Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gamesters of Triskelion

I've been reading an interesting discussion about the BDSM symbol on my favorite kink site. For those who aren't familiar with the emblem, it's a flowy, three-spoked yin yang type of image, often called a triskelion. Someone named Quagmyr claims he designed the logo. He says he created the emblem to allow BDSMers fearing persecution to secretly identify themselves to each other. (Because quickly jumping into the chains with a complete stranger is the true BDSM way, evidently.) Further, Quagmyr asserts that he and his friends conceived the symbol in the mid-1990s in a chat area. (I would think chat would preclude the creation of a piece of visual art.) But Quagmyr insists he copyrighted the emblem, and you'd better pay him if you want to use the symbol.

He's dead serious. According to some sources, Quagmyr extorted products (mainly jewelry) from small online businesses as payment for the use of his "copyrighted" symbol. He allegedly demanded payment for years. It appears he used the copyright scam to ensure his own BDSM-symbol jewelry monopoly.

Quagmyr directs BDSM non-profits who wish to use the symbol to publish a specific copyright notice, reproduced here:
The BDSM Emblem is copyright 1995 by
who maintains the copyright in order to protect the symbol. It is
freely available for all educational and non-commercial use
within the BDSM community without charge.
Even the copyright notice is copyrighted! I'm not an intellectual property lawyer, but I believe copyrights can only be issued to people or corporations, not e-mail addresses. I suppose nobody ever told that. Especially not the copyright office. I'm also wondering if one can have selective copyright. Isn't permitting non-profits to use a symbol the same as public domain?

And here's the kicker: the BDSM emblem has rich antecedents in Celtic as well as Eastern symbolism. It would be impossible to copyright something used by humanity for millennia. (The graphic above shows a scene from the original Star Trek show. A stylized, angular version of the triskelion was used as the symbol for a planet of fighting slaves.)

In the same amusing vein--and trumping Quagmyr--is this bit of news: The acronym BDSM has evidently been trademarked by Business Development University in PA. Are you interested in getting certified in BDSMTM? This year-long Certification 401 series will set you back $12,000, and is intended for
the Successful Sales Person who is looking to learn Leadership and Management skills to advance his or her career. This comprehensive program of classroom, coaching and practicum will prepare the Professional to manage and motivate Sales Teams, understand corporate dynamics and enhance their own sales techniques and process as well.
I like the part about learning leadership and management skills... and dynamics and processes.

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