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So how DOES copyright work in space?
May 23, 2013 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Chris Hadfield has captured the world's heart, judging by the 14m YouTube views of his free-fall rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity", recorded on the International Space Station (ISS). The Canadian astronaut's clear voice and capable guitar-playing were complemented by his facility in moving around in the microgravity of low-earth orbit. But when the man fell to Earth in a neat and safe descent a few days ago, after a five-month stay in orbit, should he have been greeted by copyright police?
posted by DiesIrae (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
He used tons of auto-tune on that cover, right?
posted by anazgnos at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2013


I think he cleared the cover with Bowie. Hadfield worked with Emm Gryner on the music, who played with Bowie on one of his tours.

Oh wait... "In this particular case the matter is straightforward because Commander Hadfield had obtained permission to record and distribute the song"

For heaven's sakes, why do you have this crazy leading headline that you trivially disprove two paragraphs later? The Economist should be better than lame leads like this.
posted by GuyZero at 11:46 AM on May 23, 2013 [35 favorites]


Yeah, it's auto-tuned into orbit.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 AM on May 23, 2013


I think he shouldn't have bothered getting permission, and Bowie should been okay with RIAA MPAA and all the rest of the MAFIAA to have sued him. Get this crap in courts and unrediculosized.
posted by tilde at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Uh, well I for one am glad the the Canadian Space Agency's entire 2014 budget won't go to frivolous lawsuits.
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


All the rules are the same with the exception that appended to every legal brief must be the phrase "...IN SPAAACCCEEE".
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:52 AM on May 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


NEXT MONTH, THE LATEST SPECTACULAR SPACE SAGA FROM THE MARVEL BULLPEN:

A space station whose inferior radiation shields left him open to exposure from mysterious cosmic rays! He walked away from that capsule's landing, but they didn't walk away the same! No, that cosmic radiation changed him somehow! It turned him into a magnificent marvel immune to RIAA lawsuits-- Reasonable Exception Man! Watch him sidestep rabid RIAA lawyers! Behold him steal the hearts of millions! Watch him duet with David Bowie on Canadian Idol!

BE THERE, TRUE BELIEVERS! EXCELSIOR!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:52 AM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


True fact: Bowie had to clear Ziggy Stardust with Tom Wilson's lawyers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


He changed the lyrics a bit too , didn't he?
posted by Bwithh at 12:01 PM on May 23, 2013


GuyZero: “For heaven's sakes, why do you have this crazy leading headline that you trivially disprove two paragraphs later? The Economist should be better than lame leads like this.”

"How Does Copyright Work In Space?" is a "crazy leading headline"? I thought they established pretty early on that this was a sort of musing piece designed to wonder aloud what copyright looks like in space, not an angry incitement to arrest this man at once.
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why can't it be both?
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


"That ice cream cone you had looked delicious! But what if someone shit in it?"

Thanks, Economist.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:13 PM on May 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


There really isn't any hook here, is there. Just because it's LOLspace how does it work, doesn't mean there are any real copyright issues, even if this usage hadn't been cleared.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2013


This made me happy.
posted by Windigo at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2013


Usually contracts like this specify "throughout the universe" or similar language.

I always thought it was silly, but this situation proves that it's not.
posted by Sara C. at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Greeted by the copyright police? I suppose, as long as he wasn't greeted like this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2013


koeselitz: ""How Does Copyright Work In Space?" is a "crazy leading headline"?"

No, "should he have been greeted by copyright police?" is a stupid, leading question for the article to ask when the answer is, "clearly not, because he got permission before recording."
posted by zarq at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, other than maybe being on company time I'm not sure why this is any different than me (or someone with talent) recording Space Oddity in my living room and putting it on YouTube. Certainly the lawyers don't come after everyone on YouTube, do they?

Or do they?
posted by bondcliff at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: “Usually contracts like this specify 'throughout the universe' or similar language. I always thought it was silly, but this situation proves that it's not.”

Specifically throughout the universe. Not across. Because the Beatles have lawyers too.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Certainly the lawyers don't come after everyone on YouTube, do they?

Ish. Record company SOP is to content match the song, put up ads on it that benefit them rather than you if you don't object. If you do object, they'll take the video down.

No lawyers are involved at any point.

If the record company don't do it, rest assured that news organisations who report your video clip and/or ContentID trolls with accidental-honestly-they-are false positive matches based on unrelated content.
posted by jaduncan at 12:23 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, so it all comes down to "public performance" of the song, plus a lot of other tertiary stuff related to jurisdiction over the space or container in which the performance occurs.

One hypothetical mentioned in TFA is an astronaut spontaneously bursting into song -- a Disney owned song -- upon first footfall on Mars. I get that Disney as the rights-holder would deserve some consideration for the broadcast of its property. The tertiary part interests me.

Is a spacesuit a suit worn by the individual astronaut, or a single-sized spacecraft owned by the government or corporation that sent her there? I guess that's irrelevant. She would be there on the organization's dime, and so the laws applicable to the organization's home jurisdiction would apply.
posted by notyou at 12:24 PM on May 23, 2013


why this is any different than me (or someone with talent) recording Space Oddity in my living room and putting it on YouTube

I think the idea is that, because Hadfield was not on the planet earth when this was recorded, therefore he was not subject to international copyright treaties.

However, in my experience of seeing and reading rights and permissions contracts, usually they include language like "in all media, throughout the universe, in perpetuity". This means that the rights/permissions hold EVERYWHERE, forever, even if you put this video on youtube or decide to release it on betamax or play it on the jumbotron at a Lakers game.

The reason they say "universe" rather than "worldwide" or the like is precisely for reasons like Commander Hadfield. In fact, you could say that this is the first -- or definitely one of the first -- instances where "universe" actually pays off.
posted by Sara C. at 12:24 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha ha. I wonder how many astronauts on the ISS have illegally downloaded music.
posted by surplus at 12:26 PM on May 23, 2013


"in all media, throughout the universe, in perpetuity".

When the Koppi-leviathans of Infringix VII find out about this, they will have a good laugh before burning our planet to a cinder.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


They just mean this universe, though, right? So Fauxlivia can record anything she wants? Asking for a friend.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Two interesting facts I learned from that article:

1. The Russian Space Agency is named ROSCOSMOS.

2. The laws applying to astronauts on the ISS depend upon the section they happen to be in at the time, and which nation owns it. So if you need to murder someone on the space station , make sure you do it in the Columbus Laboratory, and you might serve time in one of those nice Finnish jails.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's not it, Sara C (unless I've done a terrible job reading and comprehending the article: always a possibility).

Each node of the ISS is subject to the laws of the nation that sponsors it. In Hadfield's case, because his performance occurred in Canadian and American nodes, his rendition of Space Oddity would be subject to those nation's copyright laws.
posted by notyou at 12:29 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


One hypothetical mentioned in TFA is an astronaut spontaneously bursting into song upon first footfall on Mars.

"Mr. Schmitt, a lawyer representing a Mr. Ed Haley would like a word with you."
posted by bondcliff at 12:30 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"in all media, throughout the universe, in perpetuity".

You know all those radio waves going through space that allow the Thermians to see Gilligan's Island? Somewhere in the universe, there could be planets that receive broadcasts of Earth music before any Earthlings ever encounter them. Presumably, as the radio waves arrive, the stunned aliens will share them via their mass media with headlines like "proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe has arrived."

Then, when we do finally encounter their planet, we'll be ready to sue them into oblivion for violating our Universal Copyright laws during their new broadcasts.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:32 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would love to see this "throughout the universe" enforcement tested by hobbyists launching a network of distributed lightweight computers into orbit and firing up a mirror of The Pirate Bay on them. Would the RIAA and MPAA start funding advancements in space tech to go up there and take them out?
posted by jason_steakums at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Grrr. There goes my plan for a pirate radio station on Mercury.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


notyou, I think you're correct except for the caveat they put in - he recorded it in the US/CA sections, but the actual public distribution came from...elsewhere? It's not clear if Gryner and the editors sent it back to Hadfield to be actually uploaded to Youtube from the station. But the publication comes in the country when youtube shows it, so it would seem there could be a lawsuit in any country where Youtube has a presence.

Whereas if it was an actual radio signal of the song, that's when the question about which section it came from matters.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:35 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sarnia, represent!
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:36 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: ""How Does Copyright Work In Space?" is a "crazy leading headline"?"

No, "should he have been greeted by copyright police?" is a stupid, leading question for the article to ask when the answer is, "clearly not, because he got permission before recording."


Yeah, sorry, I went back to edit my comments but did a bad job. It was the lede in the story, not the headline. I'll have the AP issue a correction notice.
posted by GuyZero at 12:52 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"That ice cream cone you had looked delicious! But what if someone shit in it?"

At the last MeFi meet up I saved 12p by buying plain mint ice cream to take along.
posted by biffa at 1:20 PM on May 23, 2013


"Commander Hadfield and his son Evan spent several months hammering out details with Mr Bowie's representatives, and with NASA, Russia's space agency ROSCOSMOS and the CSA."

How totally fucking absurd.
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chris Hadfield talks about re-adapting to Earth's gravity
posted by homunculus at 2:07 PM on May 23, 2013


Presumably, as the radio waves arrive, the stunned aliens will share them via their mass media with headlines like "proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe has arrived."

Then, when we do finally encounter their planet, we'll be ready to sue them into oblivion for violating our Universal Copyright laws during their new broadcasts.


That's like the plot of the book Year Zero:

from the linked review:
The universe is full of advanced civilizations, which belong to something called the Refined League — and when they discovered Earth music in the late 1970s, they became obsessed with it, collecting every bit of Earth music they could find.

They spent a few decades listening to every single bit of pop music recorded on Earth, in total ecstasy, until they realized that they owed us untold zillions of dollars in penalties for pirating our music under our insanely strict anti-piracy laws. Now it's up to an attorney named Nick to figure out a solution, before some aliens decide to destroy the Earth to get out of owing us all that money.
posted by jjj606 at 2:46 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


"should he have been greeted by copyright police?"

Well, no, because a) the "copyright police" are not a thing that exist, and

b) despite the flamboyantly unuseful example of Mr. Bowie, who is already quite rich, being covered in a unique way no one could possibly object to without appearing a Copyright Grinch, there are millions of artists in the world almost literally starving and when you attack "copyright law" you are attacking their right to get paid and control the use of their work (not just by beloved astronauts but also Monsanto, Mitt Romney, the KKK etc etc etc etc)
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2013


I'm friends with Andrew Tidby, the filmmaker who edited the video. He is friends with Hadfield. It was really cool because he and Hadfield were in contact the whole time Hadfield was up on the ISS and we'd get periodic status updates. Hadfield asked Tidby to do the video with him. He got to talk to Bowie himself (so, yeah, Bowie was on board)! When Tidby told us about talking to Sir Bowie on Facebook, I spat out my coffee.

I am telling you...Tidby is a lucky dude...
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 3:09 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in a darkened room, Hadfield's video ends. There is silence.

A phone is dialed.

"Tilda, darling, fire up that time machine. I've seen something magnificent that We need to do first."
posted by cmyk at 3:17 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can you get arrested if somebody 3D prints your infringing material in Brigadoon?

Mostly disappointed that the Economist is pandering so hard to the boing boings and Reddit's of the world with that lede. There's a lot of interesting stuff here.
posted by graphnerd at 4:01 PM on May 23, 2013


Should he have ... ?

Uhh, no. Just no.
posted by wrok at 4:19 PM on May 23, 2013


Special Thanks to David Bowie,...

Copyright works in space like it should work here—You ask.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:39 PM on May 23, 2013


Song Copyright was much simpler back in the olden days. If you wanted to record a cover version of any song, no matter where you recorded it, then you just did it, as long as you eventually paid the composer's Music Publisher (who often ripped off the composer) something like one and a half cents per mechanical copy sold, and a performance rights organization then just hit up the radios and jukeboxes. Ah, olden days...
posted by ovvl at 5:57 PM on May 23, 2013


I, for one, am sad that this way cool thing came to the Blue in a way that has us talking about pedantic hypotheticals rather than admiring something that's really freakin' fun.

I mean, it's a guy in space singing "Space Oddity"!! Singing a song about getting stuck in space, right before he gets in a capsule to crash back to Earth. FROM SPACE!!!!! That's at least a little bit Baller, no??

Bunch'a hipsters, the lot of ya.
posted by dry white toast at 7:50 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I, for one, am sad that this way cool thing came to the Blue in a way that has us talking about pedantic hypotheticals rather than admiring something that's really freakin' fun.

This isn't the first post about it: Previously.
posted by homunculus at 8:04 PM on May 23, 2013


In fact, because we all enjoyed that video is the reason this article is grating to so many; it plays off that by being all "Hey, you know that cool astronaut who played a David Bowie song in space? DOES HE DESERVE TO BE SUED BY HEARTLESS RECORD COMPANIES FOR COPYRIGHT VIOLATION?!? Maybe! Maybe not! How does it work!?!? (btw he totally cleared it ahead of time so it was never actually an issue) BUT WHAT IF????"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:53 PM on May 23, 2013


What laws apply during EVA?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:01 PM on May 23, 2013


The idea of "copyright police" showing up to arrest Commander Hadfield reminded me of a professor I had a few years ago who tried to convince the class that plagiarism was a bad idea because, verbatim, "you could be arrested."
posted by asciident at 10:06 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


One hypothetical mentioned in TFA is an astronaut spontaneously bursting into song

This has actually happened. Apollo 17 astronauts, overcome with the joy of walking on the moon, spontaneously started singing "I was strolling on the moon one day..." This was their version of the song "Strolling through the Park One Day". Fortunately that song was written in 1884, so it was public domain at that point, but I don't think the astronauts considered that at all.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:19 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


One hypothetical mentioned in TFA is an astronaut spontaneously bursting into song

Never gets old, huh?
posted by radwolf76 at 10:32 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


In 2008, NASA beamed The Beatles' 'Across the Universe' into space. This had the approval of Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono, but the transmission was aimed at the North Star, Polaris, which is located 431 light years away from Earth. It's possible that copyright restrictions are different there, and that their local distribution rights have been violated, but we just haven't heard any complaints from them yet.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:45 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Copyright works in space like it should work here—You ask.

Sure, if by "ask" you mean "spend several months hammering out details with Mr Bowie's representatives, and with NASA, Russia's space agency ROSCOSMOS and the CSA."

FFS.
posted by homunculus at 1:06 AM on May 24, 2013


At least now that Commander Hadfield is back on Earth, he can resume traditional terrestrial entertainments like golf.
posted by homunculus at 1:43 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh wait... "In this particular case the matter is straightforward because Commander Hadfield had obtained permission to record and distribute the song"

For heaven's sakes, why do you have this crazy leading headline that you trivially disprove two paragraphs later? The Economist should be better than lame leads like this.
It's called "linkbait" or "clickbait" It means wasting everyone's fucking time by getting them to click on things that they think they might care about, until they find out what's actually going on and realize they wouldn't have given a shit.

Honestly, just delete this FPP.
Copyright works in space like it should work here—You ask.
Huh, by "here" you mean where? the US? China? North Korea? Iran? Cuba? Venezuela? There are different laws in different places, and as far as I know SPACE LAW does not address copyright at all.

The thing is if you record a video in space, then post it to Youtube, Youtube then has to decide what to do with it. they can chose to serve it in various countries or not. And they have the code that allows them to turn on and off various videos depending on local laws.

But saying copyright "works in space" the way it works "here" makes zero sense. there is no singular "here", each country has it's own copyright laws, and none of them apply in space.
posted by delmoi at 2:45 AM on May 24, 2013


there are millions of artists in the world almost literally starving and when you attack "copyright law" you are attacking their right to get paid and control the use of their work (not just by beloved astronauts but also Monsanto, Mitt Romney, the KKK etc etc etc etc)
Can you give me one name of one artist that is both 'almost literally' starving and widely pirated? Or who's work is even available to the average pirate?

I have a hypothesis. The number of artists who are starving and pirated is zero. This should be easy to disprove. You just need a single counterexample. So feel free to provide it.
attacking their right to get paid and control the use of their work
keyword is "control". Yes, we are attacking their right to control their work.
posted by delmoi at 2:49 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would love to see this "throughout the universe" enforcement tested by hobbyists launching a network of distributed lightweight computers into orbit and firing up a mirror of The Pirate Bay on them. Would the RIAA and MPAA start funding advancements in space tech to go up there and take them out?

Absolutely. In repsonse, the network will spread farther away from Earth with the MPAA and RIAA in constant pursuit, until our first contact with extraterrestrials finally occurs when the aliens start receiving bogus DMCA takedowns, which they will naturally interpret as a declaration of war.
posted by homunculus at 12:39 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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