Ottawa Citizen apologizes to David Bowie for ‘Space Oddity’ accusation

In May, the Ottawa Citizen published an op-ed from a university professor that began with an accusatory opening line:  “David Bowie stole a piece of Canadian culture on Wednesday.”

It was dead wrong.

The piece claimed Bowie was personally responsible for having astronaut Chris Hadfield’s version of “Space Oddity” removed from YouTube. Professor Blayne Haggart wrote that “the world was only allowed to see the video because Bowie had granted Hadfield a one-year license to show it. On May 14, the license expired and Hadfield removed it from public view.”

Today, the paper apologized for the error. Turns out Bowie does not own the copyright for that song, and he in fact made efforts to try and get the owner to give the necessary permissions.

The apology reads in part:

One year later, the Citizen erroneously published that Mr. Bowie had granted the original licence but failed to renew the licence after one year. The commentary published by the Citizen also erroneously implied that Mr. Bowie was the reason the video had to be removed from YouTube and questioned how his actions could have “made the world a better place.” The article caused an immediate reaction by thousands of fans worldwide, and this incorrect information was picked up by hundreds of other news sources around the world.

On behalf of Blayne Haggart and ourselves, we regret the error and we sincerely apologize to Mr. Bowie as well as all his fans around the world.

Also of note is the URL of the apology: It clearly needed to run exactly as drafted, perhaps for legal reasons.

So far, the apology has been written up by USA Today.

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  • Riot Nrrrd™

    I believe that is the ONLY song Bowie does not own the copyright to, from what I’ve been reading.

    No clue how this company originally ended up with it. But given that it was originally written in 1967, and given the later Visconti connection, I can’t help but think it was a combination of “I’m skint, who can I sell the publishing to, Tony?” “Well I know a publishing company … “

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  • skirtsteak

    How did he get the copyright to Space Oddity? Does he own other Bowie copyrights?

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  • Riot Nrrrd™


    The copyright holder on “Space Oddity” is actually an organization called “Onward Music Ltd.”, which was a publishing arm of Fly Records, an obscure ’70s label owned by a certain David Platz. Fly Records’ first release was T-Rex’s “Ride A White Swan”, produced by long-time Bowie producer Tony Visconti.

    After David Platz’s death his son Simon Platz inherited it. Simon has his own umbrella media company called Bucks Music Group in London. If you go to the home page of Bucks Music Group it explicitly says

    “Bucks Music Group is an international and independent music publisher, whose core business evolved from a strong 60s and 70s back catalogue of copyrights including classic songs A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Space Oddity and She”