The U. S. Copyright Office has issued a statement of policy on June 22nd, 2012, in the federal register that indicated that previous copyright registration certificates for yoga sequences, as compilation authorship as a result of the selections and arrangement of exercises were all in error. And so the statement of the policy issued by the U. S. Copyright Office clarifies the state of the law concerning the copyrightability of a yoga sequence.
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Matt: Hello, and thanks for tuning into Copyright Law Radio. I'm Matt Plessner and today we want to briefly update you on current developments of copyright law. And to do this, we have attorney at law, Mark Clark, from the Traverse Legal Office in Traverse City, Michigan. Mark, hello.
Matt: I'm doing well. Now tell us, Mark. What is new with copyrights these days?
Mark: Well, Matt, interestingly enough, very recently, the U. S. Copyright Office has issued a statement of policy on June 22nd, 2012, in the federal register that indicated that previous copyright registration certificates for yoga sequences, as compilation authorship as a result of the selections and arrangement of exercises were all in error. And so the statement of the policy issued by the U. S. Copyright Office clarifies the state of the law concerning the copyrightability of a yoga sequence.
Now, whether a yoga routine is subject to copyright has been the subject of academic debate ever since a yogi, or yoga guru, Bikram Choudhury, claimed copyright in his 26 pose asana sequence a few decades ago. And he has used it in initiating lawsuits against would-be infringers of his yoga sequence though the vast weight of the legal commentary has doubted the viability of those copyright protections for yoga poses. There remain a number of lawsuits currently pending over whether the Bikram yoga poses are entitled to copyright protection. The U. S. Copyright Office's recent statement of policy is certainly a blow to Bikram Choudhury's claims that his yoga sequences are protectable.
Now, while the copyright office doesn't ultimately decide issues of copyrightability, the courts do. The U. S. Copyright Office statement still carries significant weight with the courts since it is the agency charged by Congress with the task of determining whether a work is entitled to copyright protection and registration. The statement of policy by the U. S. Copyright Office confirms that not just any compilation is entitled to copyright protection. Instead, the U. S. Copyright Office has indicated that copyright protection only extends where the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship within one or more of the eight categories of authorship listed by the copyright office.
Those eight categories of authorship include literary works, musical works including any accompanying words, dramatic works including any accompanying music, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptor works, motion pictures and other audio-visual works, sound recordings and architectural works.
Ultimately, the copyright office has taken the position that a yoga sequence does not rise to the level of choreographic authorship because the particular movements and the order in which they are to be performed result in improvements in one's health or physical or mental condition and are not, as such, choreographic. They've indicated that a compilation of the physical exercises, including yoga, is not copyrightable subject matter. So in essence, a long standing debatable proposition that yoga poses or sequences are copyrightable has essentially been clarified and determined by the U. S. Copyright Office. So, Matt, I think that is the most recent significant development that we've had in the past few weeks in copyright law.
Matt: Well, thank you very much, Mark, for these updates and clarifications and thank you for being with us today.
Mark: Thanks very much, Matt.
Matt: I'm Matt Plessner, and join us next time on Copyright Law Radio.
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