Most buyers and sellers would, ideally, prefer to record their IPv4 trades in ARIN’s registry. It is the only public database that identifies organizations in control of the IP address space in North America. Eliminating needs justification as a pre-condition to recording market trades will bring many transactions out of the shadows.
Bigger questions raised
An accurate registry is central to maturing the transfer market, but more structural changes are also necessary. Today, ISPs and carriers enter into agreements to determine when to accept or reject route announcements. However, organizations that depend on upstream ISPs to carry their traffic have no clear path to stop conflicting IP address announcements.
As inter- and intra-regional trading volumes increase, the potential for conflicting announcements, and regionally distinct routing of the same IP address, will rise considerably. It also is likely that the escalating value of IPv4 numbers will stimulate legal disputes by parties competing for control over the same asset, or seeking to protect their assets against theft or other unauthorized use.
Currently there is no formal or centralized means for a purchaser of IPv4 numbers to enforce its exclusive rights over an IP number block. A globally accepted dispute resolution process created and administered by the Internet community through its existing governance institutions (such as ICANN) would protect a purchaser’s exclusive rights over an IP number block and provide greater security to market participants.
Without an Internet community-developed formal dispute process, the courts will increasingly be called upon to resolve conflicts. A conclusive judicial ruling or statute defining IP numbers as property under the law would allow parties to use the existing court system to navigate the commercial and legal controversies that are sure to arise. The question of whether IP addresses qualify as property is unsettled and thorny. However, ample common law precedent in the United States supports conferring property rights to IPv4 numbers.
The depletion of ARIN’s IPv4 free pool, along with the slow and steady pace of IPv6 adoption and the transfer market’s explosive growth, means that many Internet access, wireless service, cloud computing and content distribution network providers are already relying on the IPv4 trading market to secure the Internet number resources they need. Improved registry accuracy and a reliable dispute resolution framework will help the secondary market bridge the gap between IPv4 exhaustion and widespread IPv6 adoption.
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