Law, College of


Date of this Version



Chapter 6 in The Transformation of Intergovernmental Satellite Organisations: Policy and Legal Perspectives, Patricia K. McCormick and Maury J. Mechanick (editors), Leiden: Brill, 2013, pp. 223–280.


Copyright © 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV. Used by permission.


The present chapter analyzes the activities of international satellite organizations (ISOs), former ISOs, and private satellite operators from the perspective of the four principal international space law treaties, consisting of the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue and Return Agreement, the Liability Convention, and the Registration Convention. In addition, it considers a United Nations Resolution dealing specifically with Direct Broadcasting by Satellite, as it is one of the major categories of activities that international satellite organizations such as INTELSAT and EUTELSAT have traditionally undertaken, as well as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which oversees the international regime developed to deal with frequency issues.

Analysis here will not deal with the general substance of these agreements, but only with the specifics they may provide for dealing with ISOs, as opposed to sovereign states, and ISOs now under private ownership. In particular, it will focus on the extent to which the transition from ISOs to supervisory IGOs-cum-private operators marks a watershed. While politically and economically this transition has often been characterized as a kind of “crossing of the Rubycon,” the question remains whether legally speaking that would be true as well.