Written by: Andrew M. Palmiere


Fitness in America is having a moment. Specifically, within the younger demographic, Millennials and Gen Z-ers are helping to fuel new businesses and regimes that are dominating the fitness industry. Many of these industries are further amplified by celebrity and social media to a point where a dad cap or sweatshirt from your favorite gym or studio is seen as a high fashion accessory. While there is surely a lot of hype built around these businesses, there is also a fair amount of innovation happening behind their doors–innovation that has been recognized by private equity and venture capital firms eager to arm the next big workout studio with capital in hope of a large, flex-worthy exit. However, as we know, when things can be replicated and are no longer scarce, they inherently lose their value. This begs the question: is a workout copyrightable?

Currently a lawsuit in the federal court of California is seeking to answer that question. Tracy Anderson, an American entrepreneur and fitness trainer who is best known for her workout, the “Tracy Anderson Method,” and slew of celebrity clients, is suing former employee-turned-rival Megan Roup. Roup has made a name for herself after founding “The Sculpt Society” and building an equally notable roster of celebrity clients. Anderson alleges that Roup and her competing choreography-based cardio dance workout have infringed the copyrights that Anderson holds on her “TA Works” DVDs. Anderson also argues that the copyright extends to the Tracy Anderson Method routines, which are the substance of the DVDs.

A California judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently granted Roup’s motion for summary judgement on Anderson’s copyright claim. The judge held that Anderson’s exercise routines amount to “a process, system, and/or methodology” which is “clearly” not protected by copyright law. Roup does not dispute that her and Anderson’s exercises share a similarity, but instead contends that Anderson cannot prove her copyright claim. Roup contends that the underlying exercises in the “TA Works” DVDs are “noncopyrightable,” relying in part on Bikram’s Yoga College of India, L.P. v. Evolation Yoga, LLC, and additionally, that the exercises are not protectable choreography. Anderson contends that her routines are in fact protectable choreography under Hanagami v. Epic Games, Inc., even if the routines double as exercise.

The Bikram case concerned a book written by Bikram Choudhury that depicts a series of yoga poses that he had developed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the copyright protections that Choudhury holds for the book itself does not extend to the “Sequence” of poses. The court reasoned that the Sequence is “a system that is designed to yield physical benefits and a sense of well-being,” and that “healing methodology is not eligible for [copyright] protection.”

The Hanagami court took a broader view of the issue holding that “it did not need to decide whether to adopt the Copyright Office’s definition of choreographic work or fashion another on our own . . . even if the Sequence could fit within some colloquial definition[n] of dance or choreography, it would remain a process ineligible for copyright protection.”

The California federal court judge synthesized these two cases to produce a two-prong test. First, the plaintiff must establish that the work is a copyrightable expression. This is opposed to an idea, system or process. Then second, if the work is a copyrightable expression, the plaintiff needs to show that the dance rises to the level of protectable “choreography” under the Copyright Act.

This two-prong test did not prove fruitful for Anderson. The court held that Anderson’s routines are “clearly an unprotectable process, system, and/or methodology.” The court also noted that the name Tracy Anderson “Method” further clears confusion, continuing that “methods are explicitly precluded from protection under the Copyright Act.” The court also reasoned that Anderson has stated that the Tracy Anderson Method was “the result of years of scientific research, testing, and development” and that it is marketed as a “researched and result-proven fitness methodology.” The court believed that this was enough to “prove that the Tracy Anderson Method is in fact, a method or system that was designed for the purpose of improving client’s health and fitness” the judge continued that “no reasonable juror could find that the Tracy Anderson Method is not a method, process, or system unprotected by the Copyright Act.”

As Anderson’s claim failed the first prong of the test, the court did not reach the issue of whether the Tracy Anderson Method could be considered choreography and summary judgment was granted in favor of Roup.

It appears that, under the test used here, it will be difficult for a workout to make it past the first prong of the test no matter how innovative, as many workouts are system- or process-based. However, a good starting point if you are a fitness entrepreneur hopeful of copyright protection is likely keeping “process,” “system,” or “method” out of your brand name. No matter how catchy it may sound.


Court Says Tracy Anderson Method is Not Copyrightable in Fitness Lawsuit, TFL (last visited June 25, 2024).

Tracy Anderson Mind and Body, LLC, et al. v. Megan Roup, et al., 2:22-cv-04735 (C.D. Cal. 2024).

Bikram’s Yoga College of India, L.P. v. Evolation Yoga, LLC, 803 F.3d 1032 (9th Cir. 2015).