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The law according to Star Trek

  • The Signet Library Parliament Square Edinburgh EH1 1RN (map)

Conference by Fabrice Defferrard
Chaired by Joanne Wheeler

The WS Society is thrilled to welcome to Edinburgh for the first time, Professor Fabrice Defferrard for a public conference (in English) about his latest book Le droit selon Star Trek (still to be published in the UK). Written in an approachable way, and with lots of examples from both Star Trek TV series and feature films, The law according to Star Trek addresses all science fiction fans but also students willing to discover the law creatively. More generally, The law according to Star Trek illustrates that science fiction is a genre constantly preoccupied with our times, and that legal science is enriched through its contact with it.

For almost 50 years, Star Trek has counted millions of fans around the world. But this science fiction world is not just mere entertainment. It proposes a social ideal based on a legal organisation and elaborate legal rules that serve as a guide, particularly to explore strange worlds and discover new civilizations in the galaxy. Over series and films, dozens of plots constitute as many cases likely to produce “legal precedents/jurisprudence” in various domains of the law. In this way, can Captain Kirk infringe the Prime Directive, the legal cornerstone of spatial exploration without risking Spock’s disapproval and his superiors’ wrath? Is Data, the android that serves on the Enterprise under Captain Picard’s orders, a person or a thing? Can Lieutenant Jadzia Dax, a scientific officer on the station Deep Space 9, be held criminally responsible for a crime that would have been committed by the symbiotic parasite/symbiote she is hosting? Is B’Elanna Torres, the chief engineer on the U.S.S. Voyager, to be held accountable for simple hostile thoughts in front of a judge?

From deep space, our heroes and heroines must face intricate, unprecedented and sometimes dangerous situations, and they usually find a fair solution by applying a legal rule, without violence where possible.

Fabrice Defferrard is a professor of law at the universities of Rheims, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and Ottawa. He is a member of la Société des Gens de Lettres and the author of several law works and two fiction books. His essay Le droit selon Star Trek was awarded the Olivier Debouzy Award in 2015, acknowledging its original, off-beat and somehow subversive contribution to the law sector.

Joanne Wheeler is a leading practitioner in space law, and a partner at Bird and Bird, where she leads the satellites specialist industry initiative based in London. Having worked at both the European Space Agency and Ofcom she has an unparalleled understanding of the challenges facing the sector. Joanne was a winner of the individual Financial Times Legal Innovator of the Year award in 2014, and she is an elected fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. She has been awarded an MBE in January 2017 for services to the space sector.

General Admission is £12 + Eventbrite fee
WS Members Admission is £10 + Eventbrite fee
Students Admission is £8 + Eventbrite fee

Please note that this event does not form part of the CPD programme delivered by the WS Society.

Running order
Doors 18:30
Conference 19:00-20:00
Q&A 20:00-20:30 

This event is sponsored by

Earlier Event: 16 February
Taking the case on a pro Bordeaux basis
Later Event: 2 March
Charities Conference