A sequence of yoga poses is not eligible for copyright protection, according to new guidance provided by the U.S. Copyright Office. The agency said the policy statement was required following a series of legal decisions and erroneously awarded copyrights. It also acknowledged that the question of whether a sequence of “preexisting exercises, such as yoga poses” can be copyrighted has “occupied the attention of the Copyright Office for some time.”
The policy statement clarifies that for a “compilation” to be protected by copyright, the work as a whole must constitute “an original work of authorship.” It subsequently lists the eight categories of works that the federal copyright law explicitly protects, including “pantomimes and choreographic works.” However, because “exercise is not a category of authorship,” the Copyright Office concludes a “compilation of exercises” cannot be copyrighted.
The Copyright also explains that yoga poses generally do not qualify as choreographic works. The statement notes that “choreography” does not include “social dance steps and simple routines.” Thus, “although a choreographic work, such as a ballet or abstract modern dance” incorporate “simple routines, social dances, or even exercise routines as elements of the overall work, the mere selection and arrangement of physical movements does not in itself support a claim of choreographic authorship.”
The Copyright Office was also clear to point out that it was not announcing a new rule, but rather clarifying its existing position.