UseNet Discussion on Space Law,
November-December 1999
Abridged by Mark Prado

Jorge R. Frank

Doesn't it only forbid claims by governments? There are some saying that private claims are not forbidden, but there is simply no legal precedent in this area (leading some like SpaceDev to propose making just such a claim to test the law).

Of course, it is generally accepted (in the West, anyway) that one of the purposes of government is to protect private property rights, so it is hard to see how such claims would be secured.

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Matt Bille

Actually claiming an asteroid (or ANY celestial body) is prohibited by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which the US, all spacefaring nations, and almost all nations of the world have signed.

The Outer Space Treaty does not address such lesser claims as mineral rights. Those would have been addressed under the 1979 Moon Treaty, but this treaty has been signed by only a handful of nations, with none of the major space powers included.

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Henry Spencer

There is currently no provision in space law for staking claim to an asteroid. ... the 1967 Outer Space Treaty ... forbids territorial claims.

In orthodox international law, basically only governments exist. Lesser legal entities are creations of governments and can do things only because governments delegate some authority to them. If your government can't claim territory, you can't either.

The idea that government derives from the consent of the governed is historically a recent idea, and a fairly radical one, and it is by no means universally accepted.

In any case, international law is... different. To put it mildly. International law is half traditional divine-right government and half socialist groupthink. My original comment was slightly oversimplified -- note the "basically" -- but only slightly.

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Frank Crary

That isn't entirely correct. Given the existence multi-national corporations and people with dual citizenships, ``your government'' is a vague term. But a similar point still holds. If a government does not claim a given territory, that government can not enforce private claims to ownership. Otherwise that government has no jurisdiction under international law. So if no government can claim an asteroid, no government can enforce private claims to ownership. You might say that this just means the ``owner'' would have to enforce his own claim. But I don't think that would work. If memory serves, international law does not recognize or allow private use of force. For example, an armed ship at sea can only use force if it is acting on authority delegated by a government, otherwise, it is automatically a pirate and violating international law. The only loophole I can see is a claim by a powerful corporation which the corporation enforces by non-violent means (e.g. if LockMart claimed an asteroid, and threatened to stop launching satellites for anyone who violated their claim.) I think that would be legal, but it isn't terribly practical, since essentially no private companies have the sort of pull it would require (in the LockMart example, someone interested in challenging the claim might just say, ``Fine, we'll launch on Protons.'')

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Hume@aol.com

There is a great deal of precident in international law that states that if a government is prohibited from doing X that the citizens of the government are also prohibited from doing X.

Else, these treaties will not be any good. Circumventing treaties by allowing one's citizens to do what one's government is prohibited from doing would become standard procedure. Therefore, governments readily accept the idea that what is prohibited of nations is prohibited of the people of a nation.

Where the treaties say that governments can not place weapons of mass destruction in space, it pretty much means that private individuals and corporations can not place weapons of mass destruction in space as well.

Where the treaties say that no government may claim sovereignty over a body in space, it pretty much means that private individuals can corporations can not make claims of sovereignty over a body in space as well.

It is not unreasonable to expect that, if a private entity were to claim a body in space, the courts would apply these precidents to rule the claim invalid. Which would create a very unfortunate precident that will damage all attempts to commercially develop space.

Indeed, I don't think that any greater harm could be done than to prematurely force this decision from the courts.

This does not mean that all is lost. It is possible to claim "property" in geosynchronous orbit. That is, companies and countries can claim a volume of space for their satellite from which they can exclude others and which they can use (within certain limits) to realize a profit or some other value. The International Telecommunications Union hands out these property rights (for a fee).

And so an avenue exists for setting up some sort of system that would allow property rights to bodies in space (or portions of bodies) as well.

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Jon Lennart Beck

. I was wondering: oil companies extracting oil and gas on the seabed do not own that seabed as such. Instead they are given concessions (at a price: I disremember if they have to pay for the concession itself *apart* from paying taxes) from the nation-state having sovereignty over the waters in question. Look at the North Sea.

And so we get to Article 11, Paragraph 5 of the (mainly unratified) Moon Treaty:

5. States Parties to this Agreement hereby undertake to establish an international régime, including appropriate procedures, to govern the exploitation of the natural resources of the moon as such exploitation is about to become feasible. This provision shall be implemented in accordance with article 18 of this Agreement.

When this treaty speaks of the Moon, any celestial body other than the Earth is actually implied.

So: would it not be possible to set up such a body to award concessions for companies to mine/haul such-and-such asteroid, paying such-and-such a percentage of profits? Of course there would be a *lot* of wrangling over who would form that body and how the money be distributed.

Jon L. Beck.

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Robert Bynum

Any treaty is only as good as the signatories willingness or ability to enforce. Let one nation break the treaty and get away with it and everyone will break it.

Another question is what constitues a nation in space? On the Earth georgraphy determines national borders along with population demographics. In space this is going to be blurred. Once a good level of self sufficency is established what is to prevent any group of people declaring they are a nation and since the new nation is not a signatory of the Outer Space Treaty they can claim space real estate. Or for that matter any new nation on Earth can do the same. Can we say Tonga Space ?

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Lost somewhere:

> The idea that government derives from the consent of the governed is > historically a recent idea, and a fairly radical one, and it is by no > means universally accepted. > > In any case, international law is... different. To put it mildly. > International law is half traditional divine-right government and half > socialist groupthink. My original comment was slightly oversimplified -- > note the "basically" -- but only slightly.

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Jonathan Goff

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Another subthread:

Bill Mook

All celestial objects. That's pretty inclusive.

The only exception recognized by these treaties (which also include the oceans of earth!) are certain land areas of Earth.

Since the bulk of the Earth is owned by governments, free enterprise operates on a far smaller range than most folks realize. Its amazing that the entire wealth of the world flows from such a small portion that's privately owned. Its too bad we can't make better use of the 40 billion acres here.

If you take the trouble to read the treaties the vision of the existing treaties was clearly socialist. They had a long range vision and that vision didn't include private ownership anywhere! The treaty tolerated private ownership as an historical abberration.

This of course was wrong. Socialism and Communism and all the other statist fantasies it may turn out was the historical abberration.

> >If someone were to identify an asteroid as a valuable source of
> >some mineral or other resource could they stake claim to the
asteroid?
>
> Unless I've overlooked something, there is currently no provision in
space
> law for staking claim to an asteroid.

Yes. At first reading. But as a practical matter what do we do about it. Private entities have two choices. They can seek to change the treaty, or they can ignore it.

What if we ignore it? What then? Well, this hinges on several questions I don't have the answer to. Maybe others here do.

Lawyers, assume the following, someone has built a privately owned spacecraft and has obtained licensing from their national government to operate it in space. With this spacecraft they have;


a) flown it in space and with it
b) discovered a celestial object that
c) humanity didn't know existed prior to its discovery, and
d) made something valuable with the substance of that asteroid and e) returned that valuable something to earth and
f) sold it.

Would they keep their money?
Who would take their money if not?
Would they keep their freedom?
Who would lock them up if not?
Would they be able to do it again?
Who would stop them?
How would they be stopped?
What would the private entity's defense be in court at each of these steps?

> It makes sense that this will eventually have to change, but that's the > situation right now.

Which is one reason why no one is really interested in building private spaceships to capture asteroids and bring them back to Earth orbit to mine.

But I would urge folks more familiar with this law than I to consider the rights of easement! I mean, if you are allowed to build a bridge across a river and build it, you can claim rights of easement to gain access to it. It seems to me that if you have built a spacecraft capable of mining an asteroid and bringing the stuff profitably back to Earth, you'd have a strong easement claim.

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mlindroo

I don't understand this argument. As I see it, there appears to be nothing preventing you from mining an asteroid and then selling the refined products here on Earth... Why on Earth would anybody want to "own" an asteroid?? There are tens of thousands of them, so it's a bit like claiming ownership of a few square kilometers of ocean in the Pacific.

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Mark Prado

Not if you've spend millions of dollars of your own money and the best part of years of your life on a probe that goes out to do a geologic survey. Darn right whoever does this should stake a claim and say "stay off of my property".

Let's go back to the 1800s and be an old prospector going to Colorado. He makes great sacrifices by investing his best time, energy and money into his hunch. He finds gold (or tellurium or copper or whatever), does a complete study, characterizes a plot, and stakes a claim as private property. He is the first one to ever go there, and the only one. (Let's ignore those unfortunate "indians" for the sake of argument for asteroid mining.) He comes back and starts trying to raise capital by a stock company, by displaying his data in his case to potential investors.

If the courts decide that anyone can go mine his property, he's just lost all that money, time and effort he put in before he found the claim.

Also, that asteroid would turn into a place where the biggest robot wins (I think that's Jim Dunstan's line), or the biggest laser, or the first anti-transhab elephant gun wins.


> Fishermen seem to be able to "mine" the sea quite efficiently,
despite a
> lack of "private property rights".

Not the oil companies doing offshore exploration and production, an industry I'm somewhat familiar with (by occasional consulting to the companies who sell the drill bits and keep track of these things). Look at all those offshore plots. No property rights (e.g., longtime lease, sometimes with performance conditions), then no exploration, and no oil or natural gas production, and superpowers are back to threatening the Middle East people with another blood bath...

I don't think we're going to have a problem with the first court case, as long as the first entity doesn't leave it up to haughty, overconfident and careless lawyers. We have no shortage of good lawyers who've proven themselves in many ways in the space resources community over the many years, and I urge anyone who makes any plans along these lines to START with a good lawyer.

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Hume

There is a difference between what the law is, and what the law ought to be.

Though there are many good reasons for allowing individuals and corporations who go through the effort of prospecting an asteroid to claim property in that asteroid, this does not imply that the law allows this. At present, there is no place to "register a claim -- no laws or rules established."

For good or il (and I would say it is for ill)l, it is quite possible for a judge to rule that no valid claim to property in space is possible.

Property rights are, basically, rights to exclude others. Without property rights, the expense of mining an asteroid is put at risk due to the possibility that others, who could not be excluded, could capture the benefits of the operation. This risk is factored into the business equation to determine if any sort of risk is worthwhile. The higher the risk, the higher the return that is required to justify an investment.

A lack of property rights simply makes investing in space development less attractive to investors.

Thus, we get less investment in space development than we would have if people were allowed to make property claims.

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gbaikie

Instead of property rights why not something similar to copyright? And also there is a limited amount of "people" who can access space and if you can't get there, there is no need to have a law excluding you. So it's a matter between those able to get there. The courts have no power if their is no dispute between "the players". Now say someone "gets an asteriod" and starts mining it and another party tries to get that asteriod and makes profit from it, wouldn't that profit be at risk, because you are "stealing an idea". Or some other law could be used. Considering that McDonalds was sued for having it's coffee too hot- there seems to be plenty of room. If you are planning on risking capital in order to gain profit, why do anything that might risk it? I think that property right is simply a red herring. The first "person" who mines a asteriod will face the highest risk- once it's proven that is doable, then the risks will lower significantly- which also translates into lowering costs. The first "person" does have some advantages- by exploiting these advantages it might be possible to actually start the ball rolling- or maybe not.

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Hume:

The "first person" also has some disadvantages -- allowing others to see what could have been done differently (and better). In short, the second company has information available that the first person did not have -- the ability to learn from the first person's mistakes.

Getting the ball rolling depends upon the first company believing that the benefits exceed the costs. Lack of property rights generates clear uncertainties about what one can get from a venture, thus making it less attractive compared to other options. Nobody will start the ball rolling until the return they are certain about can reasonably be expected to exceed costs relative to other options.

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Hume replying to Baikie:

. It could even degenerate into a situation >similiar to 16th Century piracy.

One doesn't have to go back to the 16th century.

An example that keeps coming up in my mind is the situation in Butte, Montana, during the early part of this century.

Mining law was ambiguous. Basically, a person could follow any vein of ore that apexed in their property -- wherever they may go. These veins criss-crossed underground, so two companies following two veins on the surface could find themselves fighting over the same ore underground.

The result is known in Montana history as "The War of the Copper Kings." And battles took place not only in the courts, but with dynamite, shovels, and picks underground.

In the courts, it was later revealed that the judge in whose jurisdiction this war took place was bought and paid for by one of the participants.


> Also Space companies will want to follow the "golden rule" since they
> would be setting up precedent. Of course if they are not interested in
> the future or there is anarchy then forget it.

There are others besides space companies that have an interest in the results of this case.

There are those on Earth who believe that space should be the "common heritage of mankind." And they are likely to make sure to be heard in the courts and on the floor of the legislature as well.

And this generates additional risk for companies which seek to become involved in developing space. The benefit that one may obtain from harvesting resources from an asteroid needs to be discounted by the chance that those who hold such views may deny one property, or by creating conditions such as particularly heavy duties "due" to the rest of humanity on the grounds that the asteroid is, in fact, the "common heritage of mankind."

I fear that if a company should declare ownership of a particularly valuable set of resources in space, the result may very well be to force those who are left out to support programs and policies that deny the validity of the claim.

I can easily imagine a host of third-world countries, when a company does claim an asteroid or some other valuable resource, reasoning as follows: "These companies are using a loophole in the law to claim territory for emperialist Western powers. If we allow this to continue, it will be another example of the rich countries getting richer, while we get poorer. For what are these Western countries going to do with these asteroids but use them to gather resources that they now buy from us. We starve, while they prosper. The best way to prevent this tragedy is to join forces and demand that space resources be used for the "common heritage of mankind."

This might not happen. Nonetheless, there is a risk -- and it is a risk that any rational business person is going to figure into his or her decision about whether to go ahead with a space development project. The greater the risk, the less likely a company (or individual investor) will invest in this type of project.

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Mark Prado:

First, as regards copyrights, stealing business ideas, and the Compaq vs. IBM story, you're really in the field of patents, not copyrights. Patent law specifically excludes business methods from being patentable. IBM probably couldn't prosecute against clones because the original IBM mainboard was made up of many chips from many different companies made for the purpose of a standard computer with standard computer subfunctions. A U.S. Patent Section 103 rejection of a patent is based on a device or method which previously has not existed but which "would be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art". (Likewise, a section 102 rejection is on the basis that the device has already been invented by another entity and made public, patented or not.) It's a common myth that someone can come up with a fairly obvious variation, patent it, and deny others unless they pay royalties.

(My first job after graduation with my B.Sc. in physics was working in the U.S. Patent Office in Arlington, Virginia, as a patent examiner. That was before I started working for the Pentagon on advanced planning in the space program.)

Second, as regards asteroid prospecting and property rights, the right to claim property and exclude others may not be so vital an issue to business. A 100 meter diameter asteroid is over a million tons of material. That's a very small asteroid by today's standards of known near Earth asteroids -- the vast majority are much larger than this. Volume and approximate weight increase by radius ^3 for approximately spherical asteroids. (I know, they're weird shapes, but you get the point. No matter how you cut it, you get squares and cubes in there. 200 meters becomes not twice but 4 or 8 times the mass.) IN SHORT, there's enough room to have a lot of people mining away.

The first business could get some early revenue and cash flow by selling shovels and data.

The first business will have a significant jump on the others.

For any entity wanting exclusivity to the entire asteroid, it's imperative that the prospecting company not give away their prospecting data... but I find it hard to believe that any business plan will be this simple.

I also don't see much of a chance of the have-nots having much leverage, any more than they've had to date in similar realms. Besides, they will be better off with space resources utilized than without space resources utilized. Further, in the 21st century, I don't see how we can possibly mine but a small fraction of the asteroids near Earth. Then we will start moving out and beyond. All the infrastructure will become more accessible at lower prices to the current have-nots. It's happened field after field.

In my opinion, any entity that engages in the business of space resources needs a very good public relations team -- a group of DIVERSE people and one very personable spokesperson, to EDUCATE the public and PRESENT very influential and persuasive arguments -- best if you pre- empt the critics. The worst case is poor public relations. First impressions count in formation of peoples' opinions. The worst case scenario is a bunch of exclusive technical people who agree with and reinforce each other's opinions and overconfidence -- that gets you out on a limb, plus any defending of faulty arguments just damages your image further.

Notably, while rockets and communications satellites are a strength of western companies and countries, we're on much more even ground when it comes to mining and materials processing of space resources. And THAT's where the patents are. You can make a strong case for patent based on experimental results (a law designed to reward investment in R&D). It is THIS, I believe, that will fuel the space race for a jump on the competition.

However, setting up a multinational and utilizing distributed human resources properly could have significant benefits politically, economically (offshore costs), and in terms of human resources as well. This is the approach I'm taking.

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Another thread:

Bill Mook:

Are you saying that mining can take place on Earth without any property rights? How would that work? I mean, if I went to the trouble to develop a mine and then anyone could 'jump my claim' with impunity, wouldn't it make more sense to wait until someone else does all the hard work, and then jump their claim?

Fishing is quite different than mining. The fish grow in the wild, and in the absence of over fishing, are an abundant renewable resource. Rich lodes of ore once found and developed are quite different than fish.

Also, fishers have licenses and such so that their rights to their catch are clearly spelled out, as well as their tax liability.

Are you saying that asteroid miners today could keep their 'catch'? And that their tax liability is clearly spelled out? If so, please elaborate!

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Hume

From: Thomas Clarke tclarke@ist.ucf.edu

>Does anyone know if the treaties etc regarding space apply as far
>out as the asteroids?

Yes. They apply to all heavenly bodies. Strangely, they apply to distant plants that contain their own intelligent life (if there are any).

>If someone were to identify an asteroid as a valuable source of >some mineral or other resource could they stake claim to the asteroid?

Unknown. He could, of course, say "I claim this asteroid." But he could not register the claim anywhere (no place exists), and it not known how the courts would respond to such a claim.

There are people on Earth who have already "claimed" every body in the solar system, merely by announcing that they have done so, and are presently selling title to parcels of land based on that claim. The last time I checked, one company has made nearly $1 million in property sales. But no attempt has yet been made to enforce these property claims in court.

Treaties prohibit governments from claiming asteroids (or any other heavenly body), but some have argued that corporations and individuals are not governments, therefore may claim asteroids.

To counter this, treaties prohibit governments from putting weapons of mass distruction in space. Few would accept the interpretation that corporations and individuals are not governments therefore they may put weapons of mass destruction into space.

On the third hand, the Soviet Union has sold some of the material that it brought back from the moon. Meaning that, at least, governments can claim the resources that they take from outer space. Thus, if somebody finds a valuable asteroid and captures it in some sense, they can keep what they remove. They just can't claim what they leave behind.

[Economically, this is a very bad policy -- the failure to allow private property to resources not yet removed significantly increases the risk of obtaining a profit from space resources, thus decreases the attractiveness of investment in these types of activities.]

[However, the Soviet Union got nearly $500,000 for a very small sample, leading one American company-- Applied Space Resources -- to believe that it can make a profit by bringing back lunar material for sale on Earth using the Russian precident regarding ownership.]

On the fourth hand, though there are no procedures for acquiring property rights to bodies in space, one can acquire limited property rights to volumes of empty space in geosynchronous earth orbit by applying to the International Telecommunications Union.

>If so, would a fly by reconnaisance suffice, or would the asteroid have >to be physically visited?

There is no precident.

There is reason to believe that neither will be sufficient (for the reasons stated above). You can own only that which you can carry -- no more.

Furthermore, attempts to make such a claim to a valuable asteroid may further push acceptance of principles suggesting that property in space can not be claimed, since tthose countries and individuals who are not a part of the claim will certainly have an interest in blocking the company making the claim from acquiring ownship of such a valuable piece of space property.

Note that the lack of precident means that there is no clear "yes" or "no" answer to any of your questions. In the absence of clear direction, the courts themselves can create the law according to how they decide the first case that comes before them.

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Mark Prado:

In addition to the interesting responses to date by Hume and Mook, there are two web resources I'd like to suggest:

http://www.permanent.com/ep-legal.htm - a particular webpage approx. six screenfuls long that is based on my reading of published papers at conferences on this topic, and is published in my introductory and reference book on commercial utilization asteroidal and lunar resources.

http://www.permanent.com/archimedes - The Archimedes Institute, an entire website on space law, and arguably one of the very best on the net, originally created by Professor Lawrence D. Roberts, a former chair of the American Bar Association's Committee on United States Aerospace Law and Policy, current Chair of the A.B.A.'s Committee on International Aerospace Law, the National Space Society's Policy Committee and the X Prize Foundation's Law and Policy Committee ... and you can see all the top level institutions he has taught at, plus his quite impressive credentials. If you seriously need a good legal opinion on space, you want to include Prof. Roberts' opinion. The Archimedes Institute also has a few things of particular interest as regards this discussion:

A. Claims Office, including the Real Property Registration where you would claim an asteroid. (In the Claims Office section, you will find the instructions and forms necessary to register a wide variety of claims relating to space activity.)

B. Discussion forums (like this one) focussed on space law

C. Library for reference

As for Tom's question of how to claim an asteroid, the Real Property Registry addresses these issues in a particular way. Of course, there will always be issues and controversy in these matters... nevertheless, I think that anyone seriously interested in the issue of property claims of asteroids should be or become familiar with The Archimedes Institute.


Mark Prado
http://www.permanent.com
P.E.R.M.A.N.E.N.T. = Projects to Employ Resources of the Moon and Asteroids Near Earth in the Near Term

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Filip De Vos

Well, our hypothetical lawyer-miner conflict will occur at the beginning, just when asteroid mining begins to be possible. In that era, just being able to reach the damn rock will be the main problem. Also, surveilling and assaying data will not yet be available in any great quantity/quality, even if a probe first visited the asteriod in question: one of the duties the asteroid-miners will have on first touching dirt will be to calibrate probe-data with 'ground-thruth'.

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Bill Mook:

If we had the technology to make industrial use of asteroids right now, this would make sense. NASA along with other space agencies from other nations, would survey the entire solar system for industrial potential. The data would then be used by the UN or some similar body to assign rights for licenses. Sold by the government in a manner similar to the way underwater drilling rights are sold today.

However, the technology to make industrial use of asteroids does not exist at present. If private industry is to develop this technology the government must create an environment that clearly delineates rights and favors massive capital investments (taxation and regulatory relief).

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No, all claime. The UN has been pushing that it should own all extra terestrial teratory. They were pushing the same thing for the oceans. Kelly Starks KellySt@aol.com

"Humans are a race of compassionate predators."

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Jonathan Goff :

On 4 Dec 1999, Kelly St wrote:

> No, all claime. The UN has been pushing that it should own all extra > terestrial teratory. They were pushing the same thing for the oceans.

Well, they can push all they want, however if I ever go to space, I'll claim property if I chose. To hell with the bastards. Let them try and enforce something like that. If you have to sell stuff to earth, then it should be an easy situation finding some country that is willing to cheat. If they get all the benefits from technology that cannot be gotten anywhere on earth, I'd be willing to bet that almost anyone would "forget their scruples". Also, even if they boycotted that country, you'd better believe there would be huge black markets for the goods.

So as I see it, the UN is in no shape to force anyone around. Especially someone when the benefits of cheating are so high. Isn't that the prisoners dillema or somesuch.

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> The only loophole I can see is a claim by a powerful corporation >which the corporation enforces by non-violent means ==

One other loophole I heard of is you can 'flag' a base justlike it was a ship at sea. It would be the legal teratory of the flag natoin. Course that doesn't help you much once you go out the bse hatch.

I expect new treates and wars will eventually be fought over things like this. Kelly Starks KellySt@aol.com

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Andrew Tubbiolo started a thread on November 26, 1999 on "The 1967 Space Treaty"

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JP Massar

> Any State Party to the Treaty may give notice of its withdrawal from >the Treaty one year after its entry into force by written notification to >the Depositary Governments. Such withdrawal shall take effect one year from >the date of receipt of this notification. >

So to pull out, presumably all we need is a Congressional resolution to that effect, and 1 year.

Or we could attempt to amend the treaty. Amendments need to be accepted by a majority of the participants, according to another clause of the treaty.

Much of the treaty seems reasonable. Amending it to establish some sort of organization which would establish and oversee mining and settlement claims and rights would seem like a plausible path. Threatening to pull the US out of the treaty unless reasonable amendments like this were passed might work, if the majority of participants were reluctant to go along.

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Hume:

But what sort of organization? How much blood (or paper) will be shed by different factions getting their idea on the right sort of organization adopted?

I do not mean to indicate that the situation is hopeless. I do believe that the best way to approach the issue is with an attitude of compromise -- to come up with "some sort of organization" that can appeal to the moderates in a wide variety of factions, who believe that some organization that is less than perfectly suited to their personal views is better than no organization at all.

Detailing the specifics of "some sort of organization" and getting it accepted by a sufficiently large number of the right people will not be easy.

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Kirk Voelcker

President Jimmy Carter repudiated the Panama Treaty, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. Hence, "all it would take" is for the President to formally repudiate the 1967 UN Agreement.

This would, of course, let loose hounds that should stay in the kennel.

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JP Massar

Fasinating. I would have said that would be in flagrant violation of the US Constitution, which states that the Constitution, laws enacted by Congress and Treaties are the 'supreme law of the land'.

Don't see how a president can simply repudiate one of those. But what do I know?

Do you have a reference or web link about this Supreme Court decision?

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Tom Billings

There are several treaties under UN auspices which allow signatory States to _abrogate_ their participation in a particular treaty. This abrogation clause is usually written into the treaty, and usually carries a 6-12 month announcement requirement before any activities banned under the treaty can be activated by the abrogating State. I do not know if the 1967 Treaty has such a clause, but would not be surprised. There is a debate over the power of abrogation between the Senate and the White House, regarding the ABM Treaty. When the Republicans had the WH, they asserted the Preident's right to abrogate treaties, while the Democrats insisted that the Senate had to approve that. Now some Republicans want to claim that the Senate itself can abrogate treaties, and the Democrats claim that the WH _must_initiate_ all such actions.

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Kirk Volecker

I believe I'm in somewhat in error. The treaty Carter repudiated was with Taiwan; in Goldwater et al. vs Carter [444 U.S. 996 (1979)] the Supreme Court established no need for the Congress to be informed of treaty negotiations by the President as Congress never has reciprocated ( http://caselaw.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=444&invol=996 ). I learned about this specific decision in G. Harry Stine's Halfway to Anywhere, where he offers this presidential action as the straightforward way to repudiate space treaties.

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Jim Kingdon

This is an unclear decision (that is, the court was split, with many different opinions filed) so the conclusion I would draw is that it still isn't really clear who has the authority to withdraw from a treaty (some of the opinions in that case even say that it depends on the nature of the treaty).

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BrianF5070

I think you need to study the subject more. In particular, read the papers of Wayne White, presented at many recent meetings, including the recent IAF meeting. He's a good Libertarian and believes that the treaty encourages private property rights without territorial sovereignty, and thus will be very useful for encouraging commercial development.

I also think trying to pul out of the Treaty would be near impossible - you would be extremely hard pressed to get support for this position.

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Andrew Tubbiolo 
Bill Mook 
Brian Frankie 
Filip de Vos 
Frank Crary  
gbaikie  
Henry Spencer 
Hume 
Jim Kingdon 
Jon Lennart Beck 
Jonathan Goff 
Jorge R. Frank  
JP Massar 
Kelly Starks 
Kirk Voelcker 
Matt Bille  
mlindroo 
Robert Bynum  
Thomas Clarke 
Tom Billings