Here’s a counter to what seems the prevailing idea that the Bikram sequence of yoga poses should not be able to be copyrighted:
Yet the emphasis on the science of yoga doesn’t demonstrate that Bikram yoga isn’t also a highly specific form of coordinated bodily motions arranged in a particular way to produce an aesthetic reaction — in other words, choreography.
Congress specifically gave copyright protection to choreography in 1976, without defining the term. (Apparently, you know it when you see it.) Remarkably, the 9th Circuit thought that it could deny choreography protection to the Bikram sequence without defining the term itself. The court said that the Bikram sequence can’t be copyrighted because “it is an idea, process, or system,” and those are legally unprotectable — even if they are also choreography.
This can’t be right. Consider the ballets of George Balanchine, whose copyrights are carefully guarded by the George Balanchine Trust. Each and every one of those ballets unquestionably incorporates an idea, or rather many ideas: of modernism, of classicism, of the relationship of movement to music, and so on.
What’s more, many people do ballet as a form of exercise and as an aesthetic-spiritual meditative experience, just as they do yoga.
I think that’s the crux of the argument from this BloombergView piece. Something about the choreography = yoga (really, asanas) doesn’t quite pass muster for me. Perhaps I don’t quite agree that an established dance move is the same thing as a particular asana. But I get why someone would want to argue that.
Maybe Bikram will appeal higher.
Posted by Steve