Bay Bridge

Burned at Burning Man

Logo - ExaminerOctober 24, 2002 | San Francisco Examiner

By Adrienne Sanders

Burning Man managers are trying to keep their cool.

Organizers of the desert art festival are going after people for shooting and selling nudie videos of buxom “burners” partying at their campsites.

“We don’t want to see Burning Man turned into a commodity. It’s not for sale,” said business manager Marian Goodell. Plus, the filming has made some participants more wary of participating.

The case is tough: the annual lovefest is, after all, famed for its naked body painting, group showers and free love. But organizers suing Web sites carrying the material say attendees who know others at the festival see them romping around in their birthday suits don’t expect it to show up on the Internet.

One site, Voyeur Video, focuses almost entirely on women’s glittery breasts, genitals and not-so-private-moments with other revelers.

Some have “a murmuring ‘Beavis and Butt-head’-style commentary from the videographers, such as, ‘Man, this is like Playboy!’ as the videographer zooms the camera in to focus on a woman’s breasts as she washes and changes her clothes in what she obviously believes is the privacy of her campsite,” according to the lawsuit filed by San Francisco law firm Gross & Belsky.

The lawsuit accuses Beverly Hills-based Voyeur Video of trespassing, invading the women’s privacy, violating Burning Man’s trademark and breaching an agreement on each ticket that prohibits commercial use of photos without the organizers’ consent.

In August, a judge denied Burning Man’s request to immediately remove the films from Voyeur’s Web site.

And, it turns out, management can’t file the privacy invasion claim on behalf of the victims.

The unwitting movie stars have to file on their own, which they plan to do in the next few weeks, said lawyer Terry Gross.

The lawsuit, coupled with last year’s counterfeit ticket wave and recent thefts of artwork in the desert, add up to a bonfire-sized headache for organizers.

But they say the 29,000-person festival, which began on Baker Beach in 1986, is worth defending.

There is one victory so far: Jim O’Brien, Voyeur’s chief Peeping Tom, won’t return to the Nevada bash anytime soon.

“There are so many other naked festivals to hang out at,” said O’Brien. “It’s not worth all the litigation.”