[photopress:moonlanding07.jpg,full,alignright]No, you cannot sell land on the moon. And probably it is not made of green cheese, either.
The Haidian District Court in Beijing ruled against a company’s lawsuit to win back its business licence that was suspended by the city’s industry and commerce watchdog.
The plaintiff, Li Jie, chief executive of the Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co Ltd (a name that rolls off the tongue) claimed his company was legal as it was authorized by the US Lunar Embassy and registered at the BAIC in September 2005. (The US Lunar Embassy itself is a few noodles short of a full bowl so registration by that august body is not perhaps worth very much.)
The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce (BAIC) clamped down on the company last October for ‘speculation and profiteering.’ Further, it blacklisted it as one of the city’s top 10 false advertisers in 2005.
The core of the dispute was whether anyone could sell anyone rights to build — luxury apartments only, of course — on the moon.
Some background. In 1967, the United Nations signed the Outer Space Treaty, which forbids any government from claiming the Moon (or any part of space for that matter). The treaty failed to mention anything about private individuals or corporations, so a second treaty forbidding anyone from claiming ownership of extraterrestrial real estate was proposed. Only a handful of nations (none of them space-faring) signed this treaty.
This left a loophole in international law as big as the void of space itself.
In 1980, Dennis Hope sent letters to the United Nations, the United States government and the government of the former Soviet Union, informing them that he was officially claiming ownership of all planetary and lunar surfaces (aside from the Earth) in our solar system. (Dennis was ever a person to think big.) They did not reply.
Now Dennis may not be the full quid but the has made a lot of money selling minuscule plots. Some even big enough to build on.
Li Jie quoted the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty to prove the legitimacy of his assertion. He said, which is true, ‘The treaty forbids governments from owning extraterrestrial property, but it doesn’t mention corporations or individuals.’
The BAIC refuted Li’s interpretation as groundless, saying the treaty ruled out the possibility of any ownership of the moon. In addition, the BAIC said that Li’s money-making business violated the treaty, which stipulates that any exploitation of outer space should benefit all human beings. Which is also true.
The administration defines Li’s business as speculation and profiteering. A reasonable definition. This means illegally seeking profit by making use of legal loopholes and trading commodities actually restricted by relevant laws.
Li’s company was shut down three days after it opened in September 2005.
Thirty-three people bought 49 acres of land on the moon at a price of RMB298 ($37) per acre, and most of them gave the land to their friends as a gift.
Buyers received deeds, a site map, a copy of the ‘lunar bill of rights’ and a copy of Hope’s declaration of ownership filed with the US Government.
Li Jie said he had lost about RMB1 million ($125,000) in the lunar real estate business. He spent about RMB300,000 yuan ($27,500) booking 110,000 acres of lunar land from Hope. Li Jie said, ‘I will go to the Supreme People’s Court until I win back the right to do so.’ May the Force be with him.