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In September 2010, a middle-aged housewife from a nowhere town in Spain claimed legal ownership of the sun. Inspired by the millionaire moon-owning American Dennis Hope, she just woke up one morning, sauntered into her local notary office and made it official.
Predictably, a lot of people questioned the veracity of her claim. Would she charge everyone for using her new property? Was she now liable for things like sunstroke and melonomas?
Three years later, Angeles Duran is still living in the same Spanish border town, but she’s markedly wealthier. And for a person who called dibs on the major life-giving force in our solar system, she’s also surprisingly happy to share her tips, with an upcoming book detailing the ins and outs of celestial property ownership.
I couldn't wait that long, so I called her up for a chat.
VICE: Hi Angeles. Spain has signed the Outer Space Treaty, a key tenet of which states that they can't claim ownership of the sun, moon or other celestial bodies. What do you think about that?
Angeles Duran: You know the treaty is not binding for citizens? It’s only for governments.
Doesn’t that still mean Spain has to support your claim and supervise anything you do with your sun?
No, my country does not have to monitor my property. This is not legal because no one nation has legal power outside of Earth. They don’t do anything, and I do not need the support of the Spanish government. However, I have offered about 90 percent of my profits to all governments to be reinvested in the following way: To [support] people who earn minimum pension, to educate youth who have no means to study, to [fund] medical research – do you know that Alzheimer's is the third leading cause of death in the world? I want to help the education, justice and health administrations. And especially help poor people.
You really offer 90 percent of your sun profits to Spain and all governments? Have you handed any money over yet?
I’m talking with a member of the United Nations and I have already had a meeting with a Spanish government representative. I’m waiting for the answer.
How do you keep track of the seven billion people who are using your sun daily?
I do not charge people for using the sun. I only want to charge companies that use solar energy without my authorisation.
That makes way more sense.
Every day, companies use my property. They will pay for the number of solar panels and per kilowatt-hour of generated energy. I ask €1 for each solar panel. They need a license from the government to install a solar panel, and governmental agreements are the only way I can keep track. If they refuse to pay, I go through a judicial inquiry and pre-trial in a court filing for the prohibition of usury solar panels. The companies must pay me. The companies have to sign a contract with me for using my property. I don’t want the companies to be rich with my property, and I want to share the profits with the people.
What about a place like Barrow, Alaska; which experiences perma-night from late November to early January?
They only pay for about nine months.
Holy shit, you even charge Alaska? How much money have you made?
I’m sorry but no comment for the money.
Every year 80,000 people die from skin cancer potentially caused by exposure to the sun. How do feel about the fact your product could be the worst mass murderer in history?
It is not the fault of sun. The ozone hole was created by humanity. Remember: Without the sun we don’t have life. Unfortunately, many people also die from medical negligence in hospitals. Or, for example, from speeding cars – but we can’t stop buying cars. Or from cirrhosis, but we don’t stop buying alcohol. Tobacco produces cancer but the people don’t stop it, and they still buy it. Do you know how many people die from government greed? Do you know how many people die because of the weapons that we produce?
No, but I try to stay happy. Why haven’t you advertised the proper way people should use your sun?
We know the way to protect ourselves. The media informs us about sunlight, so we know the consequences and what we have to do to avoid skin cancer or other diseases. Now we have the means to fight it and they must be used.
What if a solar flare from your sun destroys an expensive satellite in orbit and NASA gets mad?
I’m not worried, because they use my property – they stay in solar orbit, because the Earth stays in solar orbit.
That's a good point. Has anyone actually tried to sue you because of your sun?
Yes, a man from A Coruña in Spain tried to sue me because he declared himself the owner of the universe, and then of the sun. But the court recognised me as the only owner in the world of the sun who possesses an official document, and then closed the case.
He could’ve tried to buy your sun from you?
Someone has already bought solar land on my webpage angelesduran.es.
Wait, you’re selling tracts of sun now under a trading name?
The Space Treaty is very clear, and doesn’t say that I can’t sell it. A company can buy the sun because a company is not a country. My first sale was on eBay for €1 per square metre. Buyers feel it is an investment for the future. Also I sell the Tarzan shout.
Oh yes, you also claim to own the sound Tarzan makes. Isn’t that a Hollywood sound effect that is already a trademark of the studios?
First, they have only registered the movie and the soundtrack, but they have never been able to transcribe the shout of Tarzan as it was in musical notes. I managed to write down the notes and then make a recording no one had ever made.
That is next-level. Have any businesses tried to buy your sun from you?
Yes. A Japanese company wanted to buy solar plots in exchange for moon parcels, however I am not interested in the proposal as someone in a different country had already bought those plots on my web page.
Do you realise a man called Virgiliu Pop already claimed ownership of the sun in 2002?
Yes, I have heard of him, but only after the publication of my articles on the property of the sun. He says: “I’m a Romanian space lawyer,” and he has claimed the property of the sun on a register called Archimedes Institute. First, this institute is a private non-profit organisation which has no legal authority and competence, and therefore has no authority to validate any extra-terrestrial property. Like everyone else – other than me – he has never been able to show any kind of legal document. Mr Pop publicly acknowledged that he isn’t the real owner in a newspaper called La Voz de Galicia. He said, “I’m an expert in public space,” but I say that his knowledge is very limited. He said that Spain has no jurisdiction over the sun, and on this I do agree, but I say: “Neither Spain nor other nations.” According to him, to possess property, “You must have been to the place.” I’m sorry that he failed to attend school and missed lessons on Roman law.
Isn’t that true, though? Don’t you have to have been making consistent physical use of something for 40 years in order to claim it as yours?
He is wrong because it is still the notary who has proven that property law applies to the sun based on the Roman law of usucapione and electromagnetic contact. He says he did all this to show how ridiculous it can be. I'm sorry that I am so “ridiculous”, but I’ll tell you what is serious – his lack of knowledge of civil and Roman law. When he speaks of the Space Treaty of the UN signed by almost all the nations in the world, he forgets something very important: Me, Angeles Duran. I am not a country, I’m not a nation and I never signed any agreement or treaty or convention.
I would not like to offend Mr Pop, but I want to remind him that Article 2 of the mentioned treaty says: “Extra-terrestrial space including the moon and other celestial bodies can never be the subject of national ownership and sovereignty, use, occupation or other form…” but this always refers to nations, not to people. I wanted to remind Mr Pop that the method of acquiring property is accepted and recognised by all the laws of all the countries of the world, as the roots of the law comes from Roman law. I say, "Come potest nemo contra factum proprium."
This is a universal rule of law based on the principle of Bona Fides (Digest 1, 7, 25). At this point it is obvious that when Mr Pop speaks about me, he speaks without any knowledge of the law and without any legal basis. Thanks to this law, I was able to acquire the property of the sun as established by the Civil Code and laws recognised worldwide.
You really do technically own that sun, huh.
My actions are legal; he did not have any legal value. In the same newspaper he claimed to have written a book called The Man Who Sold The Moon, but he is a liar because this book was written in 1950 by Robert A Heinlein and was awarded the Hugo Award Retro in 1951. I’m sorry for him, because I‘ve found a way to be the legal owner of the sun, and he never will.
Follow Toby on Twitter: @jane_tobes
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