The legal pages in today’s Times turns to an unlikely area of law (that is, unlikely to be covered in those pages, which usually track the ups and downs of various, more conventional matters of English law). The topic is ‘space law’, and the article includes comments from a handful of practitioners and academics working in the area. It’s a nice, gentle introduction, although I think that it understates the depth and diversity of the academic work in the area, though the comment about practice relating more to general principles of commercial law than the various UN treaties is a fair point.
While I don’t work in the area, I’ve always found it very interesting (particularly those same, dusty international treaties), which is perhaps the result of an interest in SF more than anything else. My only real academic exposure to it was in my undergraduate thesis (2004), where I did a brief review of space law as part of a broader discussion of models for Internet law, and it was very enjoyable digging around in the space law books to educate myself enough to built some sort of an argument (although I’m not entirely convinced of some of the things that I wrote).
I still do think that there are three aspects of space law that should intrigue the scholar of tech or Internet law:
(a) the obvious material relating to the regulation of satellite placement and broadcasting;
(b) the principles of space law in terms of resource ownership, international co-operation etc, particularly where these had to be constructed on something resembling a tabula rasa; and
(c) the way in which space law has had to integrate science/technology and international relations with a purely legal approach.
Furthermore, for teaching purposes, both space law and Internet law could form part of a course on law, science and technology, which may suit particular cohorts (advanced law undergraduates with some post-16 science study?). Anyway, it’s all quite interesting. As a parting shot, I can refer to the work of doctoral student Zeldine O’Brien of Trinity College Dublin, who has published and presented widely on space law, and also this round-up of recent developments from Opinio Juris, published to mark the 40th anniversary of the moon landings.