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Tracy Anderson Fitness Method Can’t Be Copyrighted, Judge Says

Tracy Anderson Fitness Method Can’t Be Copyrighted, Judge Says

Anderson can pursue a breach of contract claim against Sculpt Society founder Megan Roup, but her famed fitness method is excluded from copyright protection, a California Judge ruled

A California federal judge has dismissed fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson’s copyright infringement claims against former employee and Sculpt Society founder Megan Roup, finding that Anderson’s workout fitness method isn’t protected under U.S. copyright law.

Anderson, once dubbed the “exercise genius of all time” by celebrity client Gwyneth Paltrow, filed a complaint against Roup and Sculpt Society in 2022, alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract following Roup’s time as a Tracy Anderson (TA) trainer. 

The New York-based fitness company claimed that Roup departed TA in 2017 to launch rival sculpt and dance cardio fitness business Sculpt Society, used confidential information to create choreography movements and sequences similar to those featured in Anderson’s copywritten TA Works DVDs, and emailed potential clients – including those of TA – informing them of her new venture shortly after she terminated her employment. 

In his June 12 order, Judge Philip Gutierrez of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that Anderson’s famed fitness method is “clearly an unprotectable process, system, and/or methodology,” writing that methods are “explicitly precluded from protection.” 

The order referenced a previous ruling by a federal district court that found Bikram Choudhury’s sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises wasn’t entitled to copyright protection. The controversial hot yoga businessman — and the subject of the 2019 Netflix documentary “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” — had accused Mark Drost, Evolation Yoga cofounder, of copyright infringement in 2011. 

The court is allowing Anderson’s breach of contract claim against Roup to move forward. 

“Tracy Anderson initiated this lawsuit against Megan Roup and the Sculpt Society to protect her art form that she built from the ground up through decades of research, development, testing, and investment,” said Gina Durham, an attorney at DLA Piper, the firm representing Anderson in the case. “Ms. Anderson seeks to vindicate her rights against Roup and The Sculpt Society, who have improperly capitalized on, and benefitted from, Ms. Anderson’s decades of hard work.” 

Durham stated that Roup and The Sculpt Society have sought to dismiss the case twice — and in the first instance, the judge ruled that the copyright infringement and breach of contract claims should move forward.  

“In this second instance, a different judge ruled that the breach of contract claim should move forward, but the copyright claim should not,” Durham said. “This latest decision did not fully analyze specific choreographic works that Ms. Anderson has registered with the Copyright Office, and we will continue to pursue protection of those works and unauthorized uses under the law.”

Nathaniel Bach, an attorney at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the firm representing Roup, expressed his satisfaction with the ruling.

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“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling unequivocally rejecting Tracy Anderson’s copyright claim, finding that the TA Method is not copyrightable, full stop,” Bach told ATN in a statement. “This is not only a win for Megan, who built The Sculpt Society from the ground up—attracting a broad and welcoming community devoted to the joy of physical movement—but a ruling benefitting the entire fitness industry, making clear that no one owns physical exercise or dance cardio.”

Despite the legal drama, Anderson has scored several recent wins. The fitness and wellness luminary opened her first London studio within the posh, members-only Surrenne, a wellness club. The new studio rounds out her high-end locations in New York City, the Hamptons, Los Angeles and Madrid.

She’s also launched a longevity-focused podcast, debuted an activewear line that includes fashion-forward (yet functional) mesh shrugs, and continues to expand her signature fitness products.

This story has been updated with a statement from Roup’s attorney.

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