Sunday, May 21, 2006


'tdr' who blogs at 'Tales of the Heliosphere' has this comment on ISDC
At the ISDC Szoka ran the legal track of discussions. The legal track included great topics that were unfortunately sparsely attended. The talk by adventure sports lawyer Tracey Knutson should be required listening for anybody who hopes to launch people into space and avoid liability when something eventually goes wrong. (Here.) But few attended.

There's probably a reason for the sparse attendance. One, there are the really cool view graphs of spaceships and hardware at the other talks. At the legal talks, what viewgraphs there are typically have words, lots and lots of words. And not just regular English words or even whizbang rocketry words. No, we're talking legalese. Who wants that?

The more likely reason is that many spacers don't like government, but arguably they dislike lawyers even more. Maybe if they ignore them, the lawyers and government will just go away. In fact, Pete Worden got some appreciative laughs with a few lawyer jokes during his luncheon talk on Sunday. One joke suggested that even one lawyer in space was too many.

Yet during his talk Worden said an important requirement for opening the Moon to economic development is the right to own private property on the moon. He acknowledged not being a lawyer but said his understanding was that the Outer Space Treaty didn't bar private property ownership on the Moon.

If Worden or the audience had attended Szoka's comprehensive and insightful talk on private property rights in space under the OST, he and his audience might have learned that owning real property on the Moon is not going to be as easy as he and they think. However, mining its resources, possessing enough territory to mine those resources, and selling the resources are all legally possible even under the OST.

So let the lawyer jokes continue. Lawyer jokes are the price lawyers pay to run the world. Just remember, if you're not satisfied with one world, do you think lawyers are? And who do you think you're going to have to call when you're finally ready to stake a legal claim to a platinum group metal asteroid or helium 3 on the Moon?
Which is a good, important point. Engineers and hackers are essential to any project. More, a really good engineer (and you don't want any other kind) might do well at lawyering but he's not going to be happy doing it. To engineer and hack you need an interface between you and the cold world. Business guys (Hi Michael) and lawyers are that interface. Ignore the need at your peril.
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