Bikram, Yoga to the People settle copyright lawsuit

This story goes back a ways, but because it is one we covered, I want to put the final bow on it.

Bikram Choudhury and Greg Gumucio of Yoga to the People, once Bikram’s right-hand man, have settled their lawsuits involving whether Gumucio was infringing on Bikram’s copyright for his yoga poses.

ABC News had the details from last week (and seems to be the only place that does, perhaps because it is doing a segment on the issue sometime soon). As part of the deal, Gumucio will stop teaching the 26-asana sequence that we commonly think of as Bikram Yoga (and which Bikram believes he owns). Our coverage of this can be found here.

This story had some wider meaning beyond the Bikram and even yoga world because of the copyright issues involved. For yoga, and Ashtanga in particular, the issue is pretty clearly: What happens if one teacher or particular “school” tries to copyright a series of asanas? As a result of these lawsuits, the U.S. Copyright Office did alter a long-standing position that while a dance sequence or other choreography could be copyrighted, the same likely doesn’t hold true for something similar that claims to have medical benefits.

And, as ABC notes, with Bikram saying “half a billion people” have benefited from his yoga — talk about yoga to the people, huh? — he clearly touts the health benefits a lot.

My non-expert guess from this is that future yogis seeking to copyright their particular asana sequences will have a tough time. But because the two sides settled, that issue has not been explicitly addressed yet. So… maybe more to come?

Update, Dec. 10: Link to Gumucio’s explanation for the end to the suit: Right here. New York Times coverage here.

Posted by Steve