The question of whether a sequence of exercises, such as yoga
poses or dance moves, can be copyrighted has occupied the attention
of international courts, scholars and copyright offices for some
time. In late 2015, the issue received some media attention when
yoga guru Bikram Choudhur tried to gain a US copyright in
a signature sequence of yoga poses but failed before the Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Curcuit. Despite the effort of international copyright
conventions, the question of copyrightability essentially remains a
matter of national law.
On 2 February 2007, the Higher Regional Court of Cologne (Case 6 U
117/06), Germany, ruled that an acrobatic dance performance
could, in principle, be considered a "work of dance art"
subject to copyright protection under Sec. 2 para. 1 No. 3 of the
German Copyright Act. The required threshold of originality could,
however, only be achieved, if the performance went beyond a
sequence of physical movements and conveyed a particular artistic
message. Whether this ruling can, by analogy, be extended to yoga
and exercise routines is not clear. Simple routines are, however,
not likely to constitute "personal intellectual
creations" within the meaning of Sec. 2 para. 2 of the German
An Integrated, Coherent, and Expressive Whole
In a further example, in a Statement of Policy from 18 June 2012, the US
Copyright Office took the position that "a selection,
coordination, or arrangement of functional physical movements such
as sports movements, exercises, and other ordinary motor
activities" did not represent the type of authorship intended
to be protected under the US Copyright Act as choreographic works.
However, a "composition and arrangement of a related series of
dance movements and patterns organized into an integrated,
coherent, and expressive whole" could rise to the level of
original choreographic authorship.
A Look Ahead
Even if simple yoga or exercise routines will likely not meet
the minimum threshold of originality in most jurisdictions, a film
or description of such routine may be copyrightable, as may a
compilation of photographs of the routine's individual
movements. Additionally, exercise brands can make a profit from
teaching their routines to others (train the trainer") or from
licensing their brand to fitness centers so that people familiar
with the brand's program know what to expect of the
centers' workout sessions.
This article was originally published on
AllAboutIP – Mayer Brown's blogon
relevant developments in the fields of intellectual property and
unfair competition law. For intellectual property-themed
videos, Mayer Brown has launched a dedicated channel available
Mayer Brown is a global legal services provider
comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the
"Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are:
Mayer Brown LLP and Mayer Brown Europe – Brussels LLP, both
limited liability partnerships established in Illinois USA; Mayer
Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership
incorporated in England and Wales (authorized and regulated by the
Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered in England and Wales
number OC 303359); Mayer Brown, a SELAS established in France;
Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership and its associated
entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian
law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer
Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the
Mayer Brown Practices in their respective
Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal
issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a
comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not
intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific
legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
The decision by a federal jury in Dallas, Texas, to award $500 million to the plaintiffs in a case involving VR technology – despite the jury's conclusion that the defendants had not misappropriated...
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).