Bikram Choudhary, the founder of “Bikram Yoga” – a series of 26 yoga postures to be performed in an environment heated at the temperature of 40° Celsius – sought to copyright the posture sequence in his name and claimed that they could not be taught by anyone whom he did not prescribe. The practice has made a name for Mr. Bikram and has helped him earn 4.9 Million a year and includes speaking enagagements, book and CD sales.
He developed the postures as a student under Bishnu Ghosh in the 1970s. By early 2000s he had franchised his practice to 600 studios and in 2002 his lawyers began sending cease and desist notices to anyone who taught his style of yoga without his authorization.
In 2011, Bikram’s Yoga College of India sued California-based Evolation Yoga for copyright infringement and related claims. The studio offered yoga classes that were similar to the posture sequence popularized by Mr. Bikram.
After a heated battle, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in the favour of the defendants and held that
Mr. Bikram does not in fact have copyright protection for the 26 yoga posture sequence he developed. The court stated that copyright protects only the expression of this idea — the words and pictures used to describe the sequence —and not the idea of the sequence itself.
This ruling implies that the posture sequence claimed by Mr. Bikram does not have copyright protection and can be taught by other studios without the fear of being sued over it. The court has made it perfectly clear that Yoga is not a copyrightable subject and it cannot be owned by a particular person. Yoga belongs to the public.
- Nayanika Singhal