Legal challenges for a changing world

By Beverley Spencer Winter 2016

There are lots of good reasons to worry about the state of the world. Here’s one you probably never considered: the geopolitical consequences of a “land rush” in space.

That’s right. Forget the Middle East, the rise of the alt-right and climate change for a minute. A number of countries have been preparing for war in space, according to worried space academics. At stake: billions of dollars in commercial ventures ranging from space tourism to mining the moon. The world’s economy depends on an orbital communications network; imagine the political turmoil if state actors launched anti-satellite operations to secure a commercial advantage.

Our cover story by Doug Beazley offers yet another example of how the law evolves to deal with new challenges (we’re really not trying to keep you up at night.) In this case, the collapse of government space exploration left a vacuum that private enterprise wants to exploit. So how does the world build a legal structure to accommodate capitalism in space? And what do we lose if we abandon the traditional concept of space as the “province of all mankind”?

Back on Earth, the internet is giving rise to a host of new legal issues: Whose laws prevail in the global marketplace? As senior editor Yves Faguy writes, there are no uniform rules for internet conduct. Domestic laws often conflict, reflecting cultural differences in views about free speech and privacy. There’s a messy job ahead if we’re going to try to regulate use
of the global internet.

In a world that’s always in flux, there’s a little bit of comfort in knowing that the law is a flexible tool that can be used to bring some semblance of order to chaos – if we have the wisdom to work together.

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