Commander Hadfield's licensing woe shows why copyright law is a space oddity

Bizarre news this evening as it emerged that space hero Commander Chris Hadfield’s take on the David Bowie classic Space Oddity – which was recorded whilst orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station – is being taken offline tomorrow because the license granted by Bowie to Hadfield only lasted for one year. Sigh.

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That’s right – the track, which has been viewed over 22 million times, and brought together all of mankind in an emotional moment as we contemplated the majesty of the stars and what we can do if we work together in peaceful cooperation… is being deleted because of creativity strangling copyright laws.

The case actually presents the perfect example of how inadequate copyright laws around the world are to deal with the internet. Commander Hadfield and his colleagues have created something amazing and new by modifying an existing work, and yet they were only able to do so out of the restrictive kindness of the rights holders – in this case presumably Bowie or his record company. A year on, they’ve withdrawn their support, which will make legally viewing the Space Oddity video after tomorrow very difficult.

I’m not entirely certain which jurisdiction’s copyright laws are in play here: this is a Canadian artist recording a British song and uploading it to a US website. And did I mention the recording took place in space? (Any copyright lawyers reading? Let us know what you think in the comments!)

The big irony is that Space Oddity was released in 1969 – and if we take US copyright law as an example (YouTube are the publisher, I guess) – at the time of its release, copyright extended only 28 years. This means that had it not been amended, copyright would have expired in 1997, enabling an entirely new generation of people to mash-up the song and record all sorts of weird and exciting new covers.

Of course – it has been amended. In the intervening years the corporate giants of the entertainment world lobbied and got the laws changed so that copyright now extends to (as of 1998) 95/100 years – or 70 years after the creator’s death (whichever comes first).

So as a result, if it is US copyright that is used, we may have to wait until 2069 before we can legally watch the first music video recorded in space ever again.

Madness.

By James O'Malley | May 13th, 2014





James O'MalleyCommander Hadfield's licensing woe shows why copyright law is a space oddity
  • illiad

    'officially' watch…. :/ that has been downloaded when it came out, and is now being played back by the thousand… :) beat that, effing licensers!!that sort of idiocy just make the pirates MORE money!!

  • Olivier Grondin

    The copyright law that must be enforced is based on the location of the website server.With possible restriction to viewing specific for each countries where it can be seen.So, it is up to the US laws to decide whether or not the video can still be freely hosted on Youtube servers. Then, local legislation can decide if yes, or no, the said video can be viewed in accordance with the copyright-holder they recognize.Since almost every countries are parties to the Berne convention on copyright, the viewing and distribution of the said video would be determined by the US right-holder with exception from regional copyright agreement that would give to the regional right-holder the right to accept or refuse the public diffusion of the video in specific regions of the world.

  • illiad

    ‘officially’ watch…. :/ that has been downloaded when it came out, and is now being played back by the thousand… :) beat that, effing licensers!!
    that sort of idiocy just make the pirates MORE money!!

  • Olivier Grondin

    The copyright law that must be enforced is based on the location of the website server.

    With possible restriction to viewing specific for each countries where it can be seen.

    So, it is up to the US laws to decide whether or not the video can still be freely hosted on Youtube servers. Then, local legislation can decide if yes, or no, the said video can be viewed in accordance with the copyright-holder they recognize.

    Since almost every countries are parties to the Berne convention on copyright, the viewing and distribution of the said video would be determined by the US right-holder with exception from regional copyright agreement that would give to the regional right-holder the right to accept or refuse the public diffusion of the video in specific regions of the world.

  • Peter

    Without viewing the licensing agreement Commander Hadfeild’s performance should be covered under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107. It is arguable that the performance will not prejudice the sales of Space Oddity, or diminish the profits or supersede the objects of David Bowies original work.

  • Julian Tysoe

    Whatever happened to “Bowie Bonds”? Did anyone ever get their money back?

  • illiad

    well the Europeans aren't so stoopid…:)http://www.dailymotion.com/vid…

  • Peter

    Without viewing the licensing agreement Commander Hadfeild’s performance should be covered under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107. It is arguable that the performance will not prejudice the sales of Space Oddity, or diminish the profits or supersede the objects of David Bowies original work.

  • Julian Tysoe

    Whatever happened to “Bowie Bonds”? Did anyone ever get their money back?

  • illiad