11 June, 2014

Copyright in Space - The Space Oddity

The worries of the 21st century artist are ones which no other before them has ever had to contemplate, nor even conceive. Due to this some interesting results can unfold in the world of copyright. Unbeknownst to most of us, our outer terrestrial conquests just might impact our creative output, or at least limit it to some extent.

Major Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who recent spent almost a half a year in space, recorded and shared his take on the David Bowie song "Space Oddity", receiving well over 22 million views on YouTube for the duration of the video's existence on the site. This particular video was made while he was on board the International Space Station, and thus leads us to a peculiar question begging an answer: does copyright apply in space?

The ISS is regulated under the International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement, which sets out the framework in which the Station and the law operates. Although many other agreements expand on the framework outside of the ISSIA, it is the more important one within this context. As space is potentially beyond any particular jurisdiction, with the added complication of the ISS moving at 7,6 kilometers per second over most countries at any given time, which laws would apply to govern Mr. Hadfield's rendition? According to Article 5 of the ISSIA: "...each [country] shall retain jurisdiction and control over the elements [of the ISS] it registers". This means that any modules, parts of the ship and so forth (called elements), will be under the jurisdiction of the country which owns it (including The United States, Russia, Japan, and Europe respectively). It has been determined by The Economist that the elements in which Mr. Hadfield recorded his famous video would be ones owned by the US and Japan, subjecting his video to the copyright laws of those particular countries.

Phil was busy filming his modern interpretive dance video
Mr. Hadfield's music video does not in itself present much of a legal issue, as the rights for the distribution and recording of the song were duly negotiated between all interested parties; however it still remains a curiosity in the field. The licence for the YouTube distribution of the song has since ended, yet a new agreement is being sought for the continuation of said agreement to satiate our extra terrestrial musical needs.

Nevertheless, space still remains a big question mark, especially in the emerging markets of space tourism and our conquest for Mars or other planets. As J.A. Sterling discusses more in-depth in his article "Space Copyright Law: the new dimension", copyright will face challenges when being applied to our future outside of our blue planet. More specifically, which country's or countries' laws will apply if the work in question is created wholly or partially on another terrestrial body, such as Mars? If the work is created on a space ship or station, much like in Mr. Hadfield's situation, the application of laws is much easier, or at least potentially so; however should you film a video on Mars, it is uncertain which country's laws would apply. This only scratches the surface in relation to the difficulties space can cause in relation to the creation of copyrighted works, and I would advise anyone interested in the topic to read the article above.

In the end the loss of Major Hadfield's song, no matter how eloquent and beautiful it is, is but a temporary bump in the video's existence, which will undoubtedly continue soon (or so one can hope). Space is, indeed, the final frontier - or is it? Only out future beyond the comforts of our home planet will show where copyright will go, or how far at least.

Source: IP Brief

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