Yoga to the People’s response to Bikram hinges on new copyright interpretation

Diving a little deeper into the Yoga to the People vs. Bikram issue, it looks like the key point to Greg Gumucio’s response is a new review by the U.S. Copyright Office that determines yoga and similar exercises can’t be copyrighted as “choreography”. Here’s the key section from Gumucio’s response, which we posted about earlier:

Fifth, the Choudhury Yoga Sequence is legally invalid because the Copyright Office has determined that yoga is not protected as choreography. According to a December 7, 2011 letter to Defendants from Laura Lee Fischer, Acting Chief of the Performing Arts Division ofthe Copyright Office, the Copyright Office previously “took the position that although functional physical movements did not represent the  type of authorship which Congress intended to be protected under the copyright law, [the Copyright Office] could register the selection and ordering of public domain exercises.” However, the Copyright Office recently reevaluated this position. “The Registration Program of the Copyright Office reviewed the legislative history relating to section l02(a) of the copyright law, and in conjunction with senior management, determined that exercises, including yoga exercises, do not constitute the subject matter that Congress intended to protect as choreography. Thus, we will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.” (Emphasis added.) Attached hereto as Exhibit 3, and incorporated by this reference is a copy of Ms. Fischer’s December 7,2011 email to Elliot Alderman, counsel for Defendants.

That would be a change from the Office’s previous stance, and it does seem like it could be key to this suit. But while it seems to represent a change for future attempts to copyright any yoga sequence, I think the Court is still going to have to determine if it applies to Bikram and this case.

For those who want “yoga to be free,” though, it looks pretty good. Yoga to the People may end up living up to its name.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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