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PSA: The Entrepreneurs Flocking to Space Need Lawyers

By George Khoury, Esq. on July 26, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Thanks to all the commercial interest (and money) in outer space, space loving lawyers might finally have something to do when it comes to space law. The math is so simple that even a lawyer can do it: more space money times more space problems equals more space lawyers.

Recently, more and more private businesses and even individuals have found ways to launch technology, and technology services, into orbit. Given that an iPhone is as technologically advanced as many older satellites, and the fact that launching a satellite is no longer the exclusive domain of government agencies, there could soon be quite a bit of legal work from space to go around.

Lawyers in Orbit

While there may not be any need for a satellite office on a space station (yet), the entrepreneurs that are sending technology into orbit certainly will need some legal advice. Whether it's to ensure that a force majeure clause is still ironclad in the cosmos, or just to make sure the interstellar side of the business stays grounded in Earthly laws, any company that's sending stuff into space, is likely to have some interesting/important legal work to do first.

Though the final frontier still isn't too accessible, that's changing. In due time, space tourism and commercial activity will lead to more and more legal problems, and thus more legal work. One of the bigger anticipated issues involves the lack of IP law in space, and the ability of companies to protect their IP from manufacturers that produce and sell products off of the Earth's surface. Fortunately, we're still a ways off from this becoming a widespread problem, and there's plenty of time for lawmakers to act.

Regulating Space

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) for businesses getting in on the new space race (which seems to be the race to monetize space for consumers), the Outer Space Treaty hasn't been updated in over 50 years. The Outer Space Treaty never envisioned a world where businesses would be considering space tourism, or one where average, everyday people walked around with extraordinarily powerful computers in the palm of their hands.

When it was signed, the principle goal was to avoid weaponizing space, and to stop any nation from putting nuclear weapons on a satellite. Now, it seems there is the impetus to put together a new treaty that covers the private entities in the new commercial space race.

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