Many of you may remember Commander Chris Hadfield’s viral cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. I’d link to it here but the YouTube video was taken down yesterday after its year license expired. At the time of its release in 1969, Space Oddity was covered under copyright for 28 years but after effective lobbying on behalf of the entertainment companies, it (and a load of other works) was amended to be covered by copyright for much longer. Space Oddity is now covered for 95 years or 70 years after the creator’s death–whichever comes first. Unless the license for Commander Hadfield’s video gets renewed, we may not be legally able to see the video until 2069.
Current copyright laws seriously stunt society’s ability to use previous works to make new and innovative versions. Copyright also affects libraries and schools. It can affect programming, marketing, lessons and digitization. Copyright laws are very complex and it is hard to know when you are able to use something– whether it is public domain or fair use. Fair use recently got a boost when a circuit judge dismissed the Author’s Guild lawsuit against Google. The judge ruled that Google’s digitization of books constituted fair use. While the tide seems to be turning in favor of public reuse, there is a long way to go. Here are some tools to help navigate the choppy waters of copyright–
Copyright Slider – easy way to see if something is potentially covered by copyright.
Copyright Genie – another way to find out if something is potentially covered by copyright.
I an NOT a lawyer nor an expert on copyright law and nothing here constitutes legal advice. These are just tools to get you pointed in an educated direction. There are a number of organizations that are working to reform copyright law. If you feel strongly about copyright reform, consider contacting your representative.
The above image was found searching Creative Commons and is available on a CC0 Public Domain license which means the Pixabay user tpsdave has dedicated the image to the public domain and it is free to use even for commercial purposes.