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Space Government The Courts News

Lawyers In Space... 553

colonist writes "The Christian Science Monitor presents an interesting overview of space law. Some want space to be shared by all: 'Outer space is a province of all mankind. There is not, and should not be, any privatization of outer space. It is a common thing that should belong to all.' Some people have claimed parts of the moon or Mars. In response, a lawyer has claimed the sun, 'to show how ridiculous a property-rights system in outer space would be if it were based solely on claims unsubstantiated by any actual possession.' The Space Settlement Initiative wants official recognition of land claims made by those who establish human settlements on the moon or Mars."
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Lawyers In Space...

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  • by BaldGhoti ( 265981 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:54AM (#9888934) Homepage
    Dibs on Uranus!
    • > Dibs on Uranus!

      Obligatory goatse link [censored]
    • Your Sig (Score:2, Insightful)

      by scotch ( 102596 )

      chmod +x /bin/laden

      The first time I saw your sig, I thought, "heh - funny". But really, what does it mean?
      You want to allow Bin Laden to continue to exist. To get rid of him, 'rm' would be more appropriate.
      But you want to make it so that he, his fellow Al Quaidians, and anyone in the world can run him.
      If he supports options, anyone can use him against any target they deem fit, e.g. /corporate/america, or /monarchies/saudi_arabia

      Expect a visit from your favorite 3 letter agency shortly.

  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:55AM (#9888948)
    What do you call 100 lawyers on the moon?

    A good start.
  • by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <valuation&gmail,com> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:55AM (#9888951)
    Damn, and here I thought I was about to read about a proposal to kick all the lawyers off the planet!
    • by NETHED ( 258016 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:59AM (#9888991) Homepage
      Me too. I was imagining briefcases full of worthless paper, gavils, and thier owners floating up in space.

      And about the BMWs, leave them here for me.

      I'd let them increase my taxes if they got rid of the lawyers. But alas, never going to happen as the tax increasers (politicians) are lawyers.
      • It always disappointed me that the Lawyers were the ones that become politicians. Kinda makes for a self perpetuating system of complex laws. What incentive do politicians have to simplify the legal system?

        I think it should be a constitutional amendment that Lawyers are not allowed to hold public office. If you pass the bar you have to sign something that says you will never be allowed to run for public office. Or at least have a restriction that you have to give up your certification for 10-20+ years.
        • by provolt ( 54870 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:35AM (#9889395)
          I think it should be a constitutional amendment that Lawyers are not allowed to hold public office.

          You know, you are so right. Lawyers shouldn't be able to make laws. Anyone who has spent time studying the law, obviously knows too much to be able to write a good law. We need more amature law makers. I'm sure they would do a much better job.

          You idea has so much merit that I think we should extend it further. Computers are very difficult to understand for people who know anything about how computers work. I think we need to pass a constitutional ammendment that prevents those have studied computer science or engineering from designing computers. It should make for much better computers that everyone can understand.

          Perhpas we should extend this to doctors and writers as well. I don't want complex medical advice. I wouldn't want to read a book by someone who has studied writing.

          Ok, enough with the sarcasm. It's just that your idea is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever had the displeasure of reading.
          • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:47AM (#9889541) Journal
            It would be a dumb idea if it were not for the fact that law has become so complex without good reason what so ever other than the basic reason of being complex. I would agree with some of your sarcasm as I have seen it several times. How many computer consultants perpetuate a problem to make money rather than fix it? How many Doctors prescribe drugs because of their kickbacks and not because of a real need?

            I never said someone who studied law shouldn't be allowed to make it, I said someone who is/was recently a lawyer shouldn't be allowed to go into public office.
            • It would be a dumb idea if it were not for the fact that law has become so complex without good reason what so ever other than the basic reason of being complex.

              Law has become so complex for the good reason that the scope of human social and economic interactions has become so complex. It's the same reason why the Code of Justinian is more complex than the Code of Hammurabi.

            • "complex without good reason..."

              Well, that's the problem. Most of the time, it becomes complex for very very good reasons, but neither you nor most people out there have the time to bother with those intricacies, so you don't see the reasons...

              This is similar to a situation many of us as developers are familiar with -- you come into a new project, see the code, and it seems waaay too complex for what it's doing. Your initial reaction is always to junk it and rewrite everything.

              Then you start looking at
        • by justanyone ( 308934 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:45AM (#9889495) Homepage Journal
          Lawyers are not allowed to hold public office

          This kind of thinking causes big problems!

          Follow me here... Politicians are people who (a) WRITE LAWS and (b) ENFORCE LAWS. I very much like it that my legislators, who we put there to write good laws, see inconsistencies and opportunities for improvement within existing and proposed laws, and create the legal framework for our society.

          Further, when we have wiener-politicians who don't understand the law either create or enforce them, they end up causing lots of problems for both the public and the courts.

          So, PLEASE elect lawyers as politicians, that's one thing they're good for. Further, please elect experienced lawyers that know their way around case law so they don't have to get on-the-job experience at taxpayer expense (where expense is measured in the human terms of suffering under misworded statutes).

          Of course, everyone in a legislature doesn't have to be a lawyer, just so there's enough of them there to point out when something is jurisprudentially incorrect.

          • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:16PM (#9889911) Homepage
            Thank you! This country would be hell without lawyers as politicians. Why? Because the earmark of a good lawyer is the ability to find weaknesses - weaknesses in your opponent's arguments and weaknesses in the law. These are the things that also make a good politician. What, do you want to vote for someone who isn't going to be able to find weaknesses in the side whose views you oppose to exploit? Do you want to vote for someone who isn't going to catch the loopholes or subtle consequences in a bill that someone else tries to sneak across?

            Of course not. You want a person who, in addition to supporting your views, knows how to persuade when needed, to exploit when needed, and to find legal weaknesses, all to get your viewpoint across. Otherwise, your side is going to get trounced. Now, I'm not saying that lawyers are the only people who can do this, or that all lawyers can - far from it. But, the earmark of an effective lawyer is the same thing as the earmark of an effective politician.

            Lawyers are pretty demonized in this country - only used car salesmen are demonized worse. But they do serve a vital role. Not every one is an "ambulence chaser" - lawyers are also the people who fight the DMCA, who fight the religious right's attempts to force prayer in public schools, the ones who fight legitimate malpractice cases, etc. They're also the people who defend the DMCA, defend the religious right, and fight bogus malpractice claims. They're people; plain and simple. You need someone digging through everything on both sides if you want even a chance, however small, of true justice being upheld.

            Will it always happen? Of course not. Not all lawyers are equal, and even the best lawyers don't always manage to give a full view of both sides. Some juries and judges can be biased. But they're an important part in trying to get the truth out.
        • Yeah great! You know what would be better engineers running this country!

          Of course then NOTHING would ever work again, but we'd all have fun trying to figure it out!

          Sheesh can you imagine the tax forms, their complicated now, can you imagine what would happen if we putt Mechanical Engineers in charge?

        • On the contrary, this makes perfect sense. How in the world do you expect someone without legal training to understand, let alone *write* new laws? Thats like being disappointed that people with degrees in computer science go on to get jobs writing software.
  • I take Mars! Bwahahaah. Those rovers are now MINE.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:56AM (#9888963)
    So can I sue this lawyer if I get skin cancer?
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:59AM (#9888989)
      Sure, and he will claim that you owe him money for using his rays without consent/payment.
      • Re:So can I sue (Score:3, Informative)

        He can't do that, anymore than someone who blasts music from his property over a loudspeaker system can charge passersby for the music they are listening to.

        This is as opposed to the damage done by his rays, of course. You're legally obligated to not harm people by emissions from your property (shelling the neighbors is always considered a bad thing)

        • Re:So can I sue (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ArsonSmith ( 13997 )
          but yet someone blasting my property with television signals from outer space can charge me for there "service"????

          Sorry your argument doesn't hold up.

          • Re:So can I sue (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DaHat ( 247651 )
            Those signals your property is being blasted with are harmless... or at least as is known today (think future suits!)

            The "service" they charge you for is the privilege of their proprietary method of decoding said signals. Not unlike you buying a radio or renting a solar panel.
      • He better pay the licensing fees on my new patent "How to make skin brown by lying in the Sun" first. YOU ALL BETTER PAY DAMMIT!
      • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:18AM (#9889204) Homepage
        He is currently pushing for the DMRA (Digital Millenium Ray Act) that will dictate how and when you are allowed to use those rays, even though you have paid for them and even though they are broadcast into your own space regardless.

        Technology is under development that will strictly govern the ways in which you are able to use his sun's rays, and will monitor your ray use for marketing purposes and of course to ensure that you aren't pirating rays.

        Any circumvention of this control on your use of rays or any unauthorized use of rays, even those that filter through your windows uninvited, will be a federal solar system offense, punishable by up to 15 years in a federal solar system prison and a 1,000,000,000 fine.

        Such stiff penalties are necessary because of the vast quantities of solar radiation involved, which, if totaled, represents a truly staggering amount of currency. In fact, the sun's owner estimates that he loses over $1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ,000,000 per year to unauthorized and unpaid for photon use, not to mention such black-hat practices as the storing of solar radiation using contraband such as solar cells or the growing of plants from pirated photon streams, which can then be consumed later for energy, with the net effect that the individual in question eventually gains solar energy without having licensed or paid for it.

        "We're working hard to ensure that everyone is complying with the law and can enjoy the sun's rays safely and legally, while still supporting the sun," says the sun's owner. Privately, though, he hints that the loss of revenue due to unpaid for photon use may eventually destroy the giant, causing it to go red and eventually fade into a much smaller, more dense star.
    • At the very least, he could probably be charged with maintaining an attractive nuisance. IANAL but I can't help but wonder if you're allowed to stipulate to something claimed by the other party even when they don't have the law on their side - is that a ruling that needs a contest, in other words? Probably so, and he could always retract in any case, but it'd be interesting whatever happened. Who wants a headline?
      • At the very least, he could probably be charged with maintaining an attractive nuisance.

        Nah, he'd just have the judge declare that it didn't have jurisdiction over the Sun.

  • when i get skin cancer i am suing him for toxics from his property "leaking" onto mine.
  • Possession != Right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Louis Savain ( 65843 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:57AM (#9888976) Homepage
    'to show how ridiculous a property-rights system in outer space would be if it were based solely on claims unsubstantiated by any actual possession.'

    Even actual possession does not give you a right to anything. Someone else may come along and kick your sorry ass off the land (or your space rock), as history has shown time and time again. These planets and stars have been around for billions of years, how can any Johnny-come-lately dare think any of it should belong to him?
    • by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:00AM (#9889011) Journal
      The piece of rock we are standing on has been around for a while too, and we seem to be doing a great job of claiming it. Personally, if someone wants to pay to "own" some nebula - let them. They will also have to deal with things like - eminent domain, and abandanment laws, as well as the property taxes (come on we need to fund the NASA school somehow).
      • eminent domaineminent domain
        We saw how this turns out when the Vogons come through your little neck of the woods to build a space bypass.
      • It was caused by your nebula, pay up.

      • Actually, you have hit one what I have thought the real solution to these jokers has been all along. As soon as someone tries to make money off of any of these claims (charging NASA for "parking" on Eros, claiming trespass for missions landing on the moon or mars, etc.), we should see tax law revised to consider these rights as real property taxable in the jurisdiction in which the owner lives. Tell the guy who is trying to charge NASA for parking, sure, here's your $10,000, but we have determined the va
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:08AM (#9889105)
      These planets and stars have been around for billions of years, how can any Johnny-come-lately dare think any of it should belong to him?
      That's supposedly how the Indians felt when the white man first offered to buy their land. They accepted the deal thinking they were getting money for nothing - how could you really own anything you didn't create and couldn't carry with you? Now it's hard for us to see things that way.

      10 years ago there was a real question over ownership of "cyberspace." Some of us thought it should be an apolitical place where real-world laws need not apply. Want to register the domain name for yourself? Why not? Who ever said copyrights applied to the Internet? Now it's hard to remember how that made sense.

      I predict that in 500 years, today's questioning whether property rights should hold in space will seem just as quaint and hard to understand. People never fail to fence things off and keep them for themselves if they can.

    • Johnny-come-lately
      You've been watching too many of those BT ads featuring Jeremy Clarkson lately, mate!
  • Star Registry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:58AM (#9888980) Journal
    Come on, I am slowly but surely taking over all of space by registering stars at the US Patent office. Do not worry - I have about 100 constellations now - talk about prime time real-estate.
    For those who want to claim the SUN and charge the rest of us an energy bill - well as long as you can build an office on the sun, you can have it :)
    • Re:Star Registry (Score:4, Informative)

      by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:03AM (#9889048) Homepage
      I was just thinking about that [], but soon ran across this [], The International Astronomical Union, which "dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of "selling" fictitious star names or "real estate" on other planets or moons in the Solar System. Accordingly, the IAU maintains no list of the (several competing) enterprises in this business in individual countries of the world. "

      • The star registry is a cheesy feel good that you give to your 5 year old. While *ideally* I would like to think that an intelligent adult does not believe the star registry actually holds any water - I am not holding my breath. And even if it did hold any water, by the time we can reach the nearest star - well lets just say I am not expecting anything within the next 200 years - unless a eureka occurs, the people will be dead and the patents will expire.
  • by Dagny Taggert ( 785517 ) <hankrearden AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:58AM (#9888987) Homepage
    ...exploration really takes off, property rights will become of paramount importance. In fact, I predict that, in the next 100 years, there will be a terrestrial war over something in our Solar System that is rich in minerals. While I have no love for lawyers, the forward-thinking people in our society had better work this stuff out NOW.
    • It will be expressed using weapons, just as any other property "law" throughout history. "Law" is just an articulated metaphor for a self-legitimated monopoly on the use of deadly force.

      There will be war(s) in space as soon as enough people get out there to try to claim it. Whoever wins these wars will write the first chapter in the case law and/or war history of space "property rights."
  • No property? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bookemdano63 ( 261600 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [onadmekoob]> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @10:59AM (#9888994)
    Even hinting that property and commercial enterprise is not going to be possible in space is a sure way to cripple space exploration. All large scale exploration is done for either commericial or military gain, take your pick.
    For the near future though, exerting property rights over anything you can not "meaningfully control" goes against all the common law up to this point.
    • I agree totally, except that military gain *is* commercial gain. The only way to own something is to stand on it with some equivalent of a big stick and make sure no-one else claims to own it.

  • Force (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:00AM (#9889006) Homepage
    This question will be settled by force, not law. If an offworld entity decides to split from the homeland, it will be a question of enforcement against them as to whether they can be brought to heal or whether they get to float freely. Note that they would need to be truly offworld, as any trace of their entity on Earth (a corporation, a nation state etc.) could be penalised much more easily.

    Does this situation sound familiar to any US-based people? As a hint, it sounds fairly familiar to me as a Brit.


    • The Outer Space Treaty (the one prohibiting nations from claiming pieces of offworld real estate might trump that.

      Too bad noone is on the moon now to bring a case before the World Court. Might be interesting to see....

    • Paradigm shift (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ZeroGee ( 796304 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:16AM (#9889189)
      As a hint, it sounds fairly familiar to me as a Brit.

      The problem with what you're describing is you're assuming that all the space settlements will be done by terrestrial governments, causing an independence-day event, 2176.

      While we had the Dutch East India Companies providing the transport, the future space model will not be the same. You won't see US Colonies, or Chinese Colonies -- the costs are too prohibitive to be justified to a terrestrial power. The paradigm is shifting to true private enterprise, and the space colonies will be a "FutureCorp" colony and a "Maximum Space Travel" colony.

      You want to be a colonist? Sign up at FutureCorp's office. They'll hire a "Governor" who was a former Senator but wants to make more money (and escape sex scandals). You'll have a new allegiance, that to the company.

      These ventures will still have terrestrial presences, but will paricipate on a level playing field with other nations, representing the concerns of their space-based constituency.
      • Re:Paradigm shift (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mccalli ( 323026 )
        The problem with what you're describing is you're assuming that all the space settlements will be done by terrestrial governments...The paradigm is shifting to true private enterprise, and the space colonies will be a "FutureCorp" colony and a "Maximum Space Travel" colony...These ventures will still have terrestrial presences, but will paricipate on a level playing field with other nations, representing the concerns of their space-based constituency.

        Government-based, private corporation colony-based, com

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:01AM (#9889016)
    - Hal..
    - HAL?!
    - Yes Dave
    - Let me in, I have a case to prosecute
    - I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that
  • by Vexler ( 127353 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:01AM (#9889019) Journal
    I really don't see the need to add hot gas to more hot gas.
  • If he owns the Sun, he's liable when the next solar flare knocks out communications satellites. He could only allow flares of a certain magnitude, to comply with zoning laws.
  • Space Law (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ddelrio ( 749862 )
    So if there is no posession in space, is there to be law? I'm wondering if there will ever be a time when mankind can escape government. Will we ever truly be free? Will there ever be an anarchists' haven?
  • by LittleGuy ( 267282 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:03AM (#9889045)
    Been there, done that...

    Heinlein's 'The Man Who Sold the Moon' []

    TOS' 'Court Martial' [].

  • Space is a good place for these trial laywers. Stick 'em out there and pull the plug on the air hose.
  • by ZeroGee ( 796304 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:04AM (#9889055)
    "Outer space is a province of all mankind," says Sylvia Ospina, a member of the board of directors at the International Institute of Space Law. "There is not, and should not be, any privatization of outer space. It is a common thing that should belong to all."

    This is completely untenable if you want development of space. Not to mention that the idea of space being a province of "mankind" is pompous; although we may be the only guys around locally, the entire universe isn't exactly our oyster.

    Companies aren't going to spend the hundreds of billions needed for facility developments on the Moon, Mars, Titan, and more without having property rights and mineral rights to those location.

    Keep it free, if you want -- but you'll also be keeping it bare.
    • Companies aren't going to spend the hundreds of billions needed for facility developments on the Moon, Mars, Titan, and more without having property rights and mineral rights to those location.

      Companies aren't going to spend hundreds of billions for those developments, period.

      No private enterprise has ever made an investment of anywhere near that size, especially when the payback would take decades, if ever.

      Any development of outer space will be strictly on a government-subsidized pork barrel basis fo

  • Seeing the phrase "Lawyers in Space" reminds me of the old Star Trek: The Lost Episode [] joke

    (Riker) "Good God captain! Those are humans floating straight toward the Borg ship with no life support suits ! How can they survive the tortures of deep space ?!"

    (Data) "I don't believe that those are humans sir, if you will look closer I believe you will see that they are carrying something recognized by twenty-first century man as doe skin leather briefcases, and wearing Armani suits"

    (Riker and Picard togeth

  • I'm all for it, assuming we don't bother to send life-support systems!
  • So now that he owns the sun, can he claim that our use of the light and UV radiation from the since is illegal decryption of a private algorithm and therefore illegal under the DMCA?

    That sunburn is proof enough that you decrypted our signal without licensed tools!
  • by BCW2 ( 168187 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:05AM (#9889066) Journal
    You can only claim something by being there in possesion. Just like the people who claimed land in North, Central and South America a few hundred years ago. Then you might want to defend it in order to keep it.

    Claiming something without the ability to take possesion is a waste of oxygen, something lawyers are good at.
    • You can only claim something by being there in possesion. Just like the people who claimed land in North, Central and South America a few hundred years ago. Then you might want to defend it in order to keep it.

      Claiming something without the ability to take possesion is a waste of oxygen, something lawyers are good at.

      Which is why a cursory skimming of the article will show you that the lawyer who claimed the sun did so to demonstrate that a claim without possession is stupid. This guy didn't claim the
  • before we make property claims like that, I'd like to know how lawyers would react if we suddenly discovered that we were not the only intelligent creatures in the universe. Worse, a stargate scenario, where aliens have claimed our solar system for a couple of millenia and haven't bothered to set any base or observation post. What would happen also, if someone were to claim a random star system that was later discovered to be inhabited by aliens with a much higher technology than ours? Before making land cl
  • by MBraynard ( 653724 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:09AM (#9889123) Journal
    This is what you expect when you get policy made by academic/"scientists." Communism has been damn near wiped off the face of the earth and only in acadamia does it still exist - and they seek to expand this to the stars.

    Imagine if these guys were around as the American west was being settled. Or when colonists were first ariving in the Americas.

    Actually, in the latter case it was. The pilgrims initially attempted a communist-style society - from each according to his means, to each accoreding to his needs. They nearly starved to death. The next season they switched to a more capitalistic system and wound up with a surplus.

    These clowns continually ignore the metaphysical truth that property rights are causal. If an individual cannot do as he chooses with the crops he grows grow, he will not willingly grow them. While you can compel an individual to grow them at the point of a gun, you cannot use the same method to get him to invent ways to harvest more efficiently. Brute force compulsion cannot inspire innovation - just manual labor at best.

    Preventing private property rights in space will provide no incentive to develop it. The solution is simple - roll out like America's Western expansion. You can't claim anything until you set foot out there, and put some reasonable limit on how much land each individual can claim when there is a shortage.

    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) * on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:34AM (#9889380)
      You can't claim anything until you set foot out there, and put some reasonable limit on how much land each individual can claim when there is a shortage.

      How about this:

      1) If you land on an object <100km on its longest axis and remain for one year, it's yours in perpetuity. If you leave before then, the object becomes unowned.
      2) If you land on an object >100km on its longest axis and remain for one year, a circle around your landing spot 100km in diameter is yours in perpetuity. No-one else may land in your circle during your first year for the purpose of claiming ownership (tho' they can of course visit if you let them) and if you leave, the land becomes unowned.
      3) If you land on an object on which insufficient land remains for your 100km circle, and you remain for one year, you get the largest possible circle without overlapping anyone elses around your landing point. If you feel hard done by, you should've picked something else to stake your claim on.

      There, property rights in space solved.
      • relativity (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kahei ( 466208 )

        Relativity effects make rules based on length of occupation difficult. If I find 10 objects that are travelling in a group at some vast speed relative to earth, I can easily stay on each of them for a year (earth time) without having to even unroll my space sleeping bag.

        Of course, my claim, travelling as a radio message, may not arrive on earth for years... my lord, think of the effect on patent law! *shudder*
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:00PM (#9889730) Homepage
        What happens if you send a probe to land on a spot on Mars and begin construction over a 5 year period of an elaborate base. Then somebody else beats you to occupying it?

        Any reasonable scenario for inhabiting another planet will probably involve robotic fabrication long before humans show up.

        Or, suppose the USA begins a 100 year extensive multi-quadrillion-dollar project to terraform Mars. Does it gain the entire planet as a result? Or can anybody land on the new paradise and stake their own claim as soon as the air is remotely breathable?

        There are going to be a number of murky issues for some time to come. Things like this used to be settled via might-makes-right - but they didn't have nuclear weapons back then. Going all out at war over ownership of a big piece of land used to be commonplace - now it would just kill off the entire human race.

        The problem is that settling an asteroid or planet could be very expensive. If there is no ownership incentive, then it won't be tried - except by isolated research teams. The most effective way to inhabit a planet like Mars is probably full-scale terraforming. It would probably be the cheapest solution on a planetwide scale, but of course it would cost a fortune. Unless you end up with a single Earth governemnt which can just tax the entire human race to pay for it, how do you reward the people who come up with the funds?
    • "The pilgrims initially attempted a communist-style society - from each according to his means, to each accoreding to his needs. They nearly starved to death. The next season they switched to a more capitalistic system and wound up with a surplus."

      Hmm...perusing the manifests of the ships does betray a lot of long range thinking such as 'How am I going to survive through the winter on several pairs of shoes'. The Pilgrims were overconfident and failed to bring goods enough to survive. Later they achiev
  • Having just finished reading this book [] I have to say another land grab is not an enticing proposition.
  • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:10AM (#9889132) Homepage
    Um, the article is dated May 06, 2002. Don't we have anything new to discuss?
  • A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..
    There was a gigantic court room, called the SCOstar, was set up in space, threatening those who live in peace on the planets below. The court room, and all space around it are owned by a group of people called, "The Lawyers", and their enigmatic leader, Darth McBride.
    However, in a small planet, a new rebel leader was born, his name was Linus Tuxwalker, and he had the power of source.
    After much training he joined a rebel force who found a weakness in the
  • important... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by feelyoda ( 622366 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:11AM (#9889147) Homepage
    If you want private space ventures, you need private property rights in space. Otherwise, there is little incentive to do commercial ventures. Since the discovery of the new world, private property has been a key to getting people interested in coming. I would suggest that a human or robotic presence would be enough to claim a certain surface area of land on a planet or asteroid, if it had not yet been claimed. This way, there will be few disputes, as a first landing will be obvious, and the incentives to expedite exploration are clear. What people fail to realize also is that having private property also means that it can be changed hands in a market. It wasn't like when America was owned by a few folks and everyone else in the world said "drat, now no one else will ever be able to own land!"
    • Re:important... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:24AM (#9889277)
      Yeah because the rights of the Native Americans and Aboriginees to their respective traditional lands and hunting grounds really discouraged settlemnents of their continents because their presence was respected as a claim.

      Presence is not enough to claim anything when someone greedier and with bigger/better weapons comes along. Based on a lot of our history we really can have no complains if an advanced alien race comes along and says 'oh look a nice shiny blue/green planet, we'll have that for the kids to play on, just kill those pesky humans first so the kids dont pick up any germs'.
  • I suspect that we will never have mass settlements on Mars (or anywhere else). Why? Because it's a unique environment. The preservationists undoubtedly will want to keep it pure so it can be studies without earthly contamination. That will certainly happen in the short term; the longer term? I can't say for sure, but I suspect that everytime someone will try to pass a bill allowing settlements, they will find a reason that more study is needed.

    It's not iron-clad in my mind, but it's my gut feeling.

    Besides, except for a few wackos, I really doubt that many people will want to live there. Mars is a big freakin' rock! Sure, some sci-fi geeks /think/ they want to go, but generally people need some green.

    The future of space settlements is in manufactured settlements with earth-like environments (and spin-gravity), not planetary settlements.

  • A la Kubrick (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cynic10508 ( 785816 )
    When I read "Lawyers in Space..." I immediately heard the Blue Danube while picturing an attorney, briefcase clutched firmly in hand, slowly spiraling his way through space.
  • Space and commerce (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) * on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:17AM (#9889195)
    . There is not, and should not be, any privatization of outer space. It is a common thing that should belong to all
    It's hard to know where to begin to refute such stupidity. Space will not be a part of everyday life until it is economically viable; that is to say, until the value of things you can do in space exceeds the cost of getting into space in the first place. If it costs you USD 10Bn to get to an asteroid and back and you can bring back USD 11Bn worth of minerals with you, then getting a job in space will be no harder than getting a job on an oil rig, or in a mine. But if, as soon as you get back to Earth, your minerals are confiscated because they "belong to all", then why would you bother going? If your colony can be raided by anyone with a ship and there's no policing based on ownership, how is that different from your home being robbed now?

    Until and unless a legal framework for ownership of assets (perhaps by being the first to land on them and remain for a period of time) exists, space will remain the preserve of a self-perpetuating government-academic elite and a dream for the common man - but that common man's taxes are what'll pay for it all still. Once space is opened up to industry, then ordinary people can move there, and only then.
  • This sounds like a version of Monopoly. Instead of "Boardwalk," people could try to buy Mars, and the currency would be Monopoly money.
  • "People should wear protective sun screen, sun glasses, sun hat and drink plenty of water in order to avoid these inconveniences - but, if somebody were to sue me for damage provoked by the Sun, I do not think any court would be that unwise to consider their claims. By recognizing that I am responsible for the damage from the Sun, the court would implicitly recognize that I do indeed own the Sun - which is ridiculous".

    Sounds like something that Douglas Adams would write about, earthlings trying to own ev
  • by grunt107 ( 739510 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:20AM (#9889236)
    Property 'ownership' should be on physical presence basis. If business A spends $20 billion to create a sustained colony on Mars, then their buildings/development should be respected. If the colony discovers something like oil, they have rights to that oil since they spent the money/effort to get there (Hallimartian - CEO: Dick Cheney's head).

    This does not mean the entire planet is theirs.

    The sun cannot be 'owned' by anyone (that's 1 helluva Nomex suit if someone can land on the Sun).

    One the other hand, if there are indigenous inhabitants (future-speak) found on a planet, they trump the visitors.
  • They can be applied as long as our system here in earth is like that. Lets assume a little sci fi. Humanity runs into a new langrabbing phase, this time in space. As soon as they run into a superior alien race there is a high chance, that

    a)Either humanity gets their asses kicked and the laws and laywers go down with the rest of the system

    b) humanity adapts to the race and therefore stops landgrabbing, there goes capitalism as well in the long term These kind of things only can be applied as long as we r

  • by futuretaikonaut ( 772613 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:25AM (#9889278)
    ...which is divided up between a handful of nations for scientific research, and by treaty, it belongs to the "common heritage of mankind." That, if I recall correctly from my international law studies, is the same term applied to space. Both Antarctica and outer space belong to everyone in the world for common scientific study and use.

    Of course, the treaties around Antarctica would all go to pot if say, something like massive deposits of fuel oil or some other extremely profitable venture were discovered there...

    It's safe to say the same about space, too.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:36AM (#9889403) Homepage Journal
    As part of my efforts to commercialize space technology and operations [], I came to a simple realization []:

    People get all confused about the role of property rights and governments because the tax base has shifted from assets to income.

    If the tax base were on assets, where it belongs, it would be much more intuitive to people that government, when functional, provides an insurance service: it insures that property rights are protected.

    The simplest way of envisioning this is to imagine a reinsurance network where the reinsurer of last resort is what we call "the government". Where "citizen franchise" comes in is in the fact that during times of emergency, "governments" have historically conscripted able-bodied men (and to some degree and in some roles women) to enforce the property rights insured by the government. This citizen franchise is in the form of votes on things relating to the conscription of citizens but it also is in the form of exemption from certain other duties or taxes -- which would otherwise be paid in the form of insurance premiums.

    Imagine a situation in which if you declare something to be insurable, you do nothing more than pay your insurance premiums and that's the end of your tax liability. Certainly, the guys who run around the globe tormenting Muslims wouldn't like this -- since they would have to actually end up paying for the risks they bring upon themselves and others in places like the US, but really -- do the rest of us need atavisms like the World Trade Center that much?

  • by scampiandchips ( 741448 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:37AM (#9889408)
    There is a slightly similar situation in Antarctica, where a treaty exists in which no claims of ownership are recognised. I think its quite a common belief in some military circles that it could well be a serious point of conflict if any quantity of natural resources are found there. Its probably a very good model of how things might work for ownership of the moon and mars.
    From an antarctic website:
    In 1961, the Antarctic Treaty took effect with signatures from the twelve countries who participated in the IGY. The treaty is a surprisingly short and simple document, but it is one of the most successful international agreements ever made. It deals with issues regarding the future of Antarctica and recognizes that:
    The Antarctic Treaty guarantees four things: "Antarctica will remain open for scientific research to nations who agree to the treaty. No military bases can be built on the continent. There will be no testing of nuclear weapons or dumping of nuclear waste in Antarctica. No claims of ownership are recognized or denied, and no new claims of ownership can be made. Since the treaty took effect several additional countries have signed on and members have added laws to protect Antarctic plants and animals. In 1991, the treaty was further strengthened by the Protocol on Environmental Protection which defines Antarctica as a "natural reserve devoted to peace and science." Today, scientists maintain year-round research stations throughout Antarctica but it remains an untamed wilderness.
    • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:46AM (#9889529) Homepage Journal
      The problem with this is that:

      a) there is a strong presence of governments on earth that have signed on to the Antarctic treaty, while in outer space there is not. As a consequence, someone colonising a small part of a planet would likely be able to maintain effective possession of a land area there, and the longer they hold it the less likely it would be that it would be tolerable for many countries to try to remove them by force.

      b) Most of Antarctica has been claimed by one ore more states. If one were to ignore the antarctic treaty, there would be minimal basis for anyone else but some subset/intersection of the countries who have claims and the countries who maintain current scientific missions to Antarctica. As a result there is little possibility for a claim to have any shred of legal backing unless they get the support of one of the stronger claimaints. This could very well happen, but still presents an obstacle that's not present for outer space.

      I think you'll see property claims for outer space upheld eventually, but only once they can be defended by actual possession over a period of time.

      The current treaties aren't signed by nearly all nations, and they're furthermore written from a standpoint of the signatories and/or UN representing all of mankind and mankind having rights to pass laws for the entire universe. This again breaks down the moment there are practical means for someone to colonise outer space but not practical means to mount military operations to stop them. (Not to mention if there turns out to be life on other planets)

  • by SunCrushr ( 153472 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @11:53AM (#9889637) Homepage
    Anyone who studies history knows that "ownership" of any piece of land or other property can only be secured by the ability to defend that ownership.

    The USA is only owned by its people because we came together to claim such ownership and we have defended that ownership, even to the exent of war.

    Everything that a person owns in this country or in this world he or she only posseses by virutue of the law. It is our laws and law enforcement which defend your right to keep your property.

    So my point is, when it comes to claiming property on any unclaimed piece of land, on Earth or in Space, your right to that land can only be acheived by virtue of the law which is to say that the virtue of the people is what lets you claim land or property. If the people don't agree that the property is yours, your right to that property is forfeit unless you plan on defending your right to that property, which usually means either a lot of time in some sort of high court, or more probable: war. Let us not forget that the main reason war exists is because of the notion of property.

    There will be war in space, its not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
  • by Transcendent ( 204992 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:16PM (#9889909)
    Every single one I run into claims that the UN treaty prohibited government from claiming land on other planets or celestial bodies, but not individuals... but they are wrong.

    The Treaty [] states:

    "States bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, whether carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried on in conformity with the principles set forth in the present Declaration. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the State concerned..."

    Which basically means you can claim some land somewhere, but there's no way you can "back it up," so to speak. So what good does that do? That's the whole point of a government/nation... to protect your land and private interests.


    "Outer space and celestial bodies are not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."

    Notice how the used the term "nation" here, not government. This allows any group to be affected by this clause. For instance, the "Lunar Embassy" crack pot that sells land on other celestial bodies is concidered a nation (a relatively large grouping of people... grows with each idiot that buys land from them), and thus falls under this clause. Even if it were necessary for a group to be a government for this to apply, going by the definition of a government, this "company" would be catagorized as such.

    I'm with the Christian Scientists on this one...
  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:17PM (#9889922) Homepage Journal
    Someone else mentioned "The Man Who Sold the Moon" and there are a few other references worth mentioning. One is even fact, not fiction.

    Claiming bodies in space.
    Claiming space, itself. (sans bodies)

    First, a relevant boot was (ISTR) "Inherit the Stars" by Po?l, (Poul Anderson for Frederick Pohl) about the crew of the first (generation-style) starship trying to write a history for their future children, to understand their roots. The rest of the book was a series of vignettes in that frame. Many had legal ramificatons, one in particular was appropriate.

    It was about Earth, the Asteroid Republic, and the inhabitants of Vesta. The folks on Vesta felt like members of the Asteroid Republic, and acted that way. But technically, the (leading?) Trojans belonged to Earth, and Vesta was part of that group. So Earth wanted to 'enforce it's rights' and the Vestans weren't happy.

    They got Earth to see how much easier it would be to ship raw materials off Vesta if it was outside the Trojan's gravity well. So they built a mass engine to change the asteroid's orbit, slightly. As soon as the orbit changed, they were no longer in the Trojans, so no longer part of Earth. Their application to join the Asteroid Republic had already been prepared and submitted, and was quickly granted.

    This particular asteroid, being part of the Trojans, was defined by its orbit. Change the orbit, change the asteroid, effectively.

    To a more real case - Arthur C. Clarke.

    He figured out the concept of geosynchronous orbit. In these days, he could/would have patented it. Perhaps in past/future days he would have claimed it, and tried to rent it out.

    IMHO, some form of property rights are necessary in order to move into space. It does no good to do the hard work of improving a place, or even access to that particular space, only to have someone else jump in, claiming 'no property rights in space!' Reward for effort and investment is deserved. Mere gatekeepers are not. Sounds like IP Law.

    I have little confidence in Space Property Rights being developed with any more sanity that IP Law.
  • by jellybear ( 96058 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:29PM (#9890074)
    If no one owns the sun, no one will have an incentive to take care of it.
  • Property Taxes??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fbelch ( 9658 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:40PM (#9890224) Homepage
    If these people say they own the sun / moon / other celestial objects.

    Let's start charging them property taxes.

    Sun Example:
    6069871166000.84 square kilometers of surface (Approx)
    x $200 / square kilometer
    = $ 1,214,000,000,000,000 (Approx)
    + Processing Fees (Lawyers love them.. so they would be happy to pay them.).

    Of course the fees would be charged yearly... And interest would be charged on missed payments!

    After something like this, lets see how fast they give up these celestial objects!

  • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @12:58PM (#9890416)
    St. Expuery forsaw this, in satire. The best quotes:

    "How is it possible for one to own the stars?"

    "To whom do they belong?" the businessman retorted, peevishly.

    "I don't know. To nobody."

    "Then they belong to me, because I was the first person to think of it."


    Full text of the chapter: ter13.html
  • by focitrixilous P ( 690813 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @01:03PM (#9890445) Journal
    In response to the claims, a ship known as the "B Ark" will depart from Earth later this week to claim a portion of space for their own. The B Ark will be loaded with lawyers to ensure their claims are made legal.
  • by io333 ( 574963 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @03:57PM (#9892822)
    There is not, and should not be, any privatization of outer space. It is a common thing that should belong to all.

    Total Bullshit. Ownership of the space and all contained within a sphere from the Sun to the Ort cloud is the NATURAL RIGHT of the original inhabitants of this solar system: Us. If any deliquent ET tries to slip in through a wormhole in the middle of the night while we're sleeping we have every right to BLAST it!

    This is just a logical extension of the Monroe Doctrine: The Io333 Doctrine.
  • by superyooser ( 100462 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @05:15PM (#9893694) Homepage Journal
    Outer space is a province of all mankind. There is not, and should not be, any privatization of outer space.

    Excuse me, but isn't there enough [] for everybody?

    (All of this is pie in the sky anyway until we have better space transportation.)

  • by Lodragandraoidh ( 639696 ) on Thursday August 05, 2004 @05:50PM (#9894037) Journal
    I would expect squatter's rights to have presidence in most cases - unless, of course, 'moon men' or 'native martians' show up with the titles to the land.

    My question is, how did we go from nomadic tribesmen to our current property based system? Perhaps that would be instructive for future outer space explorers, realters and land speculators.
  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <> on Thursday August 05, 2004 @06:26PM (#9894362) Homepage
    The origin of property ownership basically comes down to one armed person or an armed group standing on a piece of land saying "This belongs to me/us, take it away from us if you can."

    I don't think the concept of property ownership or "common rights of humanity" will really mean much of anything unless and until we actually have people up there representing themselves or a government to assert a property claim.

    I prefer private ownership, nobody is going to put their own investment into a piece of property they do not have a legal right to, and if there is no private investment, there is no space colonization or industrialization.

    As to why this issue is likely to become a "live" one long before the lawyers expect it to, follow the link in my sig.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.