This would appear to be a rare bit of good news:
National Space Society Applauds Presidential Signing of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act
U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act does a number of things, including limiting US Government
regulations meddling and recognizing that materials mined from asteroids and comets are the property of the companies that mined them (although not going to far as recognizing the private ownership of said comets or asteroids).
So I’m considering how to game the system. You can’t own the rock, but you can own the stuff you dig out of the rock. So, how to use this to own the rock? Well, presumably “stuff mined from the rock” means anything that’s a minority of the rock that you remove from the rock. So… break the rock into two halves of about 49%, and a handful of gravel. Now, the entire mass of the rock is somethign you’ve mined from the rock.
For a rock a few meters in diameter, this would be easy enough. But how about something like Vesta? Breaking apart a rock miles wide is impractical. But there’s this: grind up a portion of the rock into dust. Scatter the dust across the entire surface of the rock, anything from a light dusting to a few cm thick, blanketing the entire surface. Now… you don’t own the rock, but you own a shell that entirely encompasses the rock. For someone else to attempt to access the rock, they would have to breach your property.
A lot of this won’t matter for a good long while, of course. For this to be relevant, you’ll need to have both Space Cops *and* Space Robbers. If next year Disney-SpaceX announced that they had taken possession of Eros and were busy turning it into ErosWorld, The Happiest Place In Heliocentric Space, it’s not like there’s a whole lot that the Russians or the UN could do to stop it except to complain and push for economic sanctions. At some point, the Russians or Chinese or somebody might be able to mount an armed expedition to go take Eros fro Disney-SpaceX; and at *that* point some definition of private property rights in space would be handy to have.