Book Review: Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands, by Victoria J. Szymczak

chartingthelegalsystemsofthewesternpacificisland
By Susan Gualtier

In a recent blog post, Shay Elbaum recapped a 2018 WestPac conference program in which Victoria Szymczak, Director of the Law Library and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i William S. Richardson School of Law, discussed the creation of her new legal research guide, Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands, which was recently published by Hein.  Although I was not personally able to attend WestPac or hear Ms. Szymczak speak on this topic, I had already received Hein’s announcement regarding the new guide and was anxious to see it in person.

Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands is unique for a research guide in that it contains quite a bit of context.  It covers history, defines important British colonial legal terms, and lays out clearly the challenges specific to legal research in the Western Pacific Islands.  At only 60 pages long, the book offers enough background information for the researcher to feel confident in beginning to look at primary sources.  Szymczak also recommends several treatises on both the British colonial system and the Western Pacific that can provide the researcher with more in-depth information.

The book is also unique in that it is very much focused on historical resources, specifically those created during British colonization in the Western Pacific.  Szymczak explains the different types of colonial documents that researchers may need to locate and identifies sources where those documents might be published.  She also describes how legislation and the judiciary operated in the Western Pacific Islands under British rule, and the ways in which native or customary law were applied during that period.  Szymczak discusses various instruments of customary law, including native courts and island and local councils, which were established during the colonial period, and even mentions a few ways in which the researcher might approach finding evidence of customary law from that era.  An entire chapter is devoted to archival research and secondary sources, such as historical newspapers, that can help to “fill in the gaps” in the historical record created by primary legal documentation.

The book wraps up with several chapters on post-independence sources of law.  Again, significant context is provided in order to help the researcher understand the history and legal structure post-independence.  Szymczak discusses open access online sources, as well as print sources specific to the jurisdictions covered in the book.

It is rare that a research guide is also such an interesting read, but I very much enjoyed this guide and learning about the legal history of the Western Pacific Islands.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in colonialism, the Western Pacific, or customary and indigenous law.

Introducing…Joan Sherer as the January 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

01.19 Joan Sherer

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kresgeville, PA. It is a very small village about 30 miles north of Allentown.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

A family friend, who just happened to be the secretary at my high school’s library, suggested I consider librarianship.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

It wasn’t until I started at the State Department that I really delved into it.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have  you worked there?

I work for the Department of State and I’ve been here 20 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I had Spanish in high school and college, but my knowledge of the language is rusty.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I think landing the position of Law Librarian at the State Department. This has been a wonderful experience and I feel fortunate to serve the Department in this very small capacity. It still amazes me when I get research requests from our embassies all over the world.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

While I hate to admit it, but it’s peanut M&Ms. I just love them.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

I have two, Happy by Pharrell and September, by Earth, Wind & Fire. As I was driving home last night and Happy came on the radio. While I couldn’t get up and dance, I did sing along.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I admit I am a mediocre cook. I would love to be able to have the skills of a gourmet chef.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?

I would be lost without a good book to read. I have a never ending reading list of both fiction and nonfiction books that I hope to read one day.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

This is a good venue to announce that I am retiring on December 31st.  In fact, if you are reading this after that date I am already retired. As much as I love my job, it is time to move on to other things. I’m looking forward to moving back to Pennsylvania next summer and spending more time with friends and family. Incidentally, it may take several months until my position is posted, but if you are interested in a federal government position working with a stellar group of librarians, check usajobs.gov in the coming months.

 

Top 18 Posts of ’18

By Alyson Drake

New-Year_edited

It’s that time of year–when we reflect back on all the wonderful contributions from our members over the past year.  2018 has been an amazing year for DipLawMatic Dialogues.  Not only was it our best ever year in terms of readership, but we actually more than doubled our number of views and visitors, topping out at over 29,000 views and over 17,200 visitors for the year.  We also nearly doubled the number of posts we had last year with 131 posts, more than two per week on average.

This would not be possible without all of you who volunteer to write posts and recaps for us.  (Remember, we’re now actively looking for contributors for 2019, so let’s keep this streak going!)  Susan and I are so grateful for your willingness to keep DipLawMatic Dialogues full of fresh content all year long!  If you’ve volunteered before, we hope you’ll agree to do a post for us this year; if you haven’t written for us yet, join this great community of bloggers and contribute in an easy way to our fantastic SIS.

Thanks to all of this year’s amazing bloggers, many of whom contributed multiple posts over the course of the year:

Jennifer Allison * Charles Bjork * Kate Britt * Anne Burnett
Meredith Capps * Sherry Xin ChenCatherine Deane * Yemisi Dina
Alyson Drake * Shay Elbaum * Gabriela Femenia * Amy Flick
Marisol Floren * Erin Gow * Julienne Grant * Susan Gualtier
Marci Hoffman * Caitlin Hunter * David Isom * Sarah Jaramillo
Lora Johns * Benjamin Keele * Tarica LaBossiere * Jootaek Lee
Evelyn Ma * Taryn Marks * Mike McArthur * Yasmin Morais
Mariana Newman * Lucie Olejnikova * Katherine Orth * Carlos Pagan
Jessica Pierucci * Joan Policastri * Marylin Raisch * Brooke Raymond
Sarah Reis * Mary Rumsey * John Scherrer * Rachael Smith
Beau Steenken * Stacia Stein * Loren Turner * Dan Wade * Alex Zhang

And very special thanks to our two all-star bloggers who both contributed eight or more posts this year:
Lora Johns and Jessica Pierucci!

Now for our top 18 of ’18!

18. From the Reference Desk, by Lora Johns
17. Crafting an FCIL Research Niche (When You’re NOT an “FCIL Librarian”), by Alyson Drake
16. MHz & Me: How a Crime-Solving Priest Saved by Italian, by Julienne Grant
15. Acquiring Foreign and International Law Materials with a New Collection Development Focus, by Joan Policastri
14. Teaching Religious Law as Part of Comparative Law: Focus on Jewish Law, by Marylin Raisch
13. AALL 2018 Recap: CONELL (Conference of Newer Law Librarians), by Tarica LaBossiere
12. Getting to Know the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, by Marci Hoffman
11. Comparative Laws and the Lies of Donald Trump, by Mary Rumsey
10. New FCIL Librarian Series: Collection Development in 2018, by Jessica Pierucci
9. New FCIL Librarian Series: Creating a New Research Guide, by Jessica Pierucci
8. Law Firm Impressions After One Complete Year, by Catherine Deane
7. From the Reference Desk: When Librarians Google, by Lora Johns
6. Using the “A” Word in Legal Research Instruction, by Alyson Drake
5. What Helped Me Transition to the Law Firm, by Catherine Deane
4. 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Teaching, by Alyson Drake
3. AALL 2018 Recap: Impostor Syndrome, by Jennifer Allison
2. AALL 2018 Recap: 25 Free Technologies, by Brooke Raymond
1. Transition to Law Firm from Academia, by Catherine Deane

 

 

Teaching FCIL Research Series: A New FCIL Librarian’s Very First FCIL Research Course

By Meredith Capps

Following in the footsteps of past newbie FCIL librarians, I write to share my experience teaching my first for-credit FCIL research course.  At my institution, Transnational Legal Research is a one-credit, pass/fail class, offered once in an academic year in either the fall or spring.  Though it made for a busy fall semester, it seemed worthwhile to offer the course then, so as to benefit the 2L students on our transnational legal research journal at their point of need as they tackle initial cite-checking assignments and select note topics.

teachingfirstcourse.jpeg

Topic selection:

The FCIL course materials page, teaching materials from prior iterations of the course, and two texts: International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook and International Legal Research in a Global Community, proved invaluable resources as I planned my course.  I identified treaties, international courts/tribunals, the UN, the EU, and foreign law as major topics covered in most FCIL research courses, and determined that I could cover custom, NGOs, and IGOs more generally in the conjunction with these.  Since many of our graduates initially accept positions at large law firms, I also felt that it would be worthwhile to spend a week on private international law and international commercial arbitration.

Reading:

Based on feedback from other FCIL librarians, I chose not to assign a textbook, and instead assigned chapters from International Legal Research In a Nutshell, which students could access online via their West Academic subscription, and a handful of articles and chapters from treatises and study aids in West.  I assumed that most students would not do the reading—a highly accurate assumption—requiring me to cover the most critical points in lecture; I posted lecture slides in the course page immediately after each class.

Assignments:

I designed in-class exercises to introduce key resources and skills, with more advanced or open-ended questions included in weekly, graded post-class assignments.  Here prior course materials again proved valuable, as for about half of my questions, I modified a research question used by a colleague.  Post-class assignments consisted of two research questions along with a reflection question, in keeping with the ABA’s focus on self-assessment for skills-based courses.

As a final project, I asked students to devise a fairly simply, practice-oriented hypothetical of their choosing involving transnational elements, and draft a research report detailing their process, along with a reference list of at least twelve sources, all of which should be evaluated within their research report.  Students described their projects in brief, five-minute presentations during our last class.

So, what did I learn?

  • My in-class assignments were always too lengthy and complex. Reduce and simplify!
  • My students seemed more engaged in class when divided into small groups to work on assignments. (I gave up, however, on asking students to demonstrate their work at the podium by class 4.)
  • I was a tad anxious that in assigning weekly, substantive assignments, I’d have too little time for grading during a busy time of year. Grading these assignments was a far lesser burden than I feared, and proved a valuable component of the course for several reasons:
    • they provided students an opportunity to practice skills discussed in class without time constraints,
    • they provided me a benchmark for student progress and comprehension, and
    • they provided me timely examples to review at the start of the next class and discuss common difficulties.
  • Allowing students to select their final project topics ensured that they researched a subject that was of interest to them, and often of use in other course or journal projects. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of topics selected, though several were initially far too broad.
  • My greatest disappointment in the final projects was sloppy writing, which I perhaps should have anticipated in a pass/fail course! Alas, I will be adding spelling and grammar to my already detailed grading rubric.
  • In most instances, materials from colleagues provided me great ideas, but that I could not shortcut the effort of creating lectures and assignments that were current and suited to my own teaching style.

Overall, I was very pleased with the course, and took extensive notes on each assignment regarding students’ unexpected findings, difficulties, and ambiguities.  I also left this year’s IALL course with a host of ideas for future assignments!

November/December GlobaLex Issue Now Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

Here comes the last issue of 2018. The November/December double issue includes a new article on the Right to Housing along with seven updates: Customary International Law, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Caribbean, Finland, Guinea, and South Korea. Below is the full table of contents along with our authors’ bios. Webmasters and content managers, please update your pages.

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to all our authors who continue to deliver exemplary scholarship. And we wish you all Happy Holidays!


Researching the Right to Housing by S M Atia Naznin at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Housing_Rights.html.

S M Atia Naznin is a Lecturer at the School of Law, BRAC University, in Bangladesh. She is currently on study leave to pursue Ph.D. in Law at Macquarie University, Australia, focusing on issues related to litigation and forced slum eviction in Bangladesh. She holds a Master’s in Human Rights and Democratization from the University of Sydney, Australia and a Master’s and a Bachelor’s of Laws from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has recently published an article titled ‘Justiciability of the Basic Necessity of Housing: Litigation of Forced Slum Evictions in Bangladesh’ in the Australian Journal of Asian Law (18 Australian Journal of Asian Law, 2, p. 9, 2017).


UPDATE: Researching Customary International Law, State Practice and the Pronouncement of States Regarding International Law by Catherine Deane at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Customary_International_Law1.html

Catherine A. Deane is the Research Specialist for the Bay Area Offices of Shearman & Sterling LLP. She has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology with a Certificate in Latin American Studies from Princeton University, an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology, a J.D. with a Certificate in International and Comparative Law from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, and an M.L.I.S. degree from San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science.


UPDATE: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Legal System and Research by Ahmadullah Masoud at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Afghanistan1.html.

Ahmadullah Masoud is the Legal Technical Member of the Financial Dispute Resolution Commission (DAB) in Kabul, Afghanistan. Prior to his current position, he worked as the Senior Huququ Training Specialist at the Assistance for the Development of Afghan Legal Access and Transparency (ADALAT) USAID Project at Checchi and Company Consulting, Inc. He was also the Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Economy in Kabul, Afghanistan where he participated in drafting process of policies and laws, and provided legal advice and technical support to MOEC leadership. Mr. Masoud was also the Lecturer at the Law Faculty, Dean of Political Science, and the Acting Chancellor of Mashal University, in Kabul, Afghanistan. As the lecturer, he taught constitutional, defense, and family law as well as legal research and legal writing courses. His experience includes providing legal services in the areas of corporate, tax, contract, investment, and legal drafting and translation at the Elite Legal Services where he worked as the Finance Officer and Tax Adviser. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Islamic Law from Sharia Faculty of Kabul University, his Master’s Degree in Law (LL.M.) from the University of Washington School of Law, and he is licensed defense lawyer of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association. He is multilingual working in English, Arabic, Urdu, Dari, and Pashtu.


UPDATE: The Bolivian Legal Framework by Gonzalo Dávila Maceda at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Bolivian_Legal_Framework1.html.

Gonzalo Dávila Maceda is founding partner of Reynolds & Asociados Sociedad Civil – Estudio de Abogados in La Paz, Plurinational State of Bolivia. Gonzalo is a legal practitioner with postgraduates in business administration and in Oil & Gas Law. After being formed in a French High School in Bolivia he obtained his LLB at the Bolivian Catholic University’s Law School in 1997 and his Diploma in Petroleum Law in 2000 as a Chevening scholar at the Centre for Energy Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) at the University of Dundee in Scotland. For more than 20 years he focused his experience in Civil Law, Commercial Law, Labor Law, Competition Law, Regulatory Law, Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Petroleum Law, Electricity Law, Telecommunications Law, Mining Law having acquired that experience working for almost 9 years as senior legal advisor for the Bolivian Hydrocarbons Regulator and from his later experience in the private counseling field for more than 12 years. He worked as intern at the Swiss Competition Commission in Bern-Switzerland. He has participated in the drafting of legislation in the oil and gas sector. He is member of the La Paz Bar Association since 1997. He lectures in several universities in La Paz. He speaks Spanish, English and French.


UPDATE: Guide to Caribbean Law Research by Yemisi Dina at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Caribbean1.html.

Yemisi Dina, B.A, M.A, LL.B, MLIS,MPPAL is Associate Librarian/Head of Public Services at the Osgoode Hall Law Library, York University, Ontario, Canada. Prior to this position, she worked as Manager of Adult Services at the Central Library, Richmond Hill Public Library, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada; Law Librarian University of The West Indies/ College of The Bahamas LL.B Program, Nassau, The Bahamas; Law Librarian at the Adeola Odutola Law Library, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria and Principal Librarian at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus, Nigeria. Her areas of research include law librarianship, legal research methods and information technology and law.


UPDATE: Finnish Law on the Internet by Erika Bergström at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Finland1.html.

Erika Bergström works as a Chief Information Specialist at the Library of Parliament of Finland. She graduated from the University of Helsinki Faculty of Law in 1997 (LLM) and obtained a post-graduate degree of law in 2006 (LL.Lic), also from the University of Helsinki. Prior to joining the Library of Parliament she worked for ten years as a lawyer and legal information specialist at one of Finland’s leading law firms.


UPDATE: Guinean Legal System and Research by Ibrahima Sidibe at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Guinea1.html.

Ibrahima Sidibe is Professor of Law at the University of Lansana Conte of Sonfonia-Conakry, Departement Droit Public Et d’Anglais, Centre Universitaire de Kindia, Kindia, Republique de Guinee, West Africa.


UPDATE: Research and Bibliography for Korean Law Resources in English by Jootaek Lee at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/South_Korean_Legal_Resources1.html.

Jootaek Lee is an assistant professor and librarian at Rutgers Law School (Newark). Mr. Lee is also an adjunct professor and an affiliated faculty for the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at the Northeastern University School of Law. He is also a Massachusetts attorney and a prolific scholar and author. He has published in prestigious journals, including Georgetown Environmental Law Review, Law Library Journal, International Journal of Legal Information, Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Korea University Law Review, and Globalex. His research focuses on human rights to land, water and education, Asian practice of international law, especially human rights and international criminal law, legal informatics, Korean law and legal education, and pedagogy in law. He made numerous presentations at national and international conferences. He is active with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the American Society of International Law (ASIL), having served on AALL’s Diversity Committee, CONELL Committee, and Awards Committee. He is the former Co-Chair of International Legal Research Interest Group of the ASIL (2012-2015) and the former president of Asian American Law Librarians Caucus of AALL (2013-2014).

 

For more articles, visit GlobaLex at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/index.html.

The Luxembourg Space Resources Act and International Law

By Charles Bjork

Asteroid Mining_NASA Public Domain Image.png

Image courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

Among the most intriguing and eagerly anticipated presentations at the 2018 Annual Course of the International Association of Law Libraries was a lecture by Professor Lorenzo Gradoni, a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Procedural Law, on Luxembourg’s recently enacted Space Resources Act and whether or not it is in conflict with international law governing the use of outer space.  Sadly, Professor Gradoni had to cancel at the last minute, and there was not enough time to locate a replacement speaker.  Paul Mousel, a founding partner of the law firm Arendt & Medernach, who spoke about the practice of law in Luxembourg, was kind enough to provide the conference delegates with some background information that helped to explain how Luxembourg improbably became a pioneer in the field of space law.  Time constraints precluded Mr. Mousel from discussing the new Space Resources Act in detail.  Since the topic is of interest to me, I decided to do some research on my own.  What follows is a summary of the context provided by Mr. Mousel, along with my own findings about the origins of Luxembourg’s Space Resources Act and whether it is compatible or in conflict with the multilateral treaties that govern the use outer space.

Although few people today think of Luxembourg as an industrial powerhouse, it was one of Europe’s largest steel producers from the middle of the 19th century until the last quarter of the twentieth century.  The energy crisis of the 1970s accelerated the decline of Luxembourg’s steel industry.  As it became apparent that most steel production eventually would shift to lower-cost jurisdictions, Luxembourg began looking for ways to diversify its economy.   Banking and financial services offered one path.  The emerging field of satellite-based communications and broadcasting offered another.  The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union provided the impetus for the development of artificial satellites.  As with other technologies originally developed for military purposes, it wasn’t long before civilian applications began to emerge.

To better understand how Luxembourg managed to establish itself as a center for the satellite communications industry, some background information on satellite operations will be helpful.  Most communications satellites operate in a geostationary orbit, directly above the Earth’s equator, following in the direction of the Earth’s rotation.  From the ground, a satellite in such an orbit appears to be motionless, occupying a fixed position in the sky.  A ground-based antenna can communicate with the satellite simply by pointing to that fixed position without having to rotate back and forth to track the satellite’s movement.  There are two main limitations on the use of geostationary orbits by communications satellites.  First, only a finite number of satellites can safely operate within the relatively narrow band above the Earth’s equator.  Second, the number of radio frequencies that can be used to communicate with satellites operating within a geostationary orbit also is limited.  These frequencies must be allocated for use on an exclusive basis in order to prevent one satellite operator’s transmissions from interfering with another operator’s transmissions.

The entity responsible for allocating the limited number of orbital positions and radio frequencies available for satellite broadcasting is the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations.  For each of its member states, the ITU set aside a fixed number of geostationary orbital positions, as well as a fixed number of uplink and downlink frequencies for communicating with satellites operating in geostationary orbit.  National telecommunications regulators, such as the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S., may assign these orbital positions and frequencies to public or private entities operating within their respective jurisdictions.  If there are no entities capable of using the orbital positions and frequencies allocated to a particular ITU member state, those positions and frequencies remain available for the use of entities based outside the jurisdiction on a “first come, first served” basis, subject to the oversight of the ITU.

Just as its steel industry was contracting, Luxembourg suddenly found itself in possession of two potentially lucrative assets:  geostationary orbital positions for satellites to occupy and radio frequencies for communicating with the satellites occupying those orbital positions.  As Mr. Mousel explained, Luxembourg’s location on the border between France and Germany makes it ideally situated to transmit satellite broadcasts to most of Europe’s largest television markets.  The only thing Luxembourg needed to take advantage of this opportunity was a domestic satellite operator.  If no domestic satellite operator emerged, Luxembourg risked losing its ITU-allocated orbital positions and radio frequencies to foreign entities willing to claim them.

At that time, in the early to mid 1980s, the only satellite operators in Europe were state-owned broadcasters.  Lacking the resources and technical expertise to develop a state-owned champion of its own, the government of Luxembourg decided to offer seed money to subsidize the establishment of a privately-owned satellite company.  It was approached by Clay T. Whitehead, an American who had worked in the Nixon administration as the first director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy, and who later helped Hughes Aircraft to launch its satellite subsidiary.  In exchange for the seed money, the assignment of the requisite orbital positions and radio frequencies, and the right to broadcast television directly into viewers’ homes, Whitehead agreed to base his new company in the Grand Duchy and allow its government to take a minority stake in the business.  Thus was born Société Européenne des Satellites (SES), Europe’s first privately-owned satellite operator.

Luxembourg’s gamble on SES soon paid off.  In 1988, just three years after it was founded, SES launched its first satellite, the Astra 1A, into geostationary orbit, which enabled it to enlist as clients many of the key players in Europe’s emerging satellite television industry, including the German broadcaster RTL and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV.  Thirty years later, SES operates more than 50 geostationary satellites and is among the world’s leading providers of satellite-based video and data connectivity services.  The government of Luxembourg has retained its minority stake in the company.

With the enactment of its Space Resources Act in 2017, Luxembourg hopes to build on its success in the field of satellite communications and establish itself as a center for what many observers anticipate will be the next chapter in the commercial development of outer space: mining.  Long before scientists confirmed that the Moon, certain types of asteroids, and other celestial bodies contain rich deposits of precious metals and minerals, Hollywood screenwriters had envisioned a future in which humans would turn to space to replenish the Earth’s depleted resources.  As private enterprises continue to play a larger role in space exploration, it is only a matter of time before the commercial extraction of resources from outer space moves from the realm of science fiction to reality.

The most valuable space commodity – at least during the initial stages of commercial development – may not be platinum or other precious metals, but ice.  In addition to being melted to provide drinking water for astronauts, ice can be broken down into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen.  The former can be converted into fuel, while the latter is essential for human respiration.  If ice mined in space can provide a reliable source of drinkable water, breathable air, and fuel, it would no longer be necessary to transport those essential resources from the Earth, making space exploration and long-term human habitation in space more viable and less costly than they are now.  Moreover, if communications satellites can be refueled in mid-orbit with fuel derived from hydrogen locked in space ice, it would dramatically extend their useful lifespans and significantly reduce the amount of hazardous space debris.

Even as technological advances bring space mining closer to reality, investors in companies seeking to extract resources from outer space will be reluctant to move forward without legal clarity on the ownership of such resources.  It was the United States, not Luxembourg, that took the first step in creating a legal framework for the recognition of property rights in space resources.  On November 25, 2015, Congress enacted the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act (SREUA) as part of the larger Space Launch Competitiveness Act.  The SREUA defines a “space resource” as any abiotic resource, including water and minerals, in situ in outer space.  It also defines an “asteroid resource” as a space resource found on or within a single asteroid.

Section 51303 of the SREUA states that any U.S. citizen engaged in the commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource is entitled “to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.”  The term “U.S. citizen” is defined to include 1) an individual who is a citizen of the U.S.; 2) a business entity organized under the laws of the U.S., or the laws of any U.S. state; or 3) a business entity organized under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction, provided that a controlling interest in the business is held by an individual or entity described in 1) or 2) above.  In other words, the SREUA’s recognition of property rights in resources extracted from outer space applies only to individual American citizens, American-based business entities, and the foreign subsidiaries thereof.

Luxembourg became the second country, and the first in Europe, to establish a legal framework for the ownership of resources extracted from outer space with the passage of its Space Resources Act, which entered into force on August 1, 2017.  Like its American counterpart, the Luxembourg statute explicitly recognizes a property interest in resources extracted from outer space.  However, there are two critical difference that set Luxembourg’s Space Resources Act apart.   First, the Luxembourg statute establishes an accreditation and licensing regime for entities seeking to engage in space mining.  Only entities that have applied for and received a license for their space mining activities may assert an ownership interest in the resources extracted.  Second, the Luxembourg statute does not include a nationality clause.  Any corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company established under Luxembourg law, or any European company with a registered office in Luxembourg, may submit an application for accreditation and licensing.  It doesn’t matter who owns or controls the entity submitting the application.  As long as the entity is established under Luxembourg law, or is a European company with a registered office in Luxembourg, it may submit an application.

Luxembourg has a long history of enacting tax loopholes and less burdensome regulatory regimes to entice multinational enterprises to establish foreign subsidiaries within its borders.  Critics refer to these foreign subsidiaries, created solely for the purpose of tax and regulatory arbitrage, as “letterbox companies.”  The Space Resources Act is meant to lure start-ups, not established multinationals.  It draws its inspiration from the seed money the Grand Duchy provided to launch SES, Europe’s first privately-owned satellite operator.  In fact, even before the Space Resources Act entered into force, the government of Luxembourg established a €200 million Space Fund for making strategic investments in fledgling companies that aspire to be space mining pioneers.  To date, the Space Fund has invested in half a dozen mostly American start-ups, including Seattle-based Planetary Resources and San Jose-based Deep Space Industries.  Once they establish subsidiaries in Luxembourg, these start-ups will be able to apply for space mining licenses under the Space Resources Act.

Are Luxembourg’s Space Resources Act and its American counterpart compatible with the multilateral conventions that govern outer space?  No treaty provision directly addresses the private ownership of space resources.  The most relevant provision is article II of the Outer Space Treaty, which states that “[o]uter 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.”  Some scholars have interpreted this provision to preclude the private ownership of resources extracted from outer space.  The more widely accepted view is that article II only prohibits nation states from asserting their sovereignty over celestial bodies and does not prevent private parties from claiming ownership of extracted resources.  Supporters of space mining often make an analogy to deep seabed mining, which is permitted under the Law of the Sea Convention, or to fishing boats operating in international waters, which claim ownership of the fish they catch without asserting a property interest in the ocean.

The ownership of extracted resources is by no means the only legal issue that must be resolved for space mining to become a reality.  Private enterprises will be reluctant to begin prospecting in space unless they are reasonably certain that they will have an exclusive right to extract the resources that they discover.  How will companies assert their right to extract resources from a particular celestial body?  Will there be a space mining registry?  If so, who will administer it?  Will companies need to establish a physical presence on a celestial body before they can assert a mining claim?  How will the scope and duration of such claims be determined if nation states cannot assert sovereignty over celestial bodies?  How will companies prevent competitors from interfering with their mining claims?  Neither the Luxembourg Space Resources Act nor its American counterpart address any of these thorny questions, and it is highly unlikely that such matters can be satisfactorily resolved through domestic legislation.

Recognizing the need for international cooperation, the Hague Institute for Global Justice, an independent think tank, established the Hague Working Group on Space Resources in 2014.   The Working Group consists of a geographically diverse collection of stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and industry representatives.  Its goal is to identify the building blocks for developing an international framework to govern the use of space resources.  This framework will provide a basis for negotiating a new international legal agreement on space resources or, if that is not feasible, for the development of soft law instruments that will serve the same purpose.  The Working Group completed its initial round of meetings on December 18, 2017, and issued this progress report.  The second round of meetings began in January.  The most recent meeting was held at the end of November.  Appropriately enough, it took place in Luxembourg.

 

Suggestions for further reading:

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, How a Tax Haven Is Leading the Race to Privatize Space, The Guardian (July 15, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/sep/15/luxembourg-tax-haven-privatise-space.

Chelsey Davis & Mark J. Sundahl, The Hague Working Group on Space Resources:  Creating the Legal Building Blocks for a New Industry, 30 Air & Space L 7 (2017).

Rachel Mitchell, Note, Into the Final Frontier:  The Expanse of Space Commercialization, 83 Mo. L. Rev. 429 (2018).

Jinyuan Su, Legality of Unilateral Exploitation of Space Resources Under International Law, 66 Int’l & Comp. L. Q. 991 (2017).

Space Resources Luxembourg (official government website).

Loi du 20 juillet 2017 sur l’exploration et l’utilisation des ressources de l’espace, 674 Journal Officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, July 28, 2017, p. 1.

U.S. Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act, 51 U.S.C. §§51301 et seq.
U.S. Space Launch Competitiveness Act, P.L. 114-90, 129 Stat. 704.

FCIL-Related Resolutions

By Lora Johns

new_years_resolutions_listThis time of year, I usually make New Year’s resolutions.

Like most people, I usually break them.

In 2019, however, I am determined to make an FCIL-related resolution that I can stick to and feel good about. To do that, I’m going to make a S.M.A.R.T. goal: one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

For me, that means improving on my foreign language skills, so today’s blog post will be about ways that you can improve (or start to learn) a foreign language in January.

1. Specific: Answering the wh- questions

Why do I want to learn French? Because it’s a language no one on our library staff has a lot of experience with. I speak German, Spanish, and can read it okay, but it’s not one of the languages I have studied in depth. However, many of my faculty liaisons do research in French, and a lot of scholarship relevant to my collection development duties is published or reviewed in French.

Why is this important? Having a staff member who can easily read and understand French on sight will expedite many of the research and reference activities that our faculty and students ask for, which will free up time for other things.

2. Measurable and Time-Bound: A starting point and an ending point

This is usually where I fail: I don’t set milestones for my learning. Not this time! A great resource is the Huggins International 30-Day Speaking Challenge, in which you record yourself speaking in your target language from day one (as well or as badly as you can), and native speakers cheer you on from the start. It’s just 30 days, but at the end, you have a whole month’s worth of progress to look back on! The community aspect also helps keep you accountable.

For those of us who enjoy tracking streaks, Duolingo will keep track of how many days in a row you’ve logged in and done your practice. Set a realistic goal and a realistic number of days (just January, for instance) and give it a whirl.

3. Attainable

Going back to the last point, don’t expect to read entire legal texts in French by the end of the month or even the year. My failures with language learning have always come from aiming too high, getting frustrated or overwhelmed with the time commitment, and then giving up altogether.

Two tools that have helped immeasurably are Anki and Memrise. Both use spaced repetition of flashcards to help you learn and practice vocabulary and grammar. Even just five minutes a day is more valuable for retention than two-hour sessions once every other week. Consistency beats intensity every time.

4. Relevant

To make it fun and relevant, pull vocabulary for your flashcards from sources that deal with the law. I like to consult Linguee for sentences in my target language, because it often pulls examples from U.N. websites and other sources that use legal source documents. You can then make your own flashcards using those words and build a specialized vocabulary tailor-made to your professional needs.

Some public and university libraries also provide subscriptions to Mango Languages and similar subscription services, which often have specialized courses on German/Spanish/French/etc. for law, business, medicine, and other fields.

I find it’s always easiest to retain vocabulary if it’s related to a subject I care about professionally or personally.

 

Will you join me in my efforts to refine my foreign language skills this January? Let me know if any of these tools work for you! Bon voyage!