Court Rules Bikram Can't Copyright Practice That Has Existed For Thousands of Years

Illustration for article titled Court Rules Bikram Can't Copyright Practice That Has Existed For Thousands of Years

On Thursday, a court ruled that the sequence of 26 poses and breathing exercises that makes up Bikram Yoga is ineligible for copyright for the same reason a life-saving surgery is: it’s designed to make people healthier, and only a monster would want a monopoly on saving lives.

The lawsuit was brought to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by Bikram founder Bikram Choudhury who is, coincidentally, a bit of a monster (he has faced numerous sexual harassment lawsuits and is rumored to be a general asshole).

L.A. Times reports:

Choudhury’s sequence of poses “is an idea, process, or system designed to improve health,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote in the ruling. “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.

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Separate from the health aspect of copyright law, Choudhury’s insistence that this particular sequence should be his intellectual property is generally ridiculous, given that yoga was around for thousands of years before the word “copyright” was even invented.


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

Image via Getty.

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DISCUSSION

GirlwithNoName64
GirlwithNoName64

"Choudhury’s insistence that this particular sequence should be his intellectual property is generally ridiculous, given that yoga was around for thousands of years before the word “copyright” was even invented."

That’s actually a very poor argument. Ballet poses were created before copyright law. That doesn’t mean that the selection and arrangement of these poses doesn’t qualify for copyright protection (assuming they are sufficiently creative). Ditto for the written language. Words predate copyright, but the arrangement of words in any literary work (again, presuming sufficiently creative) are entitled to protection. Bikram yoga (which I don’t practice, but I know what it is) is one of over a million ways to select and arrange 26 yoga poses, given all the different poses that exist (and there is really no reason why you have to stick with 26, but still), so its definitely not like this particular arrangement of yoga has existed for eons just b/c yoga generally has existed for such a long period.

There may be other reasons why the opinion is not wrong, but this idea that new and creative arrangements of things that have long existed in the public domain cannot be copyrightable is totally unsupported by copyright law—and is actually directly opposed to pretty much all (if not actually all) precedent on the matter.