Who’s Responsible for Killing Of Commander Hadfield’s Version of “Space Oddity?” [UPDATE: Nope, It Wasn’t Bowie]

Oops.  Turns out that David Bowie had nothing to do with the removal of Cmdr Chris Hadfield’s stunning version of “Space Oddity” from YouTube from May 17:

I hope you had a chance to see the wonderful version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” sung by former International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield from orbit.  It was recording floating in a tin can, far above the world.  And Planet Earth was very blue.  It was a beautiful piece of art.If you haven’t seen it, too bad.  It’s gone from YouTube.

So where did it go?  Back to David Bowie.

Under the deal struck with Bowie’s people and publishing company, Cmdr Hadfield’s version had a maximum lifetime of one year.  Now that its first birthday has passed, the video has been yanked from official broadcast.

Under copyright law Bowie (or his proxies) are within their legal rights to put such conditions on such a piece of copyrighted work.  But who benefits by removing this moving rendition from public view? I have to agree with the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial this week:

The common-sense problems, though, are obvious. How does David Bowie’s ability – his right, under copyright law – to disappear Chris Hadfield’s stunning interpretation of Bowie’s 45-year-old song help anybody? Is the world a better place now that this piece of art has officially been scrubbed from existence?

Sometimes, the law is an ass. And copyright law, as it’s metastasized over 300 years, definitely possesses ass-like qualities.

The Hadfield Space Oddity takedown is the perfect example of how copyright, which is supposed to promote creativity and increase our access to knowledge and culture, all too often ends up doing the exact opposite. Instead, it becomes a way for copyright owners – usually large multinationals, not actual creators – to control what gets created and seen.

Read the whole thing here.

C’mon, Dave! Do the right thing and extend the lease. Indefinitely.

Well there’s been a development.  The Ottawa Citizen has had to backtrack.

On May 16, 2014, The Ottawa Citizen published a prominent commentary piece written by Blayne Haggart on our op-ed page that David Bowie was responsible for the removal from YouTube of astronaut Chris Hadfield’s video version of “Space Oddity” which was viewed over 22 million times.

The commentary erroneously claimed that Mr. Bowie refused to renew a one-year licence previously granted to Commander Hadfield, ultimately forcing the video to be removed from worldwide distribution.

That was incorrect. Subsequent to running this piece, we were informed by Mr. Bowie of the following facts: In April of 2013, while Commander Hadfield was still in space, his people contacted Mr. Bowie to seek permission to make the video.

They were informed that while Mr. Bowie would give his full support to the use of the song by Commander Hadfield, Space Oddity was the only one of more than 300 songs he has written and recorded for which he did not own or control the copyright. Mr. Bowie offered to have his people call the publisher and convey his strong support, but he had no ability to personally dictate any of the terms of the licence or even require the publishers to issue one.

Immediately thereafter, Mr. Bowie made contact with the publisher of the composition expressing his wish that they allow Commander Hadfield the right to record and synchronize his recording to the video he was proposing to make. Mr. Bowie strongly suggested that the licence be immediately issued at no charge and that the creation of this video had his enthusiastic support.

One year later, the Citizen erroneously published that Mr. Bowie had granted the original licence but failed to renew the licence after one year. The commentary published by the Citizen also erroneously implied that Mr. Bowie was the reason the video had to be removed from YouTube and questioned how his actions could have “made the world a better place.” The article caused an immediate reaction by thousands of fans worldwide, and this incorrect information was picked up by hundreds of other news sources around the world.

On behalf of Blayne Haggart and ourselves, we regret the error and we sincerely apologize to Mr. Bowie as well as all his fans around the world.

So there you have it.  Bowie was not involved in the decision.  In fact, he was fully supportive of the, er, mission and wanted to extend the license on the song but was overruled by the copyright owners.

Sorry for the accusation, Dave.  Glad this is cleared up.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “Who’s Responsible for Killing Of Commander Hadfield’s Version of “Space Oddity?” [UPDATE: Nope, It Wasn’t Bowie]

  • May 17, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Does this particular song title fall under that blanket of work that he sold off the rights to years ago? If so, I think it would be the people owning the ‘Bowie Hedge Fund’ that would yank this. Anyone else have any info on this?

  • May 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Why are people saying this? Bowie is just concerned for his brand. He didn’t even have to sign off with to begin with. He is legitimate in wanting to have people focus on his newer material.

  • May 17, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I’d be interested to know if the original Bowie song or Bowie catalog recordings saw any sales increase as a result of the 22 million views the video brought in. I’m sure somebody has looked at the numbers.


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