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The Myth of the BDSM Symbol

Author: cajunrose

Filed in: emblem, controversy

Have you been contacted by an AOL user known as Quagmyr and advised that you were violating U. S. and International copyright law by using the BDSM symbol on your site? Did Quagmyr tell that you had violated his copyright by not linking back to his web site or if you were a commercial site not paying him a user fee?

How would you feel to know this was not true and that this person not only knew he did not own the symbol but had in fact fleeced our community’s web site owners out of thousands of dollars of free ads, products, and even user fees? Upset, mad, stunned, all of those, well folks that is exactly what has been happening since 1997.

In 2002 I was contacted by a business owner in California that made and sold jewelry made with this symbol. Trish of PureTNT had been contacted by this man, to pay a user fee and to link back to his site under the copyright violation she was committing per Quagmyr. She could not afford that so she had to give him a piece of each design of the jewelry she was making in lieu of a user fee and further advised her she would have to give him part of her future profits to use the symbol. She was told she had to also full ad and link back to his site at no charge to him.

I belonged to a web domain owner group with Trish, and since ATR had used this symbol on multiple pages, had even redesign the colors for other sites and had never heard of Quagmyr we became curious about this claim. I was then sent paper work showing that the symbol was thousands of years old and that you could not even file a copyright on it because it was “not changed enough to be consider a derivative work”.

I was stunned as I begin to talk to people, how could this happen? So we here at ATR filed for the copyright of this symbol to use as a symbol for a “club”. We received the same answer back from the copyright office; we could use it as a logo and own the logo or trademark for that particular use or design, much like the AT&T logo of a circle with lines through it, however we could not copyright just that symbol. AT&T never owned the circle but they did own the trademark of the artwork converted to be used for their “logo”.

After more investigation we found a junior high school that used the symbol on their gym wrestling mats, a computer company in California that used it on their marquee, and it is used by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

So began my investigation into the myths of the BDSM symbol, including extensive contact via emails with Quagmyr who claimed the copyright. Very quickly my email box filled up with email from site owners from around the globe saying they had been contacted and threatened under both U. S. and International copyright law to give a free ad to Quagmyr. The ads normally were required to be a full page of “free publicity with a link back to this man’s site”.

I began to gather information and found the not only PureTNT the jewelry company in California, had given products in lieu of a user fee, had been told as the business grew a percentage of the profits would have to be turned over, but more cottage industries began to turn up sharing the same set of circumstances.

Trish stood up to this person and said “no more, sue me”. Quagmyr never filed suit, but continued to contact new sites many unsuspecting site owners that would quickly cave and give in to providing the free advertising.

A famous lifestyle artist also had given a full page ad with an apology to Quagmyr and a thank you that he had not sued her. In 2004 she gave Quagmyr an original piece of art for compensation for using the symbol in her art and this can be located and read about on her commercial site. By 2004, Quagmyr said he was only asking for a vegetarian recipe as payment for use of the symbol, I would think this artist considered her original piece of art more valuable than a recipe.

I then found a local munch group in North Carolina that went by the name of TALON, after interviewing a Board member I learned they had wanted to use the symbol on their business cards and was told they would have to print out the required web page of ad on the back of each card. They tried to explain several times that a small card could not have that much information on the back, but again this man would not budge and so they just gave up the idea.

Then came more cottage industries, struggling businesses that were trying to make a living, wanting to use the symbol for things like shirts, embroidery, web site designers and such, even an author wanting to use it on a book cover, all of them again were told they must pay a user fee, give Quagmyr free products and an ad on their sites or not use the symbol at all. These struggling cottage industries could not afford attorneys and so one by one they caved in and provided the continuing ten of thousands dollars of free ads. Some of these industries will share their experience as an addendum to this article, others fearing that they will lose their business livelihood have asked to remain anonymous.

I could go on with examples but by now I think each of you get the picture.

One of the things I checked into is over the years from 1995 until present, had there been any “promoter of events” that had cancelled vendors from the event that sold products with this symbol in order to not be libel to pay profits from the event to Quagmyr in order not to be sued. Event promoters are in this as a business and know what they are doing, and have access to lawyers, not one over the years had even been contacted by Quagmyr claiming to own the copyright.

In one of the emails I received from Quagmyr he admits that he was turned down as a vendor to one of the largest events held yearly, that would not happen to a copyright holder where other products using this symbol were being sold, without possible serious legal consequences.

My contact with this man begin in 2002 and extended until mid May 2005, including me asking for anything that would substantiate that legally he did own the copyright to this symbol. There were no logs of that “1995 AOL chat room, no email addresses could be furnished to verify the claim, and no trademark even of the symbol for his use had ever been filed.

All I could verify was about the year of 1997, the symbol being used on the internet and Quagmyr contacting those sites stating he had copyrighted the symbol in 1995 and so they must now pay him to use the symbol in any way if it was a commercial site or give a free ad and link if it was a personal site. It is always very sad to see a person who sees an opportunity with just a tad of claim not based on even a scintilla of truth target small business or web site owner to give thousands of dollars of free ads.

During my two plus years of research and email contacts with Quagmyr he did edit his page of the symbol to exclude most things shown on BDSM sites as NOT the “official emblem”. However most of us seeing it even in differing variations still say “that is the BDSM symbol”.

I joined a copyright organization in 2005 because they had lawyers and people very knowledgeable in copyrights, in conjunction with one of the business owners who had been contacted. I provided all of the information and asked for research and guidance. They found that this symbol without any change to it could be traced back thousands of years. It was used as family symbols, tribe symbols, culture symbols and even on Christmas paper over 30 years ago. It has been used by Druids, in the Orient for thousands of years and was in fact a very ancient triskele (1) dating back to the Orient, ancient Greece and the Celts.

Whoever drew this symbol the first time, would probably like to be credited with it even now, but sadly that has been lost over the millenniums. Once I had all of this information I again contacted Quagmyr and confronted him with this mounting mountain of evidence that argued the fact of his ownership. Finally in 2004, he confessed that he had never claimed copyright in any fashion except using his AOL user name and email address, in this correspondence he conceded that he never used his real name as he contacted web sites world wide and demanded the thousands of dollars of free advertisement. In my opinion, he was in fact just an opportunist.

In a recent conversation with one of his defenders I was told, “Well the symbol was thousands of years old, but once he said it was the “BDSM symbol” at that moment he became the owner and copyright owner and thus his claims were valid”. After thinking about that analogy for a few minutes it struck me that I needed to hunt through history to find the first person to use any implement to plow a path to park horses, buggies or cars near their home, for they surely owned “the driveway copyright”. Anyone know who we need to credit our drive ways too and where to send the money for use of the driveway? A silly example, I agree, but an easy one to understand.

I have promised Quagmyr that our emails back and forth will be put on our web site to explain his general denial to all of the sites that have said he insisted in receiving credit, products, user fees, part of future profits, etc. and had in fact only received a nominal amount of money but had received products from the businesses and as of 2004 had never asked for more than credit and a “vegetarian recipe”.

In these emails he trashed every business or person we provided a name of to him, saying the products were inferior in nature, or I had better be sure I had my facts substantiated or I should be prepared to be sued for punitive damages, not “actual real damages”. Although those emails, in my opinion, contain some possibly hurtful opinions about site owners. I gave my word that I would print them in full, unedited. Those emails will soon appear on ATR in completeness, they are after the best proof of the fleecing of the community that I have been given to date, and straight from the horse’s mouth so to say.

What do I hope to get from all of this time, research, exchanged emails, and now this article? One very simple thing; if you are reading this and you have a full page ad or any ad at all crediting Quagmyr with the copyright, take that page down today, embrace your freedom of expression and your right to use the emblem.

Check back in the next couple of weeks for a web page that contains all of the emails, but if you need them before then email me at and I will send you the complete file. Right now as you are reading this, say no more today, make this fleecing of our community go away right now.

If you are contacted by Quagmyr, demanding free advertising or one of his defenders demanding you give him credit, in a nice gracious way, direct them to me here at ATR and this article. It is time to expose both the myth and the fleecing of our community.


© copyright Jan. 26, 2006

All rights reserved

A True Rose

Footnotes: 1. Triskele or Triskelion (from Greek meaning "three-legged") is a symbol consisting of three bent human legs, or more generally, three interlocked spirals, or any similar symbol with three protrusions exhibiting symmetry of the cyclic group C3. The spirally triskele is often classed as a solar symbol, while the legged version, sometimes including a gorgon mask or Medusa's head at the central axle point in the Sicilian version, suggests a chthonicc significance…. In the symbol for the more thoroughly Celtic the "three legs embowed" of the heraldic triskelion are represented now in armour, "spurred and garnished or (gold)." Spiral triskele The Celtic art symbol of three conjoined spirals may well have had triple significance similar to the imagery that lies behind the triskelion. That spiral motif is a Neolithic symbol in Western Europe: it is carved into the rock of a stone lozenge near the main entrance of the prehistoric Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. Other uses include the triskelion has been adopted as an emblem by some BDSM groups, partly based on a description in the Story of O….. In the second season Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion, the crew of the Enterprise observe and are pressed into gladiatorial combat on a planet named Triskelion. The symbol of the planet is a truncated blue triangle with a yellow stylized triskelion inscribed. The symbol of the planet is a truncated blue triangle with a yellow stylized triskelion inscribed. Further references and definitions can be found under the term “Rotational symmetry”.

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