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Who owns Commander Chris Hadfield’s version of Space Oddity? Copyright issues are trickier than space travel

NASA Undersea Mission Hadfield

SPACE Commander Chris Hadfield sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity as his finale to his International Space Station show. And when he did, he potentially opened a can of worms (and lawyers). You can send a man to live in space. No sweat. But it’s much harder to work out who owns the words he says when he’s up there.

Who owns the song?

The song “Space Oddity” is under copyright protection in most countries, and the rights to it belong to Mr Bowie. But compulsory-licensing rights in many nations mean that any composition that has been released to the public (free or commercially) as an audio recording may be recorded again and sold by others for a statutorily defined fee, although it must be substantively the same music and lyrics as the original. But with the ISS circling the globe, which jurisdiction was Commander Hadfield in when he recorded the song and video? Moreover, compulsory-licensing rights for covers of existing songs do not include permission for broadcast or video distribution. Commander Hadfield’s song was loaded onto YouTube, which delivers video on demand to users in many countries around the world. The first time the video was streamed in each country constituted publication in that country, and with it the potential for copyright infringement under local laws. Commander Hadfield could have made matters even more complicated by broadcasting live as he sang to an assembled audience of fellow astronauts for an onboard public performance while floating from segment to segment of the ISS.



Posted: 25th, May 2013 | In: Music, Technology | Comments (2)