I missed this great piece in the LA Weekly from a few weeks back about multi-millionaire yogi blowhard Bikram Choudhury. We've covered his antics before, but his copyrighty litigiousness just got interesting again.
Short version: Bikram is basically the Walter White of yoga. And I'm talking Breaking Bad Season 5 episode 6 Walter White. The "hot yoga" kingpin isn't in the yoga business or the money business, he's in the empire business, and he's suing his former apprentice and right-hand-dude Greg Gumucio for intellectual property infringement.
But now, the US Copyright office says it may have issued all protection related to yoga sequences in error, including the one Choudhury's suing over.
Random tech world connection: Choudhury was introduced to his now-nemesis by John McAfee, the software billionaire turned yoga teacher.
But as he has brought his foe's business practices into the limelight, his own are being scrutinized more than ever. For the past nine months, the validity of Choudhury's copyright has been called into question repeatedly, most recently by the U.S. Copyright Office itself. While the various yoga practices belong to the long tradition of Indian culture, the specific arrangement of these poses can be uniquely organized, and thus potentially owned by an individual — or so it was previously thought.
On June 22, the Copyright Office seemed to reverse itself. Deputy General Counsel Robert Kasunic issued a clarification, declaring that if yoga postures improve health, they cannot be copyrighted. He added that any prior yoga copyrights were "issued in error." The announcement threw the dispute into the air. Now the question isn't just whether Gumucio violated a copyright but whether Choudhury's copyright is valid at all.
This would appear to leave Choudhury on thin ice. The healing of ailments has always been his primary selling point. At least, that's how Gumucio sees it. "Not only does this get me out of my legal mess but it critically and unequivocally says yoga cannot be copyrighted," he says.
If you're not familiar with the colorfully douchey quotes the man spouts, while wearing silk suits, rhinestone ties, and driving million-dollar Rolls Royces, well, fold your legs into padmāsana and read the whole article, 'cause you're in for a real treat.
Choudhury compares the former devotee he's suing to Hitler and Osama bin Laden, while eating scallops.
This is the same yoga franchise kingpin who once uttered the timeless words, "Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me."
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.