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.
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 A year on, they’ve withdrawn their support, which will make legally viewing the Space Oddity video after tomorrow very difficult.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.