About inetnum "ownership"

Owen DeLong owen at delong.com
Tue Mar 1 23:55:35 UTC 2016

> On Feb 22, 2016, at 08:57 , William Herrin <bill at herrin.us> wrote:
> On Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 5:03 AM, Jérôme Nicolle <jerome at ceriz.fr> wrote:
>> It's my understanding that the IP adress space is nothing but numbers
>> and that RIR/LIRs are only responsible for the uniqueness of allocations
>> and assignements, that is, a transfer of liability over a shared and
>> common immaterial resource, between community members.
> Hi Jérôme,
> The short version is this:
> IP addresses are property. A few people get really bent out of shape
> if you say that IP addresses are property. And while extant, the legal
> precedent for IP addresses as property isn't as strong as might be
> nice. So, we mostly pay lip service to the folks who still want to
> claim that IP addresses are just integers even as we treat IP
> addresses like property.

I would argue that it is the other way around.

Unique registrations in the RIR databases may well be property.

IP addresses are so abstract and ephemeral in their nature as to be impossible to treat as property other than by creating some sort of statutory system requiring all network operators to obey a certain set of cooperating registries for said numbers and then using those unique registrations mentioned above to convey property rights in the operational deployment of the ephemeral numbers referenced.

Ownership of the rights to control (convey, modify, update) a registration record are tangible and can be property.

The control over how a network operator interprets, deploys, uses, or otherwise manipulates a particular integer or packets containing a particular integer in a particular field of the packet is not actually subject to any sort of enforceable property rights.

For example, if you have gotten a registration for A.B.C.0/24 from an RIR and you then purchase internet access from $PROVIDER_A, you have nothing which will force $PROVIDER_A to convey all packets to A.B.C.0/24 to your network unless that’s what you add to your contract. 

Further, if some other customer of $PROVIDER_B convinces them to treat A.B.C.0/24 differently within $PROVIDER_B’s network, there’s no law which prohibits that and no way for you to enforce any sort of restraint on their choice to do so.

You might… _MIGHT_ have a case for tortious interference if $PROVIDER_B advertises A.B.C.0/24 to some other provider in a way that negatively impacts your network, but to the best of my knowledge, even that is relatively untested.

So far, resolving any such conflicts has depended almost entirely on the fact that ISPs generally cooperate with the RIR system and treat it as an authoritative list for granting permission to use addresses in their networks.

If ISPs start opting out of that particular choice, life gets much more interesting, but I don’t think there’s any sort of ownership conveyed in an RIR registration that allows you to prevent an ISP that you aren’t in a contract with from doing so.


More information about the NANOG mailing list