Monday, June 9, 2008

Who Owns the Moon? Lunar Property Rights (Real Estate On the Moon)

Date Retrieved: June 9, 2008
Source: Popular Mechanics (Magazine)
Title: Who Owns the Moon? The Case for Lunar Property Rights


The moon has been in plain view for all of human history, but it's only within the past few decades that it's been possible to travel there. And for just about as long as the moon has been within reach, people have been arguing about lunar property rights: Can astronauts claim the moon for king and country, as in the Age of Discovery? Are corporations allowed to expropriate its natural resources, and individuals to own its real estate?

The first article on the subject, "High Altitude Flight and National Sovereignty," was written by Princeton legal scholar John Cobb Cooper in 1951. Various theoretical discussions followed, with some scholars arguing that the moon had to be treated differently than earthbound properties and others claiming that property laws in space shouldn't differ from those on Earth.

With the space race in full flower, though, the real worry was national sovereignty. Both the United States and the Soviet Union wanted to reach the moon first but, in fact, each was more worried about what would happen if they arrived second. Fears that the competition might trigger World War III led to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which was eventually ratified by 62 countries. According to article II of the treaty, "Outer Space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sover­eignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."

So national appropriation was out, along with fortifications, weapons and military installations. But what about private property rights—personal and corporate? Some scholars argue that property rights can exist only under a nation's dominion, but most believe that property rights and sovereignty can be distinct.

In something of an admission that this is the case, nations that thought the Outer Space Treaty didn't go far enough proposed a new agreement, the Moon Treaty, in 1979. It explicitly barred private property rights on the moon. It also provided that any development, extraction and management of resources would take place under the supervision of an international authority that would divert a share of the profits, if any, to developing countries.

The Carter administration liked the Moon Treaty, but space activists, fearful that the sharing requirement would subjugate American mineral claims to international partners, pressured the Senate, ensuring that the United States didn't ratify it. Although the Moon Treaty has entered into force among its 13 signatories, none of those nations is a space power.

So property rights on the moon are still the subject of international discussion. But would anyone buy lunar land? And what would it take to establish good title?

The answer to the first question is clearly "yes." Lots of people would buy lunar land—and, in fact, lots of people have, sort of. Dennis Hope, owner of Lunar Embassy, says he's sold 500 million acres as "novelties." Each parcel is about the size of a football field and costs $16 to $20. Buyers choose the location—except for the Sea of Tranquility and the Apollo landing sites, which Hope has placed off-limits.

To convey good title, Hope essentially wrote the U.N. to say he was going to begin selling lunar property. When the U.N. didn't respond with an objection, he asserted that this allowed him to proceed. Although I regard his claim to good title as dubious, his customers have created a constituency to recognize his position. If he sells enough lunar property, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So there's demand, even for iffy titles. But what would it take to establish title, rather than Dennis Hope's approximation? That's not so clear. In maritime salvage law, which also deals with property rights beyond national territory, actually being there is key: Those who reach a wreck first and secure the property are generally entitled to a percentage of what they recover. There's even some case law allowing that presence to be robotic rather than human. Traditionally, claims to unclaimed property require long-term presence, effective control and some degree of improvement. Those aren't bad rules for lunar property, either. But who would recognize such titles?

Individual nations might. In the 1980 Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act, the United States recognized deep-sea mining rights outside its own territory without claiming sovereignty over the seabed. There's nothing to stop Congress from passing a similar law relating to the moon. For that matter, there's nothing to stop other nations from doing the same.

Ideally, title would be recognized by an international agreement that all nations would endorse. The 1979 Moon Treaty was a flop, but there's no reason the space powers couldn't agree on a new treaty that recognizes property rights and encourages investment. After all, the international climate has warmed to property rights and capitalism over the past 30 years.

I'd like to see something along these lines. Property rights attract private capital and, with government space programs stagnating, a lunar land rush may be just what we need to get things going again. I'll take a nice parcel near one of the lunar poles, please, with a peak high enough to get year-round sunlight and some crater bottoms deep enough to hold ice. Come visit me sometime!

PM contributing editor, Instapundit blogger and University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the author (with Robert P. Merges) of Outer Space: Problems of Law and Policy.

Is the private sector about to overtake NASA in space? In a PM Roundtable, new FAA commercial space chief George Nield, XCOR spokesman Doug Graham and Teal Group analyst Marco Cacheras predict the future of backyard rocket power. Plus: Glenn Reynolds calls on Congress for the re-opening of a moon treaty, and software geek-cum-space engineer Fred Bourgeois breaks down his team's open-source plan to win the Google Lunar X Prize—featured on the cover of PM's new issue.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Report Identifies Dangerous Web Domains

Date: June 3, 2008 (21:01 PDT)
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Title: New Report Identifies Dangerous Web Domains

By JORDAN ROBERTSON, AP Technology Writer
Wed Jun 4, 7:09 AM ET

SAN JOSE, Calif. - When surfing the Internet for safe Web sites, not all domains are equal.
Companies that assign addresses for Web sites appear to be cutting corners on security more when they assign names in certain domains than in others, according to a report to be released Wednesday by antivirus software vendor McAfee Inc.
McAfee found the most dangerous domains to navigate to are ".hk" (Hong Kong), ".cn" (China) and ".info" (information).
Of all ".hk" sites McAfee tested, it flagged 19.2 percent as dangerous or potentially dangerous to visitors; it flagged 11.8 percent of ".cn" sites and 11.7 percent of ".info" sites that way.
A little more than 5 percent of the sites under the ".com" domain — the world's most popular — were identified as dangerous.
More spammers, malicious code writers and other cybercriminals can establish an online presence when domain name registry businesses cut requirements for registering a site in order to boost their profit and profile. The report doesn't identify domain name registration companies McAfee believes are responsible for those lapses.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of companies are in the business of registering domain names; some are large and well known, while others are small and less reputable, offering their services on the cheap and with flimsy or no background checks to lure in more customers.
The fact that Internet scam artists gravitate to domain name services with lower fees and fewer requirements isn't new.
What McAfee's "Mapping the Mal Web" report, now in its second year, tries to do is identify the domains that are populated with the highest concentration of risky sites.
The servers for ".hk" and ".cn" Web sites don't have to be in China; Web site operators can register sites from anywhere to target different geographies.
Other risky domains include ".ro" (Romania), with 6.8 percent, and ".ru" (Russia), with 6 percent of sites flagged as dangerous.
Shane Keats, research analyst for McAfee and lead author of the report, said the increase in dangerous sites registered under the ".hk" and ".cn" domains over last year's report was caused in part by better data collection on McAfee's part on those domains and by apparent security lapses in some registrar companies' processes for registering addresses.
"My advice about surfing behavior is that if you're really desperate for cheap Prozac and the pharmacy ends in '.cn,' don't do it. Just don't do it," Keats said. "Find another place to get your Prozac."
Many Internet frauds involve fake sites for pharmaceuticals.
The McAfee report is based on results from 9.9 million Web sites that were tested in 265 domains for serving malicious code, excessive pop-up ads or forms to fill out that actually are tools for harvesting e-mail addresses for sending spam.
Keats said domain name registrars that are strict about authenticating that Web site owners are operating a legitimate business see far fewer malicious Web sites using their services.
Where McAfee found some of the least-risky domain names:
· ".gov" (government use), with 0.05 percent flagged;
· ".jp" (Japan), with 0.1 percent flagged and
· ".au" (Australia), with 0.3 percent flagged.
URL For This Article: San Francisco Chronicle