This morning, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the Bikram yoga case, affirming that a yoga sequence is an uncopyrightable system or method. The plaintiff had obtained a copyright registration for a book in which the sequence was published, but that registration could not extend to the sequence itself because the sequence was a “system” or “method” of working the body’s muscles, ligaments and tendons to achieve optimal health. Accordingly, the sequence was not an expressive work and also could not be protected as a compilation or choreographic work.
The plaintiff in this case, Bikram Choudhury, has gained notoriety for his aggressive efforts at enforcing his copyright against other yoga instructors. And the notion of obtaining copyright protection for yoga poses seems understandably silly given that yoga has been around for thousands of years. It puts the Happy Birthday dispute – over a work authored in 1893 – into perspective!