Ground Control to Major Tom: Copyrights in Space
by Robert Dorneanu
Everyone knows that Yuri Gagarin was the first astronaut in space and that Laika was the first dog in space. Do you know who was the first to perform Space Oddity in space?
In 2013, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield made history by performing a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on board the International Space Station. The video clip of Hadfield’s onboard floating performance generated over 40 million views! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo
Last week I came across Chris Hadfield’s name on Twitter. Aya Korem, a prominent Israeli singer-songwriter, confessed on her Twitter account to having approached Hadfield requesting to have her album played in space:
Korem, recognized not only for her prolific music career but also for her battle to protect musicians’ legal rights, initiated a bill limiting the time frame of talent contracts to 7 years. This bill is known in Israel as the Aya Korem bill. During the period in which Korem was attempting to free herself from her record label, she sent a letter to Hadfield requesting to play her new album in space, as, at that time, it could not be played anywhere on earth.
Sadly, Korem received no response.
Israeli music has been played in space before. In 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia was launched, wake-up calls from the NASA Mission control center included music by artists such as the Beach Boys, Radiohead and several Israeli artists, including Israeli 60’s band: The High Windows (Hachalonot Hagvohim). The 2003 wake-up call index with links to the calls can be found here: https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/audio/shuttle/sts-107/html/ndxpage1.html
Did NASA need a license to play music in space? Was Ms. Korem’s instinct right and space is a copyright free zone?
I see a distinction between music played inside the Colombia space shuttle, that would have probably been covered by US Law, and between music played on the dark side of the moon, where it remains unclear what laws would apply, if any.
Could this be the future of copyright piracy? Is space the new wild west for copyrights?
Ground control to Major Tom: can you answer, please?