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News|Legal|London|Itziar appeal

A THOROUGH BEATING: Femdom site owner Itzia (above) took on the UK’s website regulator and won

Dominatrix wins UK appeal against website regulation

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Performance artist and web dominatrix Itziar Bilbao Urrutia has won her appeal against an attempt in the UK by ATVOD (Authority for Television on Demand) to regulate her website as if it were a provider of ‘television-like’ video content.

Obscenity law specialist Myles Jackman, who assisted with the appeal, has described Itzia’s successful challenging of ATVOD’s authority as “a decisive blow for sexual liberties against the forces of repressive regulation and state sanctioned censorship”.

The solicitor, of London chambers Hodge Jones and Allen, provides pro bono advice to sexual liberties campaign group Backlash, which asked him to assist with Itziar’s appeal after she went to it for help following receipt of a “threatening” letter from ATVOD in June 2013. Backlash also funded advice from Ligia Osepciu, a barrister at Monckton Chambers specialising in telecommunications regulatory challenges.

Writing in his Obscenity Lawyer blog (link below), Jackman reveals that the appeal was actually decided some time ago, but publication of the result was embargoed until Friday August 15, when Ofcom (the UK’s communications industry regulator) finally published the decision on its website.

Itzia’s website The Urban Chick Supremacy Cell (UCSC) is one of a substantial number of femdom-orientated sites targeted by ATVOD since its foundation in 2010 as Ofcom’s designated co-regulator of on-demand television. ATVOD claims the legal authority to regulate and censor not only on-demand services such as ITV Player and 4oD, but also paid-for content on websites considered to be ‘tv-like’.

In June 2013, the regulator wrote to Itzia claiming she had breached two of its rules relating to the categorisation of her online content as TV on-demand, and a third rule about content that “might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of 18”.

In her appeal, she argued that the nature and duration of the video content on her site (the average clip lasts under 8 minutes), the small number of subscribers (fewer than 60) and the modest revenue from video viewing (about $1,000 a year) meant that her website could not be considered an ODPS (On Demand Programme Service) and should therefore not be regulated by ATVOD.

She also contended that her work was a performance art project that did not contravene the Obscene Publications Act, as ATVOD was implying. Her scholarly and witty riposte to ATVOD’s attempt to critique her work must have unnerved anyone in that organisation who assumed their target was just another semi-literate pornographer and/or sex-worker.

It may be that as many as 60 UK-based dominatrixes with paid-for video content on their websites have had their sites closed down by ATVOD, and Itzia considers the pursuit of this particular group of women highly suspect. She is quoted as saying: “Whenever I see who has been reported to ATVOD, it is usually material that could be classified as kink — especially femdom.”

Anyway, Ofcom upheld Ms Urrutia’s appeal, agreeing that her site did not constitute the kind of television-on-demand that ATVOD was established to regulate. This is certainly great news for the appellant, who is about to become a PhD candidate at Birmingham University, partly due to her UC-SC project.

It could also be welcomed by other ‘offenders’, who might now examine Itzia’s Ofcom judgement (link below) and discover that they, too, should not have come within ATVOD’s remit. Class action time, anyone?


News|Personalities|London|Joy Betts tribute

Joy Betts (Mistress Demonic) loses her fight against cancer

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


The London scene has been paying tribute to one of its most colourful characters — Joy Betts, aka Mistress Demonic — who died in hospital on Sunday while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Long time companion of Master Keith and hostess of the legendary Gate BDSM nights, Joy was first rushed into hospital on June 25, the day before her birthday.

To the shock of her many friends and admirers, she posted on Facebook four days later that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and lung cancer.
“But,” she assured her followers, “I will beat this. After all, I have butts to beat and balls to kick!!”

Back home on July 7, she was clearly feeling better, promising to fight like a trooper and issuing a typical Bettsian challenge to the disease: “Do your worst, cancer, and see if you can even begin to beat me.”

On July 16, just before seeing her neuro-oncologist, she admitted she was “a little apprehensive” but added that at least she hoped to know everything by the time she left.

Sadly she learnt something she did not want to hear: “There is a chance the brain tumour will not shrink, which if it does not, means no chemo for my lung.”

However, again in typical Joy style, she decided to pre-empt the hair-loss associated with therapy and do a sponsored head-shave at July 25’s meeting of The Gate, arguing that she might as well “get rid [of it] before it falls out”.

Her treatment began the following Monday, July 28, after which she posted: “The 1st *zapping* of radiotherapy is done! Only Tuesday to Friday to go !!!!xxxxx”.

The following day she said what an awesome time she’d had at The Gate “with so many of my wonderful extended family in one place at one time”.

She thanked everyone for their love and support, positivity, cuddles and giggles “but most of all… for helping me shave my hair off”. She declared the event “one of the most fun-filled nights of my life”.

So it was a tremendous shock to learn that on Thursday, after just three days of radiotherapy, she was found to have developed pneumonia from a chest infection.

Keith and the couple’s friend Claire, aka Atrum Dea, were at her bedside on Friday 1 when, according to Claire, “her brain started to shut down and she became unresponsive”.

“All we got was about two seconds when she woke, smiled and gave a wave,” Claire said. “She asked that no one know about her hospitalisation.”

On Sunday Joy’s condition deteriorated and she was put on a machine to aid her breathing. But after 14 hours, she had not responded to this or any other treatment.

“At 7pm,” Claire’s post continued, “[the doctors] decided that the only other option was to remove the machine and IV lines, give her some morphine and let her drift away. She lost her brave battle at 11pm exactly.

“Keith and I were with her holding her hands as she took her last breath. Both he and I are devasted. It was peaceful for her and she was neither in pain nor aware of what was happening.”

Adding that Joy had been “a wonderful lady and a true inspiration to me”, Claire closed her sad post by saying that funeral details would be announced as soon as known, and in the meantime anyone who wanted to could leave messages of condolence and memories on Joy’s Facebook profile.

Numerous touching comments have already been left from all corners of the UK scene and beyond. The opportunity to add to them is also open to anyone reading this.


Joy’s final goodbye will be held on Wednesday August 27 at 2pm in the North Chapel at Eltham Crematorium, Crown Woods Way, London SE9 2AZ. Details of the wake are being finalised — Gravesend Rugby Club is hoped for.

All who wish to pay their respects, whether or not they knew Joy in person, are welcome. A large turnout is expected.

Flowers are not required but instead donations can be made via the funeral directors to the Ellenor Hospice or Macmillan Nurses. Contact Horlock and Sons Funeral Services on 01474 352159 to make a donation.

Funeral dresscode: During Joy’s last few weeks she developed a fondness for lighter, brighter colours, with lemons and greens being favoured. Mourners are asked to honour this by wearing lighter or brighter colours if possible.


TOP + CENTRE: Joy, aka Mistress Demonic, at the Gate’s 2012 Christmas party (photos: Tony Mitchell); BOTTOM: Joy, sporting her new hair colour, with Master Keith at July’s London Fetish Fair (photo: LFF)
News|Events|London|Save the Coronet

NO FUTURE? The fate of major TG venue the Coronet is uncertain beyond its current lease expiry in 2015

Sign up to save the Coronet!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Another major Torture Garden venue — the Coronet Theatre in London’s Elephant and Castle — is facing closure if redevelopment proposals go ahead at the end of next year.

The Coronet has played host to TG’s three big annual events since spring 2011, when redevelopment of London Bridge Station, also in the borough of Southwark, forced closure of legendary arches venue SeOne.

In March 2012 Torture Garden also lost beloved Brixton venue Mass, where most of its medium-sized parties were held. Luckily the club has been able to successfully relocate most of those events to Electrowerkz, the Angel, Islington home of famed goth club Slimelight.

However, losing the Coronet would be likely to present TG with a major problem, since venues of around 2,000 capacity are becoming rarer than hens’ teeth as property values continue to soar in the capital.

With their current lease due to expire in November 2015, the Coronet management say they have not yet been able to secure a commitment either from Delancey, their landlord, or Southwark Council that the theatre can continue to operate in Elephant and Castle. “If we don’t get clarity about our future, the Coronet may be forced to close,” they say.

But fortunately they’re not planning to give up without a fight, and have launched a petition to save the 140-year-old venue. The petition, which you can find at Change.org (link below), argues that the Coronet is a huge asset to the community in Elephant and Castle and an integral part of its identity.

“Employing over 100 members of staff, attracting more than 250,000 visitors every year, bringing huge amounts of revenue into the local area, and providing a creative and unique arts space, the Coronet has been a part of the local area since the Elephant and Castle Theatre first opened on the current site in 1872,” it says. “The Elephant and Castle of today is undergoing exciting regeneration, but this should not come at the cost of the area’s diverse cultural mix.”

The venue management are calling on Delancey and Southwark Council to protect the future of the Coronet in the Elephant, either at its current location or at a suitable alternative site, noting: “We have up to £2m earmarked for improvements, and plan to bring events such as BBC Radio recordings south of the river.

“But without any commitment from Delancey or the Council, we cannot press ahead with our plans, nor can we reassure our staff, who are worried for their jobs.”

If you want to preserve a venue that is of great importance to the local cultural fabric and also to fetish culture both in London and internationally, add your name to the petition and help save the Coronet now.


News|Legal|Libidex Chinese copies

NO ANGEL: This Angeldis website, aimed at the Chinese domestic market, carries pages of designs lifted straight from the Libidex website, and even uses the Libidex name. It is also using stolen images from other western designers

Libidex copied for Chinese home market

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Libidex has become embroiled in a Chinese counterfeiting saga with a difference — this time the copycat in question is angling to sell Libidex copies to the Chinese home market.

A business calling itself Angeldis Latex has set up a web store on a Chinese eBay-style platform, with pages and pages of latex fashions shamelessly lifted straight off the Libidex.com site. The firm is even using Libidex’s name to promote the garments.

This could suggest that marketing by Chinese pirates in the west has stimulated a domestic market for latex that did not previously exist. Or it could just mean successful anti-piracy campaigns by western labels have made it more difficult for the pirates to do business in the west.

When we spoke to Libidex director Nigel Walker, he told us that Libidex had not yet gone to the potentially very costly lengths of instructing Chinese lawyers to act on its behalf against Angeldis.

“However,” he said, “we now have a very useful Chinese contact who is acting for us and has actually visited the people hosting this shop in Shanghai, and we are gathering evidence now for him to send to them.

“They have indicated that they will take action against the shop on the basis of the evidence we provide of infringement. He’s also able to translate the site for us, which could be useful if any more domestic Chinese sites pop up copying designs.”

Nigel added that Libidex is also in the process of registering its name and trademark in China so that it can stop these and other sites using its name.

“Yet another expense, but necessary we think, as this sort of thing is bound to spread unless we do something about it.”

He pointed out that Angeldis is also using images from quite a few other latex designers — “Simon O for one, I’m pretty sure” — and thought such people would want to “know who Angeldis are in case they want to take action against them”.

However, while it’s true that this particular Angeldis site is aimed at the domestic Chinese market and doesn’t deliver outside China, this doesn’t mean the firm is not chasing customers in the west as well.

The same company also has a west-facing site, ostensibly US-based, on which pirated Libidex images also appear (albeit manip- ulated and cropped in an attempt to disguise them) alongside many other latex designs that look strangely familiar.

On this rather cheesy looking site, the company describes itself as a leading athletic retailer of brand name footwear, apparel and accessories which also serves the fetish, BDSM and cosplay scenes.


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