Here’s one for your inner copyright lawyer:
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? Commander Hadfield was only 250 miles (400 km) up, so he was still subject to terrestrial intellectual-property regimes, which would have applied even if he had flown the “100,000 miles” mentioned in the song’s lyrics, or millions of kilometres to Mars. His five-minute video had the potential to create a tangled web of intellectual-property issues. How does copyright work in space?
Some things to think about before you answer.
Copyright law differs from country to country while global agreements also create common rules and regulations. But with the space station orbiting the planet almost 16 times a day, which earthbound jurisdiction should govern any copyright claims? Or, riddle this one: the ISS is constructed of different modules. There’s an American one along with European, Russian and Japanese ones. So whose rules would govern copyright as Hadfield floated throughout while singing Bowie’s song?
As The Economist points out, “The agreement governing the ISS makes it clear (in Article 5) that the applicable laws, including those governing IP rights, depend on which part of it an astronaut is in.” [Emphasis ours.]