Tuesday, December 6, 2011

$1M Yoga Lawsuit

Bikram Choudhury, the controversioal speedo-clad yoga guru, is suing Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio in New York City for $1M in damages.

This re-raises, among many things, the issue of what, if anything, about yoga can be copyrighted. And also raises the question of what this dude will wear to court. Fingers crossed for the speedo. Not.

YJ: Bikram Sues Yoga to the People

NYT: Off the Mat, Into Court

As I understand it, the Bikram side is indicating that they're going to use the analogy that since you can copyright a musical or a song--even though words themselves have been around for centuries--you should be able to copyright a yoga sequence (even though yoga has been around for centuries). Their argument seems to be that putting something in a specific order makes it yours/copyright-able.

The Yoga to the People side seems to be indicating that they're going to use the recipe analogy--you can't copyright the ingredients but you can copyright how you talk about them (sort like a song or musical?) but since yoga is the ingredient, they didn't infringe.

I consulted my intellectual property lawyer hubs (wow! For once his IP knowledge *did* come in handy!) and he pointed out that neither analogy is perfect--each side is using the analogy that best suits their side of the case (obviously).

Where it gets all squirmy is that we in the yoga world think of yoga as something more than recipes and musicals. It's this (sometimes) spiritual practice that can be used for something more than exercise. And because of that, in addition to its ancient roots, we don't like to think about it being a business or subject to the legalities of other businesses.

I personally think that you should not be able to copyright yoga. The poses have been around for way longer than any of us have been alive. Rearranging them or altering them slightly doesn't make them yours. But that's just my two cents.

What do you think? Should yoga be copyrighted? Is this all about money? 

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