Interplanetary Real Estate Law

Every story I know about aliens coming to Earth has one of two basic plots: they’re bad guys who want to invade and kill/enslave us, or they’re good guys who want to explore Earth/enlighten us.  Couldn’t this paradigm be expanded a bit?    

Here’s a little idea I had for a story: an alien race—advanced, peaceful, and already rich in Earth’s natural resources, like water and oxygen—starts colonizing and mining another planet in our solar system for substances that they need, and which we neither have in abundance nor need, say Venus, for sulfuric acid, or liquid hydrogen on Saturn, or some other element of which we’re currently unaware.

Who would contact whom first?  Would the new race say, “Hello!  We’re moving in to Mars, which we see you’re not using, and just wanted to introduce ourselves.  We’ll stay out of your way.”

Or would we notice them at work over there, freak out, and then later start wondering why they’re not doing anything to us?  Might we send a message like, “Why aren’t you contacting with us?”  And they might reply, “Why would we?”

Might we react by claiming ownership of the other planet, resulting not so much in a war, but a legal battle?  “This is our solar system, and you can’t just move in and start plundering resources from Neptune.”  “Why not?  You’re not capable of establishing colonies there, and you don’t need what we need, and, frankly, we got to it first.”  But what if they did discover something that would greatly benefit Earth?  Could we claim that, even though we can’t mine Neptune like they can, we’re entitled to it in principle and theory?  Should we negotiate some kind of a cut of their profit?

We might claim that we have proprietary rights due to precedents from similar situations in our own world’s experience, but the aliens could well claim the same, and ask why we think our case law carries any more weight than theirs.  Or maybe they find ways to use our law and history against us.  This story has potential for courtroom drama, corporate espionage, and covert operations. 

Or let’s expand on the us/them plot a bit further.  What if a friendly, advanced alien race came exploring our solar system, and found evidence of primitive/extinct life on Mars.  Would we cooperate in the research?  How?  How might this change life on Earth?  Who would be entitled to ownership of the physical artifacts? 

Or what if all of these scenarios were reversed and we were the advanced futuristic race exploring another solar system, to the consternation of a nearby local species?  Now I suppose it’s a colonialism allegory. 

I guess most of these ideas are exercises in hypothetical interplanetary diplomacy and law.  Anyone caring to speculate on these issues is welcome.  But, for all I know, Isaac Asimov probably already wrote a story about each of these questions, anyway.

One comment on “Interplanetary Real Estate Law

  1. I am no expert in inter-anything law, but I have a feeling that if an alien race were discovered anywhere within striking distance, there would be lots of alphabet soup agencies telling us stories how bad they are and that we should attack them…

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