Canadian astronaut Cmdr. Chris Hadfield is best known as the first man to cover David Bowie's "Space Oddity" while actually in space. But the video of Hadfield's performance, seen 22 million times and counting, will vanish from YouTube today due to copyright complications.
"It has been a year since my son and I created and released the Space Oddity video," Hadfield wrote on Reddit. "We have been amazed and delighted that so many people enjoyed it—and maybe saw what spaceflight can really be like."
"We had permission from David Bowie's people to post the video on YouTube for a year, and that year is up. We are working on renewing the license for it, but as there are no guarantees when it comes to videos shot in space, we thought you might want to have one last look before we take it down."
Hadfield linked to an Economist article that lays out the specific copyright issues, including which jurisdiction applies to a performance on the International Space Station. Fortunately, space law didn't come into it, because the production and distribution of the song on YouTube, with Bowie's permission, took place on Earth.
"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," the Economist reported.
But now that the year is up, Bowie would be within his rights to sue in any country where the video is seen on YouTube, so Hadfield will have to take it down.
Not to worry, though. YouTube is a tangled maze of bogus accounts and reuploaded videos, so even if the original copy of the song comes down, bootleg versions will likely persist by springing up more quickly than YouTube can strike them down.
And none of that will be the fault of the first Canadian to walk in space, who graciously secured the rights, followed the law, and gave us one last chance to watch his video before it went away.