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Netflix doc on 'hot yoga' founder in hot water for copyright breach

FOX Business' Cheryl Casone explains why Netflix writers are on the verge of a strike.

A new documentary available on Netflix about controversial yoga impresario Bikram Choudhury is under fire by a "yoga college," which claims that images from some of its course materials were used without authorization.

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"Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator," which details the rise and fall of Choudhury who has an outstanding arrest warrant against him for sexual harassment, premiered on Netflix Nov. 20. Produced by Pulse Films, images from the book "Calcutta Yoga," and the pamphlet  "Yoga Cure," were used without permission in the film, according to an attorney Martha Engel. The founder of the school, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, trained Choudhury.

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Engel tells Benski that the material in the film is "stolen"  and that "nowhere in the film, including its credits is there any acknowledgment or attestation provided of the source and ownership of those images," in a letter obtained by FOX Business to CEO Thomas Benski of Pulse Films, which is owned by Vice Media.

Engel is not seeking any excessive monetary damages but is asking for legal fees of Ida Jo Pajuneen, who is called an "ambassador" of the college and oversaw the rights issues related to this production and Jerome Armstrong the author of "Calcutta Yoga."

"My approach to law is to try and resolve disputes,” Engel told Minnesota Lawyer last year. “There is a way to protect the owners of a brand without damaging the brand of another. ... I like to win, but I don’t like to fight to win.”

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In the letter, Engel also intimates that these are not the only copyright violations. "(I)t seems that the misuses of the intellectual property rights of others is not constrained to this material. We are aware that there are others who have similar concerns about the unpermitted use of their photos and videos in the Bikram Film."

Ghosh's Yoga College is still operational and is currently accepting applications for 2020 where classes run $2,850 for 18 days and does not include travel to India, food or lodging.

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Meanwhile, Choudhury, who has denied all allegations, appears to be attempting a comeback. Even though his Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc. filed for U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017, due in no small part to the $16.7 million in legal judgments and numerous lawsuits from the charges of sexual misconduct filed against him, he is ready to embark on a new money-making yoga venture.

"Bikram’s Legacy Tour of India 2020" will hit seven cities in 15 days just after the turn of the New Year in January and February. The cost is $3,950 per person, for which Choudhury will receive an undisclosed fee.

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