Authorship and the Boundaries of Copyright: Ideas, Expressions, and Functions in Yoga, Choreography, and Other Works

Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (2016) Forthcoming

Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 490

22 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2016 Last revised: 11 Jul 2016

Date Written: April 9, 2016

Abstract

This essay uses the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Bikram’s Yoga College of India v. Evolation Yoga as an opportunity to analyze the nature of copyrightable authorship and the mechanisms that the law uses to screen out uncopyrightable content from otherwise copyrightable works. I argue that although the court likely reached the right result in Bikram, it did so in a confused and poorly supported manner. The court misunderstood the nature of the idea/expression distinction, the role of section 102(b), and the appropriate mechanism for screening out functional features of works. These aspects of the court’s opinion are widespread in copyright jurisprudence, especially in situations in which potentially copyrightable expression is combined with unprotectable functional elements. Essential to these questions is an understanding of the nature of copyrightable authorship. To that end, I offer a four-step analysis for determining the copyrightable aspects of works of authorship.

Keywords: idea, expression, dichotomy, functionality, dance, movement, boundaries

Suggested Citation

Buccafusco, Christopher J., Authorship and the Boundaries of Copyright: Ideas, Expressions, and Functions in Yoga, Choreography, and Other Works (April 9, 2016). Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (2016) Forthcoming; Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 490. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2761490

Christopher J. Buccafusco (Contact Author)

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States

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