I will let you decide if this is an historic moment for yoga.
Greg Gumucio of Yoga to the People a few minutes ago filed his answer to the lawsuit brought against him by Bikram.
What it seems to come down to is the difference between a copyright and a patent.
“Bikram does not have a patent on his method,” Gumucio writes here. “Bikram may have a valid copyright on his 1978 book and on the rigid Dialogue that his instructors must recite in his classes. But, again, those copyrights are irrelevant because we do not use the book, and our instructors never recite any of the expressive passages in the Dialogue.”
Here’s a link to the actual answer filed in court in California.
Gumucio’s statement addresses two arguments to “Bikram’s claim that, even without a patent, he has the exclusive right to offer yoga classes that include the 26 poses in a heated room.”
The first is Bikram’s claim to a copyright on the series. Here’s where things get good and, maybe, move toward the “historic” nature Gumucio has been promising. At the least, it is serious food for thought concerning yoga and yoga as a business. At the risk of over-quoting him:
Copyright protection is limited to “original works of authorship” — novels, plays, musical compositions, paintings, sculpture, and so forth. The Copyright statute expressly excludes protection for “procedures,” “systems” and “methods of operation.”So, for example, games, sports, and recipes cannot be copyrighted. Yoga in general (and Bikram’s yoga in particular) is plainly a “system” or “procedure,” like a recipe or a sport, not an art form. Bikram himself has long argued that the primary function of his method is to promote health. Recently, he has even lobbied for recognition of yoga as an Olympic sport.
The only conceivable way to avoid this conclusion would be to claim that yoga is a form of choreography — which, like a play, is subject to copyright protection. But this argument quickly collapses. Yoga does not fit any of the standard definitions of choreography, such as “the art of dancing” (Oxford English Dictionary) or “the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns usually intended to be accompanied by music.” Bikram should know this, because in 2002 he applied to the Copyright Office for registration of his sequence of poses as a “performing art.” In the letter in which the Office rejected that application, the office told him, “we do not register such claims as choreography.”
Gumucio also quarrels with claims that by graduating from a Bikram course he agreed to any restrictions on his teaching of the poses. He even goes so far as to argue: “Not only does this document [his certificate] not limit my rights to provide instruction in the sequence of poses, it does the reverse — expressly granting me the right to “teach” the “system” without any reservations whatsoever.”
He does acknowledge that Bikram likely has the right to maintain control over the term “Bikram” and the specific class structure as it is taught.
Gumucio’s statement ends by being very complementary of Bikram and says that Bikram does deserve the “material rewards” for his work.
“Bikram is flourishing,” the statement concludes. “His network of franchised studios is growing. I have no interest in undermining his business or thwarting his vision. I only ask that he respect mine.”
A link to Bikram’s lawsuit is here.
Posted by Steve