Tech Digest reported a couple weeks ago on how an iconic video created by Commander Chris Hatfield, a Canadian astronaut who recently flew on the International Space Station (ISS), will have to be taken down due to copyright law. Hatfield had created a music video of himself singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” while floating in the ISS with images of the Earth and stars behind him through one of the space station’s view ports. The video went viral and was celebrated by millions as a celebration of the wonders of the universe.
Unfortunately Hatfield’s license to use the copyrighted song by Bowie lasted only a year. For reasons that are as yet unknown, the license has not been renewed, so the YouTube video of Hatfield performing in outer space has been taken down.
Part of the problem is the question of which country’s copyright laws apply to the Hatfield performance. Hatfield is a Canadian citizen. However the ISS is an international facility with various parts owned by different countries: the United States, Russia, the European Union, and so on. Hatfield is seen performing the song at various parts of the ISS presumably in different national jurisdictions. Of course the Internet crosses all national borders, which makes posting copyrighted material even more of a tangle.
Absent a new deal with Bowie and his production company, which are being bombarded with requests by fans, the only solution to the problem may be an international agreement on what constitutes copyrighted material in space. Otherwise, at least according to American copyright law, it will be 2069 before Hatfield’s performance can be viewed, at least legally.