Monday, May 6, 2002

Lawyer Claims To "Own" The Sun

I published today the following piece on (

They used to say - "only the Sun rises for free". Not anymore: in a move intended to expose the phony "extraterrestrial real estate" industry, a space lawyer "claimed" ownership of the Sun. "While it has become increasingly popular to 'buy' properties on the Moon and other planets, the claims of Mr. Dennis Hope of the Lunar Embassy and of other extraterrestrial real estate 'owners' and 'sellers' are ridiculous and without legal foundations" - declared Virgiliu Pop, a PhD Candidate at Glasgow University specialising in extraterrestrial property rights. "If they believe they can own a celestial body just because it has not been claimed before, and then sell it to the public, so can I say I own the Sun and charge the 'extraterrestrial owners' for solar energy".
Mr. Hope's "Lunar Embassy" is the leader in the extraterrestrial real estate business, having "sold" extraterrestrial parcels to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide - but these claims are as valid as Monopoly money. "It is indeed a celestial Monopoly game" - says Mr. Pop, whose scientific papers on extraterrestrial property rights were published in the "Space Policy" journal - "and now, I 'own' the 'electrical company' on the game board".

Mr. Pop registered his claim over the Sun on April 28th, 2001, with the Archimedes Institute Claim Registration Office, registry that has been used also by Mr. Gregory Nemitz in registering his claim over asteroid Eros. "In February 2001, Mr. Nemitz sent NASA an invoice for the parking/storage fee for the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft, that landed on 'his' property. I can use this example and start charging Mr. Hope and the other extraterrestrial property 'owners' for the use of the sunlight - now that I 'own' the Sun. "The main question is not the legality of owning real estate in outer space" - says Virgiliu Pop; "in the case of Mr. Hope one should primarily questions the means for gaining ownership. I do deal in my thesis with the question whether one may own real estate on the moon; what I question is whether the Moon belongs to Mr. Hope".

Ownership involves not only rights, but also responsibilities; however, Mr. Pop declared himself not liable for any damage caused by "his" property in the form of skin cancer, sunstroke, solar flares, etc.

"People should wear protective sun screen, sun glasses, sun hat and drink plenty of water in order to avoid these inconveniences - but, if somebody were to sue me for damage provoked by the Sun, I do not think any court would be that unwise to consider their claims. By recognizing that I am responsible for the damage from the Sun, the court would implicitly recognize that I do indeed own the Sun - which is ridiculous".

In his claim over the Moon, Mr. Hope sees the silence from the authorities - such as the United Nations - as maintaining his extraterrestrial claims. What do the United Nations think of Mr. Pop's claim over the Sun?

Last year, while at a space congress, Mr. Pop had a laugh with one of the officials from the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, that jokingly introduced him to another official as "The Man who Owns the Sun".

"Should I consider this as recognition from the UN of my property over the Sun"? - asks Mr. Pop? "I don't think so - as I don't think that the silence of the UN regarding Mr. Hope's claims over the Moon is to be interpreted as acquiescence". "The United Nations are dealing with too important problems for them to bother with such trivial claims. They do not send formal protests to any individual claiming to own a celestial body, as France does not send "cease and desist" letters to any individual claiming to be Napoleon".

"I want to assure the public that I do not actually believe I own the Sun" - said Mr. Pop. "My concept of ownership over the Sun is relative. I mean, I own it as much or as little as Mr. Hope owns the Moon. If he owns the Moon, so do I own the Sun. If he does not own the Moon, neither do I own the Sun. If the public believes that they can buy moon plots from Mr. Hope and his subsidiaries - then they should regard me as the owner of the Sun. I, for one, intended this move only to show how ridiculous a property rights system in outer space would be if it were to be based solely on claim unsubstantiated by any actual possession. I made this claim precisely in order to be denied!"

Would Mr. Pop change his mind and start charging earthlings for the use of his rays? "Unlikely" - he says - "as there are no means for me enforcing my claims". "Unfortunately, the only sun-blocking instrument in existence is owned by Mr. Burns, Homer Simpson's boss - and it is unlikely I can get it from him."