There is a topic that keeps coming up inside and outside of the Feldenkrais community. Simply stated: “Who owns Moshe’s ideas?”
The simple answer, as I have noted before (Free Feldenkrais) is: “No one”
When I say that no one owns Moshe work I’m being literal. I’m not staking out a metaphysical position. When people talk about owning the “copyright” to one of Moshe’s works, they own something which is actually quite limited. They own the particular expression of some ideas, not the ideas themselves. Copyright does not protect a concept or idea. As my lawyer wrote it to me:
As an initial matter it is important to recognize that copyright law does not protect a concept or idea, it rather protects the expression conveyed, which may be presented in the form of words, song, music, or dance. In your case, and as noted above, Moshe’s written description of his movements would certainly qualify for copyright protection…
“Copyright does not protect a concept or idea.”
“Copyright does not protect a concept or idea.”
Moshe’s work is not patented. No one owns any idea that he created, used or expressed. No guild, association, accreditation board or trainer owns the work of Moshe Feldenkrais. Not now – not ever.
Even the International Feldenkrais Federation has conceded this point. They write about transcripts of Moshe’s teaching:
“…any person who drafts a [Feldenkrais] lesson in their own words, with their own expression, and where the text is not derived substantially from the materials, then this is considered one’s own work, not subject to the copyrights owned by the estate of Moshe Feldenkrais.”
The “form” of the work IS owned. That is, the particular words and phrases are owned. As long as you are not republishing Moshe’s copyrighted material you are fine. Put the ideas into your own words.
But are the movements themselves copyrighted?
I think the confusion about this issue has to do with the movements themselves. People are confused about whether the movements themselves are copyright protected.
I paid a law firm to give me a written opinion on this matter. And this is what they wrote:
III. A movement is not protected under copyright law, much as a dictionary word cannot be protected under copyright law. As an initial matter it is important to recognize that copyright law does not protect a concept or idea, it rather protects the expression conveyed, which may be presented in the form of words, song, music, or dance. In your case, and as noted above, Moshe’s written description of his movements would certainly qualify for copyright protection because it is an expression of his movements. Certainly copying (in a substantial manner) Moshe’s description of movements would infringe his copyrights to his expression of movements.”
IV Functional Elements and Compilations. As a general matter copyright law does not protect functional elements of a work. For example, if one wished to copyright a bottle shape, which is functional by definition, the applicant would have to show that the shape in his or her case is non-functional; that is, the shape doesn’t make the bottle easier to hold, to fill and to utilize. A medical procedure, therefore, would likewise not be protected by copyright law because of the functional nature of the procedure or set of procedures. Movements that are purely functional, in that they comprise a set of movements utilized to accomplish a medical end, may not be protected by copyright at all because of the functionality of the movements.
To put that another way – the sequence of movements within one of Moshe’s sessions would be protected by copyright so long as it is non-functional. Think about that for a moment. Would it be possible to show that Moshe’s work was not related to a function?
What I have posted above is merely part of a much lengthier document. There is much more that I could post, but I would rather not do so right now. And of course, I am not giving you legal advice, as I am not qualified to do so. However, I do invite you to consider that if you want to use any of Moshe’s ideas or lessons you can do so without restriction as long as you convey the ideas and lessons in your own words.
I believe there is a deeper issue at play here, which has to do with maturity and independence. Put bluntly: Do you have the courage to do what you know is correct and what is legal? Or are you in a relationship of dependence to a particular person or ideology? No one is going to write you a permission slip. And yes, those who think they own Moshe’s work may try to attack you or intimidate you if you do the right thing and become your own person and vehicle for his ideas.
Do you have what it takes to stand up to them? Or better yet, ignore them?