Bowie's takedown of Hadfield's ISS "Space Oddity" highlights copyright's absurdity


After reading the article it appears Bowie did give a one year license to the astronaut and that has just expired. While I think a youtube video should be treated the same as any other cover song recording, it’s not as bad as the posting makes it sound,


…and today we canonize St. Streisand for her miraculous ability to make the visible the invisible and heard the ignored.


I just added “ss” to the YouTube URL ( and downloaded the video for posterity. But aside from that, yeah, this sucks. Even if it was legit and then expired, I can’t really see how this would be costing David Robert Jones (Aladdin Sane himself) any money. If anything, it could steer people to the original recordings, and hence, sales.


So American copyright law applies to Canadians in the thermosphere???
Some lawyers may wish so, but somehow I have my doubts…
Also—where exactly (above which country) was Mr. Hadfield when he performed this song? Even if copyright laws extend to vertical infinity, that may still not cover this situation.


Still up here for those that missed it. Great video.


It’s a musically bereft version and a transparent PR grab by NASA. Remember, NASA are not a rag-tag bunch of loveable space-cowboys, NASA rose from the ashes of Hitler’s Germany (fact) and are the pointy end of the US military industrial complex.

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agreed - not a very nice cover, though in an unprecedented setting of full relevance.
I would suggest let it sit on youtube, but let the ad revenue go to the original artist.
otherwise, someone else/Hadfield’s ego/NASA/whoever-posted-it, is “profiting” from this artist’s work.
I don’t see the argument.
I once made a video in the Czech republic and the song is a national favourite - someone recorded it on Cztv and posted it on youtube, it has over a million hits, and the poster had zero to do with the song, the label, the video.
original artist/label split the dosh would be the best solution, and top link should be the original track, regardless of whomever ‘covers’ it, ad infinitum.

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It’s been established that IP law is based on what country owns the module the work was done it, IIRC. I think he stayed in the US-owned parts, but I’m not sure. Here’s an optimistic article written at the time.

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You forgot to mention the faked moon landing.


I would feel that is bad? Now WTF does that have to do with a guy in the ISS popularizing an older song by doing a cover of it in fucking space. Do you think the kids go, “OMG, that guy is awesome! I was going to buy a David Bowie album but no! I have seen this cover an YouTube of an amature singing in space and so I am done!”

It is an absurdist argument. Copyright is far afield of sanity these days that it is outside of even the ISS’s orbit. Artist have been fucked, but not by copyright. Artist get fucked by their labels. They get get fucked by ticketmaster. They get fucked by a lot of people, but let me assure that when it comes to copyright, copyright does the fucking. When a corpse rotting in the ground for over half of a century is still being protected by copyright, I think it is pretty safe copyright might be taking it a bit to the extremes.


If an astronaut wants to pay homage to Bowie’s work by singing it from the International Space Station, I reckon they should get a free pass. It’s free advertising for Bowie. Is there some complicated legal doctrine that forces Bowie to revoke the license after 1 year or face losses elsewhere? What was the rationale to allow the song for 1 year, but then ask for it to be pulled?

ETA: At least Hadfield didn’t cover Bowie & The Petshop Boys


As a Canadian, Chris Hadfield was up there under the auspices of the Canadian Space Agency, not NASA.


As other have pointed out, this wasn’t taken down by Bowie: it was taken down by the uploader as the result of the expiration of the original one-year license that Bowie agreed to. Essentially, Bowie allowed it to be uploaded in the first place, but only for one year. But I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

I didn’t know youTube was a space-based service delivering content to people in space. If your argument was correct, piracy would be legal so long as the actual pirating/copying/infringing was done in a country with lax copyright laws.

WTF does “popularizing” a well-known song have to do with copyright and its function? Do you want to also argue that Bowie should pay Hadfield for his (unsolicited) advertising? Does popularizing a creative work have anything to do with copyright’s stated purpose of encouraging creativity? Are creative artists only allowed to be concerned with how popular their work becomes?

Absurdist arguments, indeed.


Without attribution? They probably wouldn’t be very happy about that. Non-commercially and with attribution though?

Except where indicated, Boing Boing editorial-created content is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. This means that you may link to it and otherwise share it, but if you do, you need to give us credit. You may not use our editorial-created content in any commercial capacity; we do this for a living. But if you have an idea for collaboration, it never hurts to ask us nicely.

Looks like that’d be cool.


Even if he had sold a CD or an MP3, this video would likely have to come down. Yes, you can get compulsory rights to publish a cover song but to play a song in a motion picture, you need a synchronization license.

I’d very much like to see copyright reform but we probably need to see campaign finance reform first.


I guess you don’t mean this one, because that’s no working for me.

I think Mr. Bowie has the right to control this song if he wants. It’s part of his image, his brand. He was very generous in giving the one-year license and I thank him for it.


If you count being a Jew, whose family was exterminated in the gas camps, escaping with your life and a few papers, finding your way to the US, and getting a job in the space program to be “rising from the ashes of Hitler’s Germany” then you are one hard case, Hamish. Karl Rove would like to interview you for a position at Fox.