UnIP (UnIntellectual Property): Copyright for Compilation of Yoga Pose Sequence

On June 22, 2012, the U.S. Copyright Office published a Statement of Policy in the Federal Register stating that previous copyright registration certificates issued for yoga sequences as “compilation authorship” as a result of the “selections and arrangement of exercises” was in error.  The Statement of Policy essentially admits the US Copyright Office’s error and clarifies the state of the law moving forward.  A Statement of Policy, unlike a notice of rulemaking, is not subject to public comment.  While the Copyright Office does not ultimately decide issues of copyrightability, this statement still carries significant weight with the courts since it is the agency charged by Congress with the task of initially determining whether a work is entitled to copyright protection and registration.  In fact, the Copyright Offices’s interpretation of the Copyright Act is entitled to judicial deference (known as Chevron deference), as it is the agency responsible for administering copyright law.

The Statement of Policy confirms that any compilation is not entitled to copyright protection.  Instead, 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 in Section 102(a) of Title 17, which include literary works; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works.  Ultimately, the Copyright Office takes 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.  Thus, it finds that a compilation of physical exercises, including yoga, is not copyrightable subject matter.  Only the selection, coordination and/or arrangement of photographs, drawings, or writings that depict the exercises may be entitled to copyright protection.

Thus, it appears the US Copyright Office has given the Downward Dog, the yoga equivalent of a thumbs down, to the ability to register and protect a yoga sequence.  What do all the yogis out there think?



2 Responses to U.S. Copyright Office Says No Copyright Protection for Yoga Sequence

  1. Does this ruling mean our trademark, Yoga Challenge, issued in 1997, to identify 4 yoga systems on copyrighted video, is no longer valid?

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