Yoga Cannot be Copyrighted
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Regulators have announced that yoga poses, such as head to knee touches and its sequence of moves are not choreography. Instead, they are exercises that cannot be copyrighted in the United States. Previously, the United States Copyright Office allowed yoga poses and their sequences to be registered with their office, even if the poses were in public domain.

Laura Lee Fischer, the acting chief of the office’s Performing Arts Division, said that yoga and other exercises “do not constitute the subject matter that Congress intended to protect as choreography. We will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.”


Yoga to the People, based in New York, had a complaint filed against it by Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Other businesses that were sued include Evolation Yoga of Buffalo and Brooklyn, New York and Yen Yoga of Traverse City, Michigan. The three lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles, according to Bloomberg.

Bikram Choudhury is the owner of Bikram Yoga, which is represented by Robert Gilchrest from Silverman Sclar Shin & Byrne PLLC in Los Angeles. Gilchrest claims that the statement made by Fischer should not affect his case because a copyright for a book containing yoga poses by Choudhury had already been registered.

“There is a presumption that when a copyright is issued, it is valid,” Gilchrest said. “The Copyright Office has issued hundreds of copyrights for exercise videos, but now they’re saying they’re looking at it again and they’ve changed their mind? It is meaningless to this litigation.”

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The decision announced by the Copyright Office will not end the litigation because the lawsuits also claim that there is trademark infringement and violation of the teacher-certification agreements.

The Bikram Yoga studios owned by Choudhury teach a type of yoga that takes 90 minutes to complete, has 26 poses, two breathing exercises, and a scripted dialogue. The yoga experience takes place in a room that is heated to a temperature of 105 degrees. The owner of Yoga to the People, Greg Gumucio, is a former student of Choudhury, along with a number of instructors working at Evolation and Yen Yoga.

In the complaint filed by Choudhury, he claims that each studio named in the suit violated his copyrights and trademarks. The suit also claims that his former students teaching his methods violated the limits on where and how his students can teach the method.

Susman and Fisher, the representatives for Yoga to the People, claim that yoga poses and sequences cannot be copyrighted. The representatives also said that their clients offer different types of hot yoga than the one offered by Bikram. A website has been created by Gumucio, who has collected close to 8,000 signatures of people who believe that yoga should not be copyrighted or privatized.


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