Copyright clearance is a minefield.
It’s even harder when your clearance needs to come from a superstar astronaut orbiting the earth at 28,000 kilometres per hour at an altitude of about 370 kms.
Like millions of people, I’ve been awed and inspired by the photographs of earth being distributed via social media by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, now commander of the International Space Station.
On the last day of the Christmas holidays I discovered he was also composing and recording original music from space. I became captivated by his song “Jewel of the Night” and thought it would make a great soundtrack for his photos.
Filled with enthusiasm, I cut a video. Then I posted it to YouTube … and showed no one. The settings were private.
Although Hadfield’s photos are being widely disseminated, his music is published under a standard YouTube license as opposed to Creative Commons. The standard license doesn’t allow users to reuse or remix.
Proud as I was of my little music video, I needed permission from Hadfield to make it public.
First I tried tweeting @Cmdr_Hadfield directly. At that time, he had 20,000 followers and I was optimistic because he was responding to tweets.
It didn’t work. I tried emailing the Canadian Space Agency to secure permission, but Hadfield’s social media following was growing exponentially.
The CSA directed me to change my YouTube settings to “public” so Hadfield could see it, but I agreed not to publicize that it was there.
That didn’t work either. Hadfield quickly became a social media sensation. I thought about all the god-knows-how-many people who violate YouTube copyright licenses every day. But I’m a stubborn woman and doing that would be wrong. Also, as a journalism professor, I need to walk the talk on copyright.
Last week, thanks to @CBCCommunity, I learned that Hadfield’s 27-year old son is helping out with his social media. His name is Evan Hadfield and he’s a smart young man, living in Europe, who describes himself in self-deprecating fashion as an “internet janitor”. In hindsight, it all makes sense. How could an astronaut who now has more than 560,000 followers on Twitter manage his own social media presence?
One quick email to Evan, and permission was granted.
Without further ado, here’s my video, with thanks to Evan Hadfield and, of course, Chris Hadfield, for inspiring us all.