More patents and lawsuits? This time it’s not for the sequence or even the style, but for the “art” of shooting online yoga videos. This post on Yoga International gave insight into the world of intellectual property when it comes to camera angles, yoga class setups and placement of the teacher and students. Having shot and posted a few videos of their own, YI (a division of the Himalayan Institute) received a cease and desist letter from popular online yoga class site YogaGlo.
Just three months ago we launched YogaInternational.com—a comprehensive resource to help you connect with authentic teachings and timeless wisdom in new and innovative ways. Our hope has been for YI to serve as a 21st century extension of the student-teacher relationship that has been held sacred through the ages, and since our debut in July, we’ve been excited to see sincere students and teachers share, learn, and grow via our interactive online platform.
Turns out, a well known online yoga website is trying to patent the standard yoga class set up: center aisle, students on each side, teacher at the front.
The actual patent (application number 20120162419) which can be found online, was published on 6/28/2012 and has yet to be fully registered. The “inventors” claim ownership over the position of the camera, and subsequent audience view, as well as creating “an experience of participating in a real class with real students even though the viewer is not actually present in the class.” So the “invention” is “the unique setup of the classroom, the position of the yoga instructor and yoga participants and the position of the camera imaging the yoga exercises and stretches.”
The summary of the invention continues:
The perspective of the viewer watching the captured image is thus one of an actual participant in the class. The instructor is placed at the head of the studio with the yoga participants arranged between the yoga instructor and the camera. A direct line of sight between the camera and the yoga instructor, a “no mat area,” is provided so that there is an unobstructed view of the yoga instructor which allows for a participatory view of the yoga class for the viewer.
Why does YogaGlo feel entitled to patent this? Because no one else has before?
The patent abstract states:
The ability to view and participate in various types of instructional classes, including Yoga, remotely and on-demand has become increasingly popular and accessible. However, participating in instructional classes off-site does not replicate the same experience as participating in an instructional class on-site, live with an instructor. The claimed system and method allow the viewer participant to view and take part in an instructional class from any location and at any time without compromising the viewer’s ability to experience a participatory class experience. The system and method place the instructor at the head of the classroom with live-participants arranged between the instructor and the camera with a direct line of sight between the camera and the instructor allowing for the viewer participant to have unobstructed views while simultaneously allowing for the viewer participant to have live participants in the periphery, as if the viewer was attending a live class.
We’re no experts, but this doesn’t sound that unique. And what could this actually mean for other online yoga classes? For YI, they’re pretty much flabbergasted by the whole thing.
Here at the Himalayan Institute, we’ve been teaching yoga in the US for over forty years, and come from a five-thousand-year-old tradition of students and teachers sharing, and growing knowledge. This tradition has always been about students gaining wisdom from their teachers and expanding upon that wisdom to become great teachers themselves. The concept of controlling or owning a part of that process is very foreign to us.
While we certainly dislike the idea of (and would ideally like to avoid) “owning” a particular way of presenting yoga, this experience has left us wondering if we should look for means to legally protect our style of online teaching, lest another organization inform us that we can no longer present digital content in our current manner either.
UPDATE: YogaGlo responds…via their website:
In response, we want to clarify several points that were misrepresented in this article:
First, we want to make it very clear that YogaGlo has no intention to trademark, copyright or patent yoga itself or how yoga classes are set up and taught. That is not what we believe in and it is not what yoga is about.
We are simply protecting the proprietary filming perspective which makes YogaGlo’s online classes distinct. YogaGlo’s filming perspective was developed to help online users feel like they’re participating in the class from a remote location. People have independently acknowledged and recognized the look and feel of YogaGlo’s videos, including commenting on the unique setup of the classroom. This acknowledgement happened today, in fact, on the very post we link to above. With just a few short descriptors, many commenters immediately identified YogaGlo.
In order to continue to provide our community with this distinctive online yoga class experience at an affordable price, YogaGlo is required to protect its intellectual property, just like any other online business.
Although YogaGlo has already taken steps to protect its online videos, including obtaining both trademark and copyright registrations, we are waiting for our patent to issue. We are hopeful that once our patent registers, we will be able to resolve these matters in a way that protects our intellectual property rights and allows all online yoga services to thrive fairly.
We also want to make it clear that YogaGlo was founded on the principles of promoting more access to yoga, not less, so we support any website that shares this mission.
While we have always valued engaging in meaningful dialogue with our community, we are unfortunately restricted from responding to additional comments on this issue. We hope you can respect our position, now that it has been clarified, and understand that we cannot comment any further on ongoing legal matters.
Thank you for your ongoing support.