanket rule. And the Survival Guide, which is mandatory reading, also has a section on these rules (only the parts that are relevant to personal use, plus a referral to the Press page).

#2 – The policy expressly requires registration of every camera capable of taking movies. ... Is the media center really set up to register 40,000 cameras?


You are exaggerating here. Besides, this policy is here so that Participants can help enforce the rules when they see others breaking them, with the help of the Rangers, if needed.

#3 -- The policy is inconsistent. It says "All video cameras and film cameras must be tagged."


You have made a mistake here. The are talking about moving pictures, as in created by a filmmaker, not a photographer.

#4 -- The policy mixes "should" and "must", suggesting that the "should"s are mere requests.


That is because photography for Commercial use must follow certain guidelines, while personal use should follow certain guidelines. Typically, this context is learned from the proceeding sentence.

[quote]However, keep in mind the nature of radical self-expression, capturing expression is a form of self-expression.â€
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Postby This Woman » Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:05 pm

I have no intention of policing others over their camera activities. I won’t look for tags, but if I notice any untagged cameras I’ll take no action in the matter.

It’s one thing to ask event goers to do a little more than picking up after themselves, another thing entirely to ask them to help you police the activities of others.
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Postby portaplaya » Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:27 pm

I sure hope you will report physical assaults or recommend to other participants that they stop engaging in wildly reckless behavior (such as running through an area of tents with a flame-thrower).

Or, at the very least, when you see a child alone and crying as they walk down the street, ask them if they are lost.

As participants, we all determine our level of participation and to what degree we support the community goals and ideals. Obviously since some of these goals and ideals are put in place by the sponsoring organization, we may not all have an interest in actively up holding those goals, either through disagreement or just plain lack of interest.
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Postby This Woman » Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:47 pm

LMAO, I'll think about it.

Those things might be hard to differentiate from a marauding picture taker, but I will consider it.
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Re: Line by line rebuttal

Postby sandfly » Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:51 pm

portaplaya wrote:Hey, you are right. These policies are not perfect. But some of your assertions I find hard to agree with.
....


Burning Man Update: The Jack Rabbit Speaks; Volume 14, Issue #31; August 17, 2010 continues the perfect confusion about application of the rules. At first one gets the strong impression that it applies only to video cameras:

"USING A PERSONAL USE VIDEO CAMERA IN BRC? READ THIS"
"... all video cameras, even personal use, must fill out an agreement in order to capture imagery in BRC. ...
For still camera images of this nature, no registration is required ...."

Then they go on to say the policy doesn't apply to anyone who is not intending to use the camera, including their cellphone, for videos.

When you get to the personal use form, it starts "Whereas, I desire permission to record via video tape, digital video, film or digital still photographs,..." So the form says it's for all still cameras, consistent with the language buried in the policy, but the broadcast email says otherwise.

And, I have to agree with the wider policy ... whatever benefit we're supposed to get from the quasi-privacy, if I'm filmed having naked sex while holding a joint out on the playa (sadly, this is completely hypothetical) and the picture is broadcast, I don't think it will make much difference whether it's a video (with the usually somewhat fuzzy images) or a 12 megapixel still shot with exquisite detail.

But, I digress. We agree the policy needs work.
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Postby sandfly » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:09 am

... sigh. Supposedly there was a group dealing with revising the photo policy. My guess is that they decided the problem is impossible, since some want an absolute policy against un-agreed pictures, and others know that's not going to happen.

The policy at:
http://www.burningman.com/press/pressRandR.html
still says "All video cameras must be registered and have a tag attached to them. If your digital camera can record even a few seconds of motion imagery, it is considered a video camera." Since almost every digital camera and cellphone can take video, that means the policy requires that every one of those carried through the gates must be registered and tagged.

And, again this year, they won't be. And, again this year, it makes no sense anyway.
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Postby portaplaya » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:48 am

sandfly wrote:Since almost every digital camera and cellphone can take video, that means the policy requires that every one of those carried through the gates must be registered and tagged.

And, again this year, they won't be. And, again this year, it makes no sense anyway.


They do not consider cellphones to be "cameras", so they are not asking for compliance tagging cellphones. And your assertion that "almost every camera can take video" is certainly true for a brand new camera, but when you consider all that have already been sold, you are surely exaggerating.

In any case, the policy is meant to give people a tool to apply leverage against people shooting video without registering. Berate untagged camera holders for non-compliance. Get a Ranger. Say "no" preemptively when they try to shoot video of you.

This is a social contract. Enforce it. How does that not make sense?
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Postby sandfly » Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:37 am

portaplaya wrote: They do not consider cellphones to be "cameras", so they are not asking for compliance tagging cellphones.

Really? Where does it say that in the policy? It doesn't. Many cellphones now take better pictures than my first digital camera. If I don't want somebody to take a digital movie of me with a camera, why would I feel any better about it if they're using their cellphone? So, if the rule actually excludes cellphones that can take movies, that makes the rule even more irrational.

"According to the 2010 PMA U.S. Camera/Camcorder Digital Imaging Survey, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of U.S. households own at least one camera phone. In 2008, 58 percent of households owned at least one camera phone and in 2007, 46 percent of households were camera phone owners. Twelve percent of U.S. households own three or more camera phones. Eighty-five percent of camera phone owners claim they used the camera phone to take pictures in 2009. The majority of households said they used camera phones in the 2-2.9 megapixel and 3-3.9 megapixel range." http://www.demystifyingdigital.com/Phot ... index.aspx

portaplaya wrote: And your assertion that "almost every camera can take video" is certainly true for a brand new camera, but when you consider all that have already been sold, you are surely exaggerating.

I did speak imprecisely, since I hadn't meant to reference all cameras ever made. My opinion is that my statement is true for the digital cameras people will bring to Burning Man. I can't find a statistic on this, so we'll just disagree. Digital cameras has been including this feature for a long time.

In any case, the policy is meant to give people a tool to apply leverage against people shooting video without registering. Berate untagged camera holders for non-compliance. Get a Ranger. Say "no" preemptively when they try to shoot video of you.[/quote]

Usually you cannot tell, when someone is pointing a camera at you, whether they're shooting video, or just being careful in composing the still picture. What I still don't understand is why, for 99% of burners, it would make any difference at all whether the picture is still or movie.

It would make for an interesting Burn to go around berating everyone I see with an untagged digital camera (and apologizing to the ones that turn out not to have a movie mode). Not really the kind of experience I want to have, but they let in everyone with a ticket, so feel free ...

portaplaya wrote:This is a social contract. Enforce it. How does that not make sense?

When it's posted as an official policy that we supposedly accept when we use our tickets (with the tiny print on the back), it's more than a "social contract".

If it's a social contract, the one we need should apply to anyone taking a picture of me if I object. Since the vast majority of cameras at BRC are digital, this can work well because the photographer can quickly and visibly delete my picture. But, according to your analysis, we have no such social contract for any still pictures, only videos?

What does not make sense, to me, is to have a policy that is so unclear or irrational that people can't agree on what it says (e.g. your idea that phones with camera function are excluded). This creates conflict, which is not, for most of us, the reason we go to Burning Man.
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Postby portaplaya » Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:31 am

You sound really angry about this.
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Postby Kinetik V » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:00 pm

I skimmed the posts...and I think Sandfly's got a good point about the policy confusion and need for an update. I'm not so sure that this is the right forum to air it out though. If one wants to change this policy you need to get this in front of the people who make the policies which would be at BM HQ in San Francisco.

The eplaya lost it's ability to be a bully pulpit for real change years ago. Maybe that will change once they roll out Eplaya 3.0 providing they don't kill it like they tried to do the last time they attempted the massive revamp.....

Have you considered bringing this up on the Facebook page? They seem to respond to social media sometimes.....

Closing shots.... I pretty much gave up on the photo policy years ago. If I go to BRC, I expect to see my pix and video splashed all over the place. It would be nice if that was not the case...but I see photographic privacy going the way of the drive by shooting range. Good luck storming the castle!
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Postby sandfly » Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:50 am

portaplaya wrote:You sound really angry about this.

Whatever Burning Man is about (personally, I think there are about 50,000 different answers to that), it is not about making participants unhappy or angry. So, I do have some anger at BMC for creating a policy that creates anger and unhappiness, as does their photo policy. I like to take pictures at Burning Man, partly to please my friends (some of whom are Burners, some aren't), and partly as a sort of photo diary, because when I go back and look at my pictures I often think "Oh, yeah! I had forgotten how cool that was."

I have seen anger and conflict generated by the currently published photo policy, which is so obscure that it leads people to believe they have rights they don't have, and which is so unreasonable that many people who are "good" Burners simply don't comply because it just makes no sense. We deserve better than this.
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Postby sandfly » Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:57 am

Kinetic V wrote:Have you considered bringing this up on the Facebook page? They seem to respond to social media sometimes.....

Thanks for the response.

I'm not ready to try storming the castle (we all have to pick our battles). By re-posting occasionally, to keep the thread visible, I think I help educate some Burners about the problem, and imagine I might be creating a small itch for somebody at BM HQ (maybe it'll help them decide to do something about it).
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Just do the right thing.

Postby Melvynman » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:07 am

If someone is taking a picture of you or your friends and you ask them to stop. They must stop. If they don't through water on the camera.

"Opps sorry didn't mean to hit your camera."
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Postby some seeing eye » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:37 am

The policy was just extensively revised, see the Burning Blog.

You are getting off track on the difference between still and video cameras. The objective of the policy is to bind as many photographers as possible to the Media Mecca contract, and educate them to the details.

I'm hearing a lot of entitlement in these threads.

Personally the photo policy makes me happy. What would really make me unhappy is someone I don't know posting a picture of me at BM. Ubiquitous use of facial recognition software for stills and videos is here, and it can search Internet archives, with ever increasing accuracy, back to the beginning at essentially zero cost, and will.
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Postby actiongrl » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:51 pm

The policy is also referenced and linked as part of the Terms of Use whenever you buy a ticket. Not exactly obscure, it's put in front of every ticket purchase, and repeatedly referenced in the Survival Guide and gate materials.

Cell phones that take video : this year, if you state that you intnd to utilize the video feature on your smartphone, you'll be asked to sign the personal use agreement, but no tag will be issued. We will modify the web language accordingly.

Feedback on the issue best sent to cameratales@burningman.com with suggestions - if you have kept up with this evolution ovr the years you can see its a very delicate balance between community expectations, individual Rights to Publicity, the Evolution of image capture technology, and IP law. Come on down and join the discussion on this one... It's a complicated issue.
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Postby Trishntek » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:57 pm

It would seem to me, that the playa is public land and anything done or seen on the playa is "legally" public. Therefore, if you really get all legal and shit,,, whatever you capture in your camera is your property.

Everything I've read here is hashing out "rules" of BMORG and have nothing to do with legalities.

of course i could be wrong,,,,
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:01 pm

My understanding is that because the playa is rented (or that portion of the playa is rented) for a private event, that those rules don't apply and the llc gets to make them.
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