Law, College of


Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 5) in Earth Observation Data Policy and Europe, edited by Ray Harris (Lisse: A. A. Balkema, 2002), pp. 41–50. Copyright © 2002 Swets & Zeitlinger B.V. (Division of Taylor & Francis). Used by permission.


A key element of the UN Principles on Remote Sensing is the concept of “non-discriminatory access.” This chapter examines this concept in detail, through a general discussion and through illustrative examples where it is directly related to data policy issues, including ESA, EUMETSAT, and CEOS.

One of the major issues in the UN Principles discussed in Chapter 4 concerns the exact and authoritative interpretation and implementation of the central concept of Principle XII of the UN Resolution, namely the “access to [remote sensing data] on a non-discriminatory basis.” As noted in Chapter 4, “discrimination” essentially entails making distinctions between equal cases, that is cases which are not different from each other on those points that matter. This, however, still begs the question, or rather several questions. What is “equal”? What are points that matter, and points that do not? Who decides on such issues in particular cases? Is Principle XII taken into account at all? And most importantly perhaps, is there a uniform answer to these questions or does everyone have their own interpretation and implement the Resolution accordingly?

The UN Resolution purports to provide generally and globally relevant principles in the field of satellite remote sensing. For data policy issues any international legal rules on access to remote sensing data are obviously crucial. Hence, on this particular point it would be of obvious importance if such questions could be answered. The present chapter presents an effort in that direction by firstly having another look at Principle XII of Resolution 41/65 in its specific context.

Then, by way of case studies, some documents collected in the framework of EOPOLE will be analyzed . These documents drafted by various relevant bodies involved in remote sensing data dissemination (try to) provide for data policies of those respective bodies. They will be scrutinized as to whether and how they have explicitly or implicitly implemented the principle of “non-discriminatory access” to satellite remote sensing data in their particular field of activity.