Can You Copyright Yoga?

from the intellectual-property-mess dept

While not specifically dealing with technology, here’s a case that shows some of the complexities of our current intellectual property system. A famous yoga instructor apparently “copyrighted, trademarked and franchised his poses, breathing techniques and dialogue.” Now, he’s going around suing those yoga teachers who are infringing on that intellectual property. The sued yogis point out that yoga is a 5,000 year old tradition, and find it hard to understand how you can copyright a “pose”. The response, of course, is that it’s not the poses, but the combination of the poses that creates the overall program. So, then, the question becomes what is “fair use” for these programs? What if you do a few of the poses and mix it in with others? The article doesn’t go into all the details, but it sounds like they’re focusing on the copyright issue, which seems like a more difficult case. If other yoga instructors claim they’re teaching Bikram yoga, then the guy has a trademark claim – but otherwise it seems like a tough sell to say you can own the intellectual property on a series of poses. In the meantime, I’m betting that this case has increased the stress levels of those being sued – which seems fairly un-yoga-like.

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Comments on “Can You Copyright Yoga?”

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Steve Sanderson says:

What does this have to do with technology???

You know, I am continually amused by the constant stream of anti-copyright invective emanating from this site… so I’m not surprised that Mike posted this article. It’s just another chance for him to rail against the ownership of property, as outlined under copyright laws. Mike thinks everything should be free — which is a nice idea, but altogether impractical in the real world. Yawn.

data64 says:

Re: What does this have to do with technology???

You seem to be a bit confused about screwed up copyright law and stuff being free. Are you saying that is okay for someone to copyright yoga poses ?
How exactly is this different from someone getting a copyright on a particular football play. Should, say the Panthers, be able to sue the Patriots for using a play that was copyrighted by the Panthers ?

Mikester says:

Re: What does this have to do with technology???

I don’t think you have much of a case to pick on Mike for this. Yes, there are a growing number of copyright/patent/etc posts on this site. And maybe he does have an axe to grind about it, but I believe he does it to show how much this issue is spiralling out of control. The US in particular is in a litigious frenzy at the moment and if one person thinks they can copyright/patent something just because they think they can yell ‘infringement’ and sue someone else, you better believe they will.
Try it, it’s all the rage!
In fact, I’m going to copyright adding ‘Yawn.’ to the end of internet postings – you own me $5 please, thank you.

John Kwasnik (user link) says:

copyrighting yoga?

At least in the U.S., this would be impossible. The “creative work” has to be “fixed” on some medium. So his book or video COULD be copyrighted, being fixed on paper or tape. But not the moves by themselves. (There have been successful attempts to PATENT dance moves, and this may apply).

Two thoughts:

–if one has enough money for litigation or lobbying Congress, one can create new intellectual property concepts. This happens all too often.

–the yogic tradition, and its current adherents, should castigate this fool for attempting to rip off the common heritage of thousands of years of culture … and also demolish his claim by showing “prior art”.

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