Chris Hadfield’s Space Oddity returns to YouTube

4 Nov 2014

Still of Chris Hadfield performing Space Oddity on the International Space Station. Image via Chris Hadfield's YouTube channel

Retired astronaut, amateur musician and professional legend Chris Hadfield has had his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity – recorded aboard the International Space Station (ISS) – reinstated on YouTube.

Recorded in May 2013 miles above Earth in the orbiting space lab, Hadfield’s Space Oddity video posted on the video-sharing site went viral beyond all comprehension, skyrocketing (apologies, I) the Canadian astronaut into a global super stardom (apologies, II).

However, a fantastically elaborate web of copyright laws, confusion and cross-border bureaucratic tape meant that Hadfield’s version of the Bowie classic faced an uncertain future upon Hadfield’s return to Earth.

“When David Bowie wrote and recorded Space Oddity in 1969,” wrote Hadfield in his latest blog post, “I wonder if he ever imagined it being played in orbit? Even more so, would he have imagined (or worried about) the legal concerns of extra-planetary music?”

At the time of Hadfield’s return to Earth, the Economist’s pretty brilliant recap of the legal quagmire Hadfield had unwittingly stumbled upon told the story as well as possible.

Some of the more amusing legal questions that arose from Hadfield’s masterpiece were, how does copyright work in space? With the ISS circling the globe, which jurisdiction was Hadfield in when he recorded the song and video?

I know, space exploration and jurisdictional copyright wrangling: an extraterrestrial blockbuster movie we’re all dying to see.

“I’m not a space lawyer (although if I were a lawyer that’s the type I’d want to be!), but I’d imagined some of these complexities and had contacted Bowie’s publisher and legal team from orbit,” said Hadfield.

His liaising with Bowie, whom the astronaut praises for his support of the latest version of his Sixties classic, seems to have worked.

“We are so happy to be able to announce that my on-orbit cover of Space Oddity is back up on YouTube. This time we have a new two-year agreement, and it is there, for free, for everyone,” said Hadfield.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic