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Bikram Choudhury can no longer claim to hold a copyright to the popular 26-pose sequence thanks to a federal court ruling, putting an end to an issue that’s been debated in the yoga community for decades.
“Even if the manner in which Choudhury arranged the sequence is unique, the sequence would not be copyrightable subject matter because individual yoga poses are not copyrightable subject matter,” wrote U.S. District Judge Otis Wright in his December 14 ruling, as reported by Bloomberg. Wright added that it is possible to hold a copyright on works such as books, DVDs, and photographs, however.
The ruling was in response to the case Choudhury brought against Evolation Yoga, which is a chain of studios with locations in New York, Florida, and Costa Rica. Evolation was one of several studios Choudhury sued last year for infringing on a copyright Choudhury believed he held on the 26-pose sequence taught in Bikram yoga classes.
“The court’s ruling confirms what we’ve always believed,” said one of Evolation Yoga’s founders Mark Drost in a statement released Monday. “No one person or organization owns yoga or any type of yoga. It belongs to all of us.”
The ruling does not address the copyright on the dialogue that accompanies the asana sequence or the trademark infringement. There is still a court date in January to address the additional claims. Earlier this month Bikram reached a settlement on a similar suit with Yoga to the People.
Benjamin Lorr, who wrote the recently released book Hell Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, has been vocal in his criticism of Choudhury’s choice to copyright. In response to this ruling, he told Buzz: “While I’ll take this ruling as an early holiday present from Judge Wright, I’ll also take the moment to celebrate the way Bikram organized a remarkable sequence of postures from the series he learned from his guru—and hope that the next generation of yogis continue to improve upon it instead of falling into a trap of imitation, fetish, and stagnation.”
Choudhury’s lawyers haven’t issued a statement in response to the ruling.