Copyright protection is limited for exercise routines. The U.S. Copyright Office in June 2012 issued a statement of policy that it was limiting protection for exercise routines deemed lacking in original content. To pass muster, an exercise routine must constitute an original work of authorship as a whole and contain some elements related to choreograph or pantomime. The Copyright Office's intention is to limit registration for compilations of pre-existing exercise moves.

New Statement of Policy

The Copyright Office's new statement of policy was issued with regards to yoga routines. The Copyright Office determined that many yoga routines being submitted for registration were merely compilations of yoga moves that were developed hundreds or thousands of years ago. As such, the Copyright Office stated that compilations of these moves could not be protected as the individual elements were all in the public domain.

What Can be Protected

Exercise routines have been allowed copyright protection in the past due to their similarity to choreographed dance routines. In issuing its statement of policy, the Copyright Office stated that particular poses or exercises are not copyrightable, but the portrayal of those poses in a film or original drawings or photos can be protected by copyright. Additionally, the Copyright Office stated that simple dance routines and steps cannot be protected, but an arrangement of those movements "into an integrated, coherent and expressive whole" can be considered a work of choreography eligible for protection.


For any exercise routine to be granted protection it needs to be an entirely new routine with elements of traditional choreography or pantomime rather than an amalgamation of existing exercise moves. Although the precise determination of what can be protected is debatable, entirely original, artistic and expressive exercise routines incorporating elements of choreography may potentially be eligible for protection with the Copyright Office.


To obtain registration for an exercise routine, you need to complete a copyright application for a dramatic work. Provide the Copyright Office with your name and address, the name of your routine, information about any co-authors, the dates when your routine was created and published and a statement about whether you have attempted to publish your routine in the past. Provide the Copyright Office with an explanation of your routine fixed in a tangible medium. This can be a videotape of your routine or a written explanation such as a labanotation. Submit your application along with the applicable filing fee. As of 2012, it cost $35 to file an electronic copyright application.