The Space Review has an intriguing article this week about space law. Three things crossed author Michael Listner's radar. First, the Moon Treaty has not been ratified by big space-faring powers, such as the USA, Russia or China. However, in the last few months it has been ratified by countries with minor or non-existent space programs. By ratifying the Moon Treaty, these states lend this agreement weight. They also thereby proclaim their future space race intentions, and potentially make space powers beholden to non-space powers. The article focuses on Austria and Turkey:
Second, these moves by smaller space, or would-be-space, nations call into question the Moon Treaty's potential as a piece of international law.Coupled with the growing influence of countries such as Austria, Turkey’s accession to the Moon Treaty will give the accord strength not so much in terms of individual political strength, but through political strength in numbers. As those numbers grow, the “Big Three” could find that their influence as non-parties of the Moon Treaty will be challenged by a chorus of many smaller nations who are parties.
This question is equally raised by some individuals out there with money to burn, who have been launching lawsuits to assert their claims to pieces of extra-terrestrial real estate. In some cases, they sue for compensation now when they feel that a breach of their legal claim to space property rights has been (or perhaps will be) violated by some space-faring power:
The latest example occurred in the Canadian Province of Quebec where the litigant, Sylvio Langvein, petitioned the District Court of Quebec concerning property claims he asserted for extraterrestrial property including several planets, the space in between them and the Moon. Specifically, Mr. Langvien petitioned the Court for separate judgments for each of his property claims with the intention of preventing China from establishing stations in outer space above him.
I hand it to Mr. Langevein for originality as far as blowing cash goes. According to The Space Review, this kind of case could cause problems for the Moon Treaty because Canada is a non-member. But the decisions of its domestic courts - or any other non-member's domestic courts - have a bearing on the Treaty. Decisions in these cases will determine whether the Moon Treaty is binding international law or not, for all nations, whether or not they have ratified it.
The February 22, 2012, judgment goes on to imply that the “quarrelsome litigant”, which is a term used by the Honorable Alain Michaud, JSC to describe Mr. Langvein, used the Canadian judicial system at many levels to pursue 21 claims for relief since 2001. The judgment further notes that Mr. Langvein listed no respondent, i.e. who he was suing, who could respond to claims for relief. Moreover, the judgment essentially claims that Mr. Langvein is paranoid and that his actions were an abuse of the Canadian legal system.
Meanwhile, in another example that could affect the Moon Treaty, one American company, Space Pioneers LLC, is already selling bits of the moon to interested members of the public. Their motto is: Make a Ripple in Time. Become a Space Pioneer. They are now locking horns in court with the Better Business Bureau:
These kinds of examples are, for now, merely entertaining, although international space law is a burgeoning field. But there will be a point when space exploration will advance significantly and the number of space-faring nations and companies will multiply - and so will space lawyers, space courts and space lawsuits.Jeffrey Sablotne, who is the principal owner of Space Pioneers LLC, feels the best way to move man’s foray into outer space forward is through the sale of “Derivative Conveyance Deeds” for lunar real estate. While it sounds suspicious on the surface, Mr. Sablotne says he and his partners have done 20 years of research and have recorded numerous claims. However, the president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which had previously invited and approved Sablotne’s company to join the BBB, reportedly commented on their website that Mr. Sablotne’s business and offer of deeds to lunar property is a scam. Mr. Sablotne’s responded to the BBB’s actions and requested that the BBB remove the statement and file a retraction. The request was refused and Mr. Sablotne filed a defamation suit against the BBB.
-All long quotations in this post are from the above-cited Space Review article.
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