Copyright in Space with Commander Hadfield and David Bowie

Space Oddity Hadfield Screen shot

David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the International Space Station

On May 13, 2014, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield announced on Twitter that his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity performed on the International Space Station would be taken down from YouTube after his one year term of permission was over:

Bowie's last day - we had permission for a year, so our Space Oddity video comes down today. One last look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo …

This led to an outcry from the general public who viewed the video over 22 million times during the year it was available including appeals to David Bowie to keep the video up.

Ownership of the Song Rights

The irony here is that the publishers Essex Music International, Inc. / Onward Music, Ltd. managed by Bucks Music Group, not David Bowie, own the rights to give permission to his song. Bowie was publicly criticized by many when he was actually supportive of the video and encouraged the publishers to allow Hadfield to use it for free for one year. Other versions of the video are still available on YouTube through SkyNews and many others who downloaded a copy.

International Space Copyright Concerns

An article in the Economist explains the fascinating copyright implications because it was in space, was international, and articulates some of the complications between creators, rights owners, and jurisdiction (the location of responsibility where legal cases are heard and decided).
Hadfield did a great deal of planning for the video and contacted David Bowie for permission. He also contributed some creative elements to the song including modified lyrics, background noise from the space station, and of course the stunning video footage from the Space Station.

The continuing development of this case study promises many more interesting discussions about the roles copyright and fair use in our culture. It can be argued that Hadfield’s video increased the awareness of the original work considerably and also rekindled the public’s interest in the International Space Station.

Correction (July 28, 2014):  A representative of Fairwood Music International notified me that they are not the music publisher and rights holder of Space Oddity and I’ve updated the post to reflect the correct copyright holder: Essex Music International, Onward Music/Essex Retentions c/o Bucks Music Ltd., Essex Music International Inc., Onward Music/Essex Retentions c/o Bucks Music. Fairwood does publish many other David Bowie recordings, like Ziggy Stardust, Let’s Dance, and Fame, but does not manage Space Oddity.

Georgia State Copyright Case Decided After Year of Deliberation

courthouseIn a May 30, 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education article,  “What’s at Stake in the Georgia State Copyright Case?”, set the stage for a potentially landmark copyright case that focused on fair use in the context of higher education’s user of e-reserves, and by association, course management systems. A clip from the above article best describes the core issues involved:

At issue before the court is the practice of putting class readings on electronic reserve (and, by extension, on faculty Web sites). Cambridge, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publications, with support from the Association of American Publishers and the Copyright Clearance Center, are suing four administrators at Georgia State University.

The article mentioned that there would be a decision in several weeks but it extended into a year-long deliberation by the judge, Orinda Evans. Her final 350 page ruling (pdf) is posted courtesy of Nancy Sims‘ at the University of Minnesota if you want to read the full document. Jenny Howard followed up on the case in the Chronicle of Higher Ed Long Awaited Ruling on May 13, 2012. Up to this point, there was very little information about these specific kinds of uses online (e-reserves, course reserves) and now the community can interact with some of these points that were more ambiguous. The Association of Research Libraries put together an excellent issue brief of the Georgia State case (pdf) and a clear exposition of these points on May 15. For a good review of the background of this case, starting in 2008, see Hoffelder’s May 13 post.

James Grimmelman, a New York University Law Professor, summarized the implications this way on his blog, Laboratorium:

Thus, the operational bottom line for universities is that it’s likely to be fair use to assign less than 10% of a book, to assign larger portions of a book that is not available for digital licensing, or to assign larger portions of a book that is available for digital licensing but doesn’t make significant revenues through licensing

Kevin Smith in his Scholarly Communications @ Duke Blog has a helpful legal and educational analysis of the Judge’s decision and its implications for fair use. The findings (which are still subject to appeal and plaintiff creation of injunctions based on this ruling) include mostly encouraging and some frustrating news for libraries and higher education institutions. Here are some of Smith’s key points:

The Good

1. It is more likely that items can be used more than one semester if fair use applied in the first one.

Limiting the claim of fair use for an item for more than one semester or the “Subsequent Semester” rule is “an impractical, unnecessary limitation” (p. 71) according to Judge Evans.

2. Of the 99 claims made by the publishers, 95% were dismissed.

3. Revenue for permissions does not significantly impact the market value of the publishers content.

This is helpful for claims regarding the Fourth Fair Use Factor – Impact on market value.

The Bad

1. She chose 10% or one chapter as the allowable portion of a work to claim Fair Use.

This is much less flexible than the language of the original copyright law would allow.

2. it “heavily favors” the plaintiffs IF a license for the appropriate format is readily available at a reasonable price.