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Copyright Scam Artists

I ran across the below article and thought I would use this as an example here. There are many people running around the internet making claims of copyright infringement and demanding compensation from unsupecting blogs and web sites.

I would venture to guess that the vast majority of those claiming copyrights are legit but there are those who are just working an angle to boost their own web site or business. Read the below and know that although this is one story targeting a specific community that the lessons learned are important and every one of us must beware of the Copyright Scam Artist.

The Myth of the BDSM Symbol and the Fleecing of Our Community.

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 you 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 or a precentage of your profits?

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 using this symbol. Trish of PureTNT had been contacted by Quagmyr 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 and/or product she was making in lieu of a user fee. Quagmyr 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 provide a 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 redesigned the colors for other sites, this caught our interest. I had ever heard of Quagmyr and became curious about this claim. I was sent paperwork showing that the symbol was thousands of years old and that you could not even file a copyright on it. 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. It is 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, I 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 emails 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 picture of the symbol and a link back to Quagmyr�s site�.

I began to gather information and found that PureTNT, the jewelry company in California, was not the only one that 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. 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 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 1998. In 2002, she gave Quagmyr an original piece of art for compensation for using the symbol in her art. 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 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. Quagmyr would not budge and so they just gave up on 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. An author wanting to use it on a book cover, they were all told they must pay a user fee, give Quagmyr f ree 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 fears they will lose their business livelihood and 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 was, 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. They did not want 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 or demanding a share of the profits from vendors at the event that were selling items with the symbol on it.

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. It would not happen to a copyright holder where other products using this symbol were being sold, without possible serious legal consequences.

My contact with Quagmyr began 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 1994 or 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 was being used on the internet and Quagmyr contacting those sites stating he had copyrighted the symbol in 1995. Therefore 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 owners 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 2005, 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 emblem' 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 driveways to 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. Quagmyr had in fact, only received a nominal amount of money, but had received products from the businesses. As of 2004, Quagmyr had never asked for more than credit and a �vegetarian recipe�.

In these emails, Quagmyr trashed every business or person we provided a name of to him; saying the products were inferior in nature. 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, contained some possibly hurtful opinions about site owners. I gave my word that I would print them in full and unedited. Those emails will soon appear on ATR in completeness; they are after all 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 speak .

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. 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.

You may reproduce this article, just please give a link back to this page.

If you have had a similar situation of being contacted to give copyright credit, please email me. I want to add your experience to the second page. If you want to remain anonymous that is okay, we will not share your email address and we will use the name you sign your email with or your initials. We need you to come forward; all of us that have gone through something similar since 1997, need to help others be able to share what they went through. so email me, cajunrose by just clicking on my name here. It matters not if the comment is bad, good or your own experience, it will be printed with this article. If I can add anything factual to your comments, you have my promise that will be done.

I look forward to hearing from you.

A True Rose

@ copyright January 26, 2006
All rights reserved.
For footnotes, Readers comments, Further dictionary information and disclaimers, The difference between copyright and trademarks, and Emails of Quagmyr on this subject please go to the this page.


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