Yoga poses can’t be copyrighted, U.S. regulator says

Yoga poses such as head-to-knee stretches and the sequences of the moves are “exercises” rather than “choreography” and can’t be copyrighted in the U.S., regulators said.

Bloomberg News reports

The U.S. Copyright Office previously permitted yoga poses and their sequences to be registered, even if those exercises were in the public domain, Laura Lee Fischer, acting chief of the office’s Performing Arts Division, said in response to an inquiry by an attorney involved in lawsuits the founder of Bikram Yoga filed against three yoga studios.

The office reviewed the legislative history of the copyright law and decided that exercises, including yoga, “do not constitute the subject matter that Congress intended to protect as choreography,” Fischer said in an email. “We will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.”

The email is contained in a response filed yesterday to Bikram’s Yoga College of India’s complaint against New York-based Yoga to the People. Washington lawyer Elliott Alderman, assisting defense attorney Jordan Susman and Harvard Law School professor William Fisher, sought the determination from the Copyright Office.

Evolation Yoga, with studios in cities including Buffalo and Brooklyn, New York, and Yen Yoga, in Traverse City, Michigan, also were sued. All three lawsuits were filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

Robert Gilchrest, a lawyer at Silverman Sclar Shin & Byrne PLLC in Los Angeles who represents Bikram Yoga and its founder, Bikram Choudhury, said the email shouldn’t affect his case because Choudhury already had registered a copyright for a book containing his yoga sequence. […]

The Copyright Office decision won’t put an end to the litigation because the suits also claim trademark infringement and violation of the teacher-certification agreements.

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