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SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. appeals court ruled against a celebrity yogi on Thursday, finding that he is not entitled to copyright protection for a sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises that he developed.
Bikram Choudhury published a book in 1979 with descriptions, photographs and drawings of the yoga sequence, which is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius).
Choudhury sued two individuals who took his training course and then founded their own business instructing the same yoga technique.
In its ruling on Thursday that affirmed a lower court decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said copyright protects the expression of an idea through words and pictures but not the idea itself.
"That the Sequence may produce spiritual and psychological benefits makes it no less an idea, system, or process and no more amenable to copyright protection," 9th Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for a unanimous three judge panel.
An attorney for Choudhury could not immediately be reached for comment.
Eric Maier, who represented defendant Evolation Yoga LLC and its co-founders, said they are very pleased.
"Yoga belongs to everybody, and no individual owns any particular style or sequence of yoga poses," Maier said in an email.
Choudhury also faces six lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault. He denies the allegations.
The copyright case in the 9th Circuit is Bikram's Yoga College vs. Evolation Yoga LLC, 13-55763.