EXCLUSIVE: Netflix and Pulse Films have been served with a legal letter about a breach of copyright on Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, their documentary on the downfall of hot yoga founder Bikram Choudhury.
Martha Engel, a trademark attorney at law firm Marjen, has written to the companies on behalf of Ghosh’s Yoga College, a yoga school in Kolkata, India, linked to Bishnu Charan Ghosh, a yoga master who trained Choudhury.
Ghosh’s Yoga College argued that images from Ghosh pamphlet Yoga Cure and book Calcutta Yoga were used without permission in Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator. The college has demanded Pulse Films removes the images from the film and issues a public apology.
The legal letter, seen by Deadline, said Ghosh’s Yoga College ambassador Ida Pajunen and two of her colleagues are “the only individuals in the world who have been granted permission by GYC to use images from the Yoga Cure pamphlet.”
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The letter said Pulse Films requested high-res images of the Yoga Cure, but was told by Pajunen it would need permission from the Ghosh family to reproduce the pamphlet. Vice-owned Pulse Films later purchased a copy from Pajunen’s website, the letter said, and it “appears to be copied in its entirety” in the film.
Furthermore, the legal letter claimed that Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator features seven images from Calcutta Yoga, a book by Jerome Armstrong, who also works closely with Ghosh’s Yoga College. Armstrong did not grant permission to use the images and told Pulse Films that it would need to provide credit if the book was featured in the documentary.
“It is disturbing that the material from Yoga Cure and Calcutta Yoga is being used in the Bikram Film without permission, or acknowledgement of its source,” the letter said.
It called on Pulse Films to “immediately” remedy the matter by removing “all historical images of GYC and the pages of Yoga Cure” and issue a public apology for “blatant misuse” of copyright materials. It added that Calcutta Yoga should be properly credited in the film and the legal fees of Pajunen and Armstrong should be compensated.
In a statement, Pajunen said: “For the past four years, I have worked hand in hand with Ghosh’s Yoga College as one of only three people who have permission to use family specific photos and material to preserve the legacy of Bishnu Charan Ghosh. They trust me to represent them around the world.
“When the production team reached out to me to get photos and materials for their new film about Bikram Choudhury, I relayed this information to the Ghosh family. They said they had no interest in being involved. I told the filmmakers ‘No.’ For the filmmakers, that no seemed to be a yes. Despite explicitly telling the producers they would need permission to use materials owned by Ghosh’s Yoga College, including photos and the contents of Yoga Cure, they used them anyway.”
Netflix declined to comment. Pulse Films did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator premiered on Netflix on November 20. It charts the rise and fall of Choudhury, who has been accused of sexual harassment by his students, and was directed by Oscar and Emmy-winner Eva Orner.