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"I've got this beautiful panoramic three-dimensional painting of Mars based on Martian photos. It's 30 feet wide. You can pick out every pebble on the Martian landscape. And who'd have dreamed you could do that?"
- Arthur C. Clarke

Relations with Extraterrestrial Life  
  Instructions to earth citizens on how to behave when encountering alien civilizations.  

This is the earliest reference to the idea of a non-interference directive, or as it is called in the Star Trek universe, the Prime Directive, that I know about.

The two sections of a chapter citing regulations on relationships with aliens arise in the following contexts: the first instance arose when semi-sentient trees and other vegetation was seeking to either kill or disable the Earth citizens.

In the second, several Earth citizens were trying to dig up and take back to Earth some semi-sentient trees.

"Section 17 of the chapter on Relations with Extraterrestrial Life. No employee of this company may employ weapons against or otherwise injure or attempt to injure or threaten with injury any inhabitant of any other planet except in self-defense and then only if every means of escape or settlement has failed.

"Section 34 of the chapter on Relations with Extraterrestrial Life. No member of this company shall interfere in any phase of the internal affairs of another race.

From Ogre, by Clifford Simak.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1944
Additional resources -

The basic idea of the Prime Directive is that no interference with other civilizations is allowed. It is primarily used in situations when Federation starships or personnel contact new alien civilizations.

However, this is pretty clearly what Simak has in mind. I don't know if this is the first reference to this idea in sf, but it obviously antedates the usage in Star Trek by a generation.

Devoted readers of Clifford Simak, a gentle humanist genius, are probably not surprised that he would think about this.

Readers of H. Beam Piper may also be thinking about Little Fuzzy; the plot revolves around the question of what sapience really is, and how should we treat the life we find on distant worlds.

Compare to the law of contact from Orphans of the Void (1952) by Orville Shaara and to the Prime Directive from With Folded Hands (1947) by Jack Williamson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ogre
  More Ideas and Technology by Clifford Simak
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