Can Bikram Yoga by Copyrighted?

By Catherine Schutz

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that a series of yoga poses is a “sequence” and therefore inappropriate for copyright protection.[1] The ruling was widely praised within the yoga community, with many relieved to finally have clarity on the question of whether yoga can be “owned.”[2] But how does this ruling fit into wider intellectual property law? And what is the rationale for protecting some industries with intellectual property law and not others?

In the 1970s, Bikram Choudhury developed a series of 26-yoga poses and breathing exercises, which he named “the Sequence,” to be practiced in a studio with a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1979, he published a book called Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class which outlined the poses, which he registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. In 2002 he also registered the compilation of poses outlined in the book. Choudhury’s style of yoga gained in popularity, and he began teaching other yoga teachers his particular style. In 2009, two of his former students opened Evolation Yoga, which offered many different styles of yoga, including “hot yoga” based on the teachings of Choudhury. In 2011, Choudhury brought suit against Evolation Yoga claiming copyright infringement.[3]

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower courts finding that “at bottom, the Sequence is an idea, process, or system designed to improve health. Copyright protects only the expression of this idea—the words and pictures used to describe the Sequence—and not the idea of the Sequence itself.” In their ruling, they cited 17 U.S.C. § 102, part (a) of which outlines what can be copyrighted (literary works, musical works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, etc.) and part (b) of which outlines what cannot be copyrighted: “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery…”[4] The Court said that Choudhury’s “Sequence” falls on the “idea” side of the “idea/expression” dichotomy.[5]

This isn’t the first time that people have attempted to copyright ideas only to have the courts rule them unsuitable for copyright. The fashion industry is unique in the creative arts for having very little copyright protection. Within fashion, copyright protection is limited to “pictorial designs printed on fabric.”[6] However, outside of logos, courts routinely hold that fashion is too utilitarian to be protected by copyright. They will allow fashion houses to copyright their logo printed on a bag, but not the use of pleats or peter pan collars in a garment.

The lack of intellectual property protection within fashion has been the subject of much debate. The Council of Fashion Designers of America advocates for increased protection “without stifling creativity, spurring frivolous lawsuits, and hindering the industry’s ability to do business.”[7] Senator Charles E. Schumer in 2012 introduced the Innovative Design Protection Act which would extend intellectual property protections to “never-before-seen” fashion designs. However, academic Johanna Blakley argued in her Ted Talk that not providing the fashion industry with intellectual property protection actually improves creativity and helps business.[8] This was also the question that Mark Lemley grappled with during his 56th Miller Lecture in September at the College of Law, where he addressed the topic of “Intellectual Property in a World Without Scarcity.”[9]

On the other hand, copyright protections are widespread within the music industry. However, courts have struggled to determine the line between copyright infringement and creative influence. This struggle reached the Federal District Court of the Central District of California when the descendants of Marvin Gaye brought suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, arguing that their hit 2013 song “Blurred Lines” infringed upon the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give It Up.”[10] The District Court found in favor of Gaye’s descendants, finding Thicke and Williams liable for over $7 million of damages. Some lawyers have criticized the ruling saying that Thicke and Williams were only influence by Gaye, and that “no one owns a genre or a style or a groove.”[11]

This lively debate on what should and should not be protected by intellectual property laws is unlikely to reach a resolution any time soon. As Mark Lemley discussed during the Miller Lecture, the advent of internet has changed the industry in a way that is only now being research, debated and understood. But all Bikram Yoga lovers should rest assured that their practice will not be interrupted by a court case any time soon.


[1] Bikram’s Yoga Coll. of India, L.P. v. Evolation Yoga, LLC, No. 13-55763 (9th Cir. 2015).

[2] Federal Court Rules that Bikram Doesn’t Own Yoga: Copyright Claim Can’t Stand the Heat, Evolation Yoga, (last visited Oct. 19, 2015).

[3] See note 1.

[4] Copyright Act of 1979, 17 U.S.C. § 102 (2012).

[5] See note 1.

[6] Dan Hunter, The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Intellectual Property 220 (2012).

[7] Protecting Design, Council of Fashion Designers of America, (last visited Oct. 19, 2015).

[8] Johanna Blakley, Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture, (Apr. 10, 2010),

[9] 56th Miller Lecture: Internet Revolutionized Creativity, Changing IP Law, Georgia State University (Sep. 17, 2015),

[10] Williams v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., No. 13-06004 (C.D. Cal. July 14, 2015).

[11] Justin Maya, Music’s “Blurred Lines” Verdict Broadens Copyright Protection, FIU Law Review Blog (Apr. 15, 2015),

What Is a Grand Jury?

by Murtaza Khwaja

Have you ever wondered how a grand jury works?

Well, look no further.

Grand juries originated in the English common law system and were employed in several common law jurisdictions. However, currently, the United States is virtually the only country in the world that retains the use of grand juries.

As many of you probably already know, the 5th Amendment establishes the role of the grand jury in criminal law. The 5th Amendment states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…” Which pretty much just means that a person suspected of a federal crime cannot be tried until a grand jury has determined that there is enough reason to charge the person.

All fifty states also have provisions for grand juries but only half actually use them, while twenty two of those states require the use of grand juries. Instead of grand juries, some jurisdictions prefer to use preliminary hearings before a trial judge, which are adversarial in nature, to determine whether there is evidence establishing probable cause.

But how do grand juries actually work?

Grand juries are made up of anywhere from a minimum of 16 to a maximum of 23 people, and at least 12 members must concur in an indictment if — any only if — the probable cause standard as espoused by the prosecutor has been met.

Federal courts use a grand jury that consists of 23 citizens but can operate with a quorum of 16. States use a grand jury consisting of as few as five but no more than 23 members. Grand juries are chosen from lists of qualified state residents of legal age, who have not been convicted of a crime, and who are not biased against the subject of the investigation.

Grand jury proceedings are secret and held in strict confidence. There is no judge present and it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to explain the law to the jury and work with them to gather evidence and hear testimony. The prosecutor prepares a bill of indictment (a list explaining the case and possible charges) and presents evidence to the grand jury.  The grand jury then reviews the adequacy of evidence presented by the prosecutor and then decides whether to indict the accused. The general rules of evidence are not controlling, and a grand jury has broad discretion to hear, compel, and see whatever evidence they would like. Even if a grand jury chooses not to indict, a prosecutor may still use their discretion to bring the defendant to trial if the prosecutor believe the state has a strong enough case. The defendant generally has no right to present his case or any evidence to dispute the prosecutor’s charges.

However, Georgia serves as a one of few exceptions to the rule. In Georgia, certain state officials, including police officers, are allowed to be present in cases where they are the accused and offer testimony that by law cannot be challenged by the prosecutor. For more information on this exception and the effects it has on grand jury proceedings, check out this article recently published in the AJC.

Hopefully, this blog post helped broaden your understanding of grand juries and how they work. For any more questions you may have check out these links below which includes all the information from this post and much more.



Mind over Subject Matter: Stress Management and Mental Health Resources on Campus

by Veselin Simonov

image by flickr user bottled_vold

image by flickr user bottled_vold

It’s about that time of the semester where students start wondering where exactly all the time went. August and September flew by at breakneck speed and – at this pace – you might just blink and miss October. As the clock ticks ever faster, law students find themselves facing escalating pressure stemming from classes, writing assignments, work, and a plethora of other responsibilities. As the stress mounts, avenues of relief become more and more necessary. As we shared in an earlier blogpost, there are certain mental strategies you can use to cope with such a heavy workload. In addition to that, however, GSU offers numerous, valuable stress management and mental health resources to students. This guide summarizes these resources below in the hope that law students use them to get through the significant strain of law school without succumbing to anxiety.

The Mind-Body Clinic

The GSU Counseling and Testing Center (CTC), located on 75 Piedmont Ave, N.E., Suite 200A, has established a clinic with the sole purpose of helping students fight stress. To take advantage of any of the services the clinic offers, either stop by the above mentioned address or call 404-413-1640 to make an appointment.

One of the main draws of the clinic is the Relaxation Room. The room features a variety of interactive audio and video resources that cover meditation, guided imagery, sleep issues, relaxation, etc. The Relaxation Room also has a sophisticated massage chair that can give personalized Shiatsu and Swedish massages by adjusting to each user’s weight, height, and width.

The clinic also offers nutrition services which can help with weight management, preventing or overcoming eating disorders, and healthy nutrition. Individual nutrition counseling is available by appointment.

Biofeedback is another useful resource the clinic offers that can help control anxiety. Biofeedback uses technology that monitors vital signs in order to estimate stress levels. The technology gives specific feedback on coping strategies, thus allowing the user to more-effectively control his or her physical state. Using biofeedback to train yourself to manage the physical symptoms of stress can help with sleep problems, test and performance anxiety, and (for all you future trial and appellate attorneys out there) public speaking.

The clinic offers a variety of wellness workshops as well. These seminars offer guidance on a variety of issues including substance abuse, relaxation, nutrition, communication, relationships, etc.

Group and Couples Counseling

Law school is a huge time commitment, and it can strain the relationships you have with friends, family, and loved ones. CTC offers brief couples counseling services free of charge, and partners need not be GSU students. Group counseling can also help fight stress. CTC runs several, specifically-tailored support groups, including a group especially for graduate students.

Individual Counseling and Psychiatric Services

Some students may feel that group counseling doesn’t suit their needs. As such, CTC also offers short-term, individual counseling services. The number of counseling sessions offered depends on clinical need, counselor availability, and the professional judgment of the counseling staff, however counseling can include up to 15 sessions within the academic year. The center also offers options for transferring medication needs and medication monitoring to CTC.

Substance Use Risk Reduction Program (SURRP)

Lawyers are twice as likely to struggle with alcohol abuse and other chemical dependencies compared to other professions in America, according to the Lawyer Assistance Program. Work-related stress and a work environment that may involve social drinking both contribute to these unfortunate statistics. However, help is available. GSU offers a Substance Use Risk Reduction Program (SURRP) which helps assess the risk of alcohol and drug-related problems. The SURRP also provides the support necessary to make low-risk choices in order to avoid future substance abuse problems.


You can find more detailed information about everything above and more on the CTC Services webpage or by calling 404-413-1640. I sincerely hope you use these resources when the need arises. I also recommend turning to fellow students or to faculty and staff if you need someone to talk to about managing the heavy workload. They probably have a pretty good idea about what you’re going through and there is absolutely no shame in asking. Remember – help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.


The Supreme Court 2015 Term

United_states_supreme_court_buildingIt’s October, which means the Supreme Court of the United States is back in business. The Court began hearing oral arguments on  Monday, October 5th. The following are a few helpful resources for those interested in keeping up with the latest term of the Court.

For those interested in learning more about the Court, the Law Library has several books on the Court:

C-SPAN’s Historic Supreme Court Decisions

By: Zach Dalton


C-Span is starting a new series for the fall season entitled 12 Historic Supreme Court Decisions. This series will outline the decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States in each of these landmark cases and go into detail about the parties involved in each case. The series will also delve into the lawyers and justices who were central to these important cases. The show will attempt to put human faces to these decisions which often fade to just words on a page for law students. Episodes start with Marbury on 5 October, 2015 at 9 P.M. To get more information on the series please visit the 12 Historic Supreme Court Decisions website.

The decisions covered will be (click for more information on each case):

Marbury v. Madison

Scott v. Sandford

The Slaughter-house Cases

Lochner v. New York

Schenck v. United States

Korematsu v. United States

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer

Brown v. Board of Education

Mapp v. Ohio

Baker v. Carr

Miranda v. Arizona

Roe v. Wade

The Joys of Public Transportation

by John Evans

image by flickr user sean_marshall

image by flickr user sean_marshall

By now we have all lived in Atlanta for at least a month and a half, and even those who are new have learned one thing: traffic in Atlanta is rough. Coming in for those 9 a.m. classes or leaving around 5 p.m. is guaranteed to cause frustration when we get behind the wheel. I have even heard rumors that it has taken some people over an hour to get out of T-deck before even dealing with the traffic on the road. Fortunately for me, I am always at home relaxing an hour after I leave the building. What is my secret? MARTA.

For those of you who don’t know, our new building is right beside the Peachtree Center MARTA station.  From the front doors of the building, all you have to do is turn right, cross over John Wesley Dobbs, walk across the Peachtree Center pavilion, and you’re there. After taking what might be the longest escalator in the world down to the platform, you are on the train and on your way. Even better, most stations that are not close to downtown have free daily parking if you want to finish your commute in your car, and all stations have bus routes that could take you home. For people living further out, there are connecting services with Gwinnett County and Cobb Community Transit.

MARTA is also easy on the budget, which as law students most of us could use. If you are on campus 5 days a week with an average 4 weeks in a month, parking with a budget card will cost you $70 a month. A monthly MARTA pass is only $61 a month if you buy the pass from GSU before the 15th of the previous month. Added to this savings less gas used and less wear on your car, and we are talking serious money.

Those commutes stuck in traffic can be stressful. When you hop on MARTA, you can watch movies or catch up on social media on your phone, read a book for fun, or if you’re really ambitious get some of those cases read.  I’ll admit that occasionally there are some interesting people on MARTA, but this really is more the exception then the rule, and most rides are completed in peace.

Now, MARTA is not for everyone. Some people don’t live near a bus or train station, some people have worked their schedules around so that they avoid rush hour traffic, and others may need a car downtown for another purpose but for many of us, use of Atlanta’s public transit system may be a good way to save time and money while reducing our daily stress.

Kwikboost Lockers

pl-GeorgiaStateLaw-Rend1.2By Zach Dalton

Georgia State Law School is introducing an exciting new service for students. Soon we will have 6 Kwikboost charging lockers installed throughout the law school. These charging lockers allow students to put their mobile device in one of the eight compartments per locker, set a combination, and leave their device plugged in and charging while they go about their busy lives.

The combination locks work similar to a valuables safe in a hotel. The user sets a one-time combination when they lock the door to the compartment and enter that combination when they come back to retrieve their item. The lock will reset between each user and are easy to program with a number combination.

The charging station is manufactured by the same company as the Westlaw charging station currently located on the 5th floor of the Law Library, so you know that it will work well. The lockers will charge students phones or tablets quickly and safely.