David Bowie: class act

There were wild rumors that David Bowie was trying to suppress Chris Hadfield’s performance of “Space Oddity” from the space station. The rumors were false, Bowie had encouraged that the song be given a free license.

This is good news. I shall play some of Bowies’s albums (all paid for!) in my office this morning, in his honor.


  1. Elijah Terrell says

    So richardelguru won’t have to read the article, the upshot is that Bowie doesn’t own the rights to Space Oddity. He lobbied for a year long license when the cover came out but wasn’t able get the owners to renew.

  2. stewartt1982 says

    In all fairness the apology/article does not explicitly state why the video was removed, though we can likely surmise that it is due to the company that holds the did not renew the the license (wrongly attributed to Bowie in the original Ottawa Citizen article).

  3. nichrome says

    From Chris Hadfield:

    “It has been a year since my son and I created and released the Space Oddity video. We have been amazed and delighted that so many people enjoyed it – and maybe saw what spaceflight can really be like. It helped show that humans have left Earth, and that the Space Station is a new stage, for not just science and exploration, but for our art and music too. With exploration comes insight – with perspective comes self-realization.

    “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.
    Thanks for everything. You’ve all been incredible throughout.”

    – Chris and Evan Hadfield

    And The Economist explains:
    How does copyright work in space?

  4. borax says

    The good news is that a you tube search brings up several mirrored videos. His performance on BBC news is also great.

  5. says

    It’s a shame that musicians can lose control of the products of their creativity like that. I’m sure Bowie probably made a pittance back when it was written.

  6. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    For anyone wanting to see it, a quick google came up with this:
    http:// ***www.*** youtube.com/watch?v=poZCINzxzrQ

    (I know that occasionally people have complained about youtube embeds, so I inserted the asterisks and spaces to prevent that. Take them out and it should play fine.)

  7. tfkreference says

    Hadfield was on NPR’s Wait Wait a few weeks ago and said that Bowie had told him it was the best cover he had heard of the song.

  8. moarscienceplz says

    The commentary with the bogus info was written by Blayne Haggart. On May 15 he made sure to tweet a link to that piece. So now that it is known that he made a HUGE boo-boo, he has used his twitter account to apologize, right? Ummm … not so much. Nothing but crickets since June 9.

  9. moarscienceplz says

    Extra credit fun: Haggart is an “Assistant Professor, Political Science, Brock University. Research: copyright policy, IR theory, international political economy” who has written a book about digital copyright reform.
    I’m sure lots of people will want to read his book after this.

  10. says

    Quite aside from his likely wanting to be associated with such a cool project, David Bowie is no fool. PR and money to be made would be reason enough to let this attention-getter go on if you’re getting paid for further use of the song. The publisher who owns these rights now are idiots, cutting off their own noses.

  11. al jones says

    Bowie seems to have also managed to raise a ‘normal’ son (almost impossible for a rock star). He’s been the custodial parent since Duncan Jones was 10. He’s directed 2 classy films – ‘moon’ and ‘source code’. Compare him with the odious son of Bryan Ferry. Otis has dedicated his life to fox hunting (in the old english style with the hounds ripping the fox to pieces) and led a ‘raid’ on parliament when they were debating the issue.

  12. says

    Huh. Never heard of this kerfuffle. If I had, a little red flag would have gone up immediatly. I’m a big Bowie fan, and him being weirdly petty over having his classic hit SUNG IN MFKN OUTTER SPACE makes NO sense. He strikes me as the sort that would see this as a major (hehe) highlight in his own carrer. He’s always been generous with ideas and a big fan of colaboration… He’s in the artist camp with the likes Byrne, Eno, and Anderson and you know how THOSE folks are!

  13. Nicholas says

    #7 Marcus: “It’s a shame that musicians can lose control of the products of their creativity like that. I’m sure Bowie probably made a pittance back when it was written.”

    Actually, Bowie has done quite well for himself and is very wealthy through the sale of the rights to his work. He lost the rights to most of his own music for a decade by selling the rights as futures. He used the money (over 55 million dollars) to reclaim many of the rights. Other people who purchased and held those futures did not fare as well (downgraded to junk status by 2004). Bowie has since sold rights to several of his biggest hits. Many stars do this — the Beatles, Michael Jackson, etc… and often profit handsomely from it.

    Bowie does not own the rights to his own work largely through his own actions. I’m still a huge fan.

  14. al jones says

    Nicholas, Lennon and McCartney sold the rights to their songs for a pittance in the mid sixties. Lew Grade (in charge of ATV music) offered the rights back to McCartney for about $20 million around 1980. It was an absolute bargain but McCartney passed on it. Michael Jackson subsequently bought the rights.

    A single song that continues to get radio plays can be a nice little pension. Gerry Rafferty was earning £50,000 per annum from ‘Baker Street’ decades after it was released.

  15. Nicholas says

    Al, there’s no rule against stupid business decisions by musicians. Bowie did well, while Lennon and McCartney not so much. Nobody forced them to sell, so the fact that they don’t own their rights now is not so much a shame as perhaps a regret.