Guru denied copyright protection for Bikram yoga sequence of postures

Bikram Choudhury atop a student. (credit: tiarescott)

Sure, DC Comics can copyright the Batmobile. However, Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, infamous for his hot yoga, cannot copyright his popular 26-posture sequence that also contains two breathing exercises, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

“Though Choudhury emphasizes the aesthetic attributes of the Sequence’s ‘graceful flow,’ at bottom, the Sequence is an idea, process, or system designed to improve health. Copyright protects only the expression of this idea—the words and pictures used to describe the Sequence—and not the idea of the Sequence itself. Because the Sequence is an unprotectible idea, it is also ineligible for copyright protection as a ‘compilation’ or ‘choreographic work,'” the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The decision upholds a federal judge’s ruling that the sequence is “a collection of facts and ideas” not entitled to copyright protection.

The case began in 2011, when Choudhury sued a Sacramento, California-based yoga studio, Evolution Yoga, for copyright infringement. That studio offered yoga classes that were similar to Bikram’s classes, which last 90 minutes and are conducted in temperatures of about 105 degrees.

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