International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Winter 2015 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 Ways

Watching news and events from around the world on television; listening to a BBC broadcast or other broadcast from another country on the radio.

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor, and President, International Judicial Academy

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The Introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

A recent book published in the United States in 2014 about people who invented, or  contributed to invent, many of the electronic devices that we use in our daily lives, has a seminal message. One of the main themes of The Innovators by Walter Isaacson is that most of the electronic devices developed in the post World War II age of electronics were, contrary to popular opinion, not invented by a single individual working alone in a parent’s garage or some other isolated place, but by two or more individuals working and collaborating together, or by a series of individuals building on the past contributions of others.

This message by the author of the book is true for electronic communications. Electronic communications, specifically radio (also known as wireless) and television, are not new. Wireless transmissions were postulated by physicists from Europe and the United States in the late 19th Century, based on the scientific theories of the Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell. Contributions to the development of radio included French and British inventors. The Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, first developed a system of long distance wireless transmission in the early 20th Century that fostered the commercial development of radio as a medium of communication around the world.

In the development of television, one of the first transmissions of instantaneous images, through a mechanical device, was demonstrated in Paris in 1909. Two years earlier, a Russian inventor demonstrated an electronic version of television. However the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird is considered the “father” of modern television through his development of a device that transmitted moving silhouette images using an amplification system. He publicly demonstrated his device in 1925. The world’s first television station was Station W2XB in Schenectady, New York founded in 1928 and operated by the General Electric Company. Color television was first demonstrated by John Logie Baird in 1928. The first satellite television signals were first put into operation in July, 1962. Even the idea of television commercials, so ubiquitous today, especially in the United States, can be dated to 1941.

All of these developments in radio and television were the results of contributions by different inventors working in different places in the world over a period of years. Other than the specific theorists and inventors mentioned above, other contributors to the development of radio and television were from Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The invention of the telegraph in the United Kingdom,


the United States and other countries in the 1830s led to the creation in 1865 of the International Telegraph Conference. This Conference morphed over a period of years into the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which became an agency of the United Nations in 1947. The ITU has as its purpose, in its own words, the following: “allocate global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develop the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strive to improve access to ICTs [information and  communications technologies] to underserved communities worldwide.” In other words telecommunications became a subject for international regulation through the United Nations, appropriate for two types of such communication, entirely appropriate considering the multi-national dimensions in their respective developments.

The ITU is located in Geneva, Switzerland. A Secretary-General, elected for a four year term, presides over the affairs of the Union. The current Secretary General is Houlin Zhou of the People’s Republic of China, elected to office in October, 2104, who began his term on January 1, 2015.

The international contributions to the development of radio and television as described above make it appropriate that the United Nations be even more involved in regulating those technologies as they move into outer space. In 1958 the UN General Assembly created the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. This Committee was made officially a body of the UN in 1959. These developments were undoubtedly the result of the beginnings of space exploration in the 1950s, first by the then Soviet Union, followed soon thereafter by the United States.

On December 20, 1961 the UN General Assembly passed a series of resolutions relating to the peaceful use of outer space. The key resolution was Resolution 1721, adopted on that date, which recognized “the common interest of mankind furthering the peaceful uses of outer space and the urgent need to strengthen international cooperation is this important field.” The Resolution commended:

[T]o States for their guidance in the exploration and use of outer space the following principles:

(a) International law, including the Chapter of the United Nations, applies to outer space and celestial bodies;

(b) Outer space and celestial bodies are free for exploration and use by all States in conformity with international law and are not subject to national appropriation.

Another body of the United Nations responsible for the regulation of outer space is the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. It serves as the Secretariat for the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations aforementioned Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The Legal Subcommittee is the primary international forum for the development of laws and principles governing uses of outer space, including orbital satellites, which are now very much used in the dissemination of radio and television broadcasts. In addition to providing parliamentary services, the Office prepares legal studies and background documents on various aspects of space law This Office “provides information and advice, upon request, to governments, non-governmental organizations and the general public on space law in order to promote understanding, acceptance and implementation of the international space law agreements concluded under United Nations auspices.”

By these actions the United Nations has brought both near space and outer space under the umbrella of international law, which in turn has made the launch and maintenance of orbiting satellites, including communication satellites, a subject of international law.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2015 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
Please contact the IJM editor at