Monday, March 4, 2013

Who Owns Interplanetary Real Estate

Real estate law is moving into the final frontier: The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 is an agreement that no nation has sovereignty over any extraterrestrial bodies. However, the issue of extraction of resources was not addressed in that treaty. Opinions vary widely among space law scholars on interpretation of this treaty and on other legal precedent which might govern how asteroid mining rights might be assigned. 

See the case of Gregory Nemitz. Nemitz published a claim to an asteroid named Eros. The claim was recorded and published by a non-profit registry named the "Archimedes Institute." He also filed a UCC filing in the State of California. About a year after Nemitz publishing his claim, NASA sent "NEAR Shoemaker" spacecraft to the asteroid. Nemitz demanded that NASA pay him fees which NASA declined to do. Litigation eventually ensued which went up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld the district court's decision to dismiss Nemitz' claim for "lack of a recognizable legal theory." 
Interesting discussion:

Space Law: Is Asteroid Mining Legal?

Can a private company claim ownership of an asteroid based on sending a probe out to it? Can it at least get exclusive mining rights? Would it own the gold, platinum or other materials mined from the asteroid?

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