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THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THERE IP NUMBER BLOCKS!

So, do you happen to have an unused Internet Protocol number block sitting around?  If so, you might unwittingly be sitting on a valuable asset.  A battle is brewing to determine whether an IP number block should be recognized as a registration (like a phone number) with no inherent asset value, no right to title, and no right to transfer or whether it is to be considered an asset owned by the assigned organization.  An August 2011 ruling in the bankruptcy case of Nortel Networks Corp., in which the court agreed to the sale of over 666,000 IPv4 addresses to Microsoft Corporation for $7.5 million, would seem to indicate that an IP number block should be considered an asset that can be sold freely.  But, it’s not quite so simple.

IP number blocks are a range of IP numbers typically issued by a Regional Internet Registry (RIR) (e.g., ARIN, AfriNIC, APNIC, LACNIC, and RIPE NCC) to large organizations such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs), corporations, and universities.  RIRs are non-profit organizations that maintain a database of IP number block registrations within their region of the world and distribute these blocks to applicants.  IP numbers and number blocks become IP addresses (e.g., 182.178.145.87) when they are assigned to a particular host.  The IP address allows others to find an assigned device (e.g., computer, smart phone, or tablet) on the Internet and without it the device does not exist on the Internet.  The explosion of mobile devices using IP addresses worldwide has many fearing we are running out of IP number blocks.  Even with the roll out of the new IPv6 number blocks, some are still concerned about IP number block depletion.  The necessity of an IP address to function on the Internet and the possible scarcity of them in the future is what makes them so valuable.

Due to the way the Internet has evolved, IP number block registrations fall into two camps – those issued pre-1997 by InterNIC and those issued post-1997 by the ARIN or another RIR.  The distinction between those two camps with regard to rights to control the ultimate disposition of IP number blocks is huge.  Post-1997 IP number blocks are tightly controlled by a Registration Service Agreement (RSA) with ARIN (or another RIR), including prohibition against transfer of IP number blocks to another entity without ARIN’s prior express permission.  However, pre-1997 IP blocks were considered “grandfathered” when ARIN took over management of the IP number block database and distribution of IP number blocks for entities in North America.  These grandfathered, or legacy, IP number block holders are not subject to the RSA.  For the most part, ARIN has never tried to exert control over the pre-1997 camp.  Therefore, some argue they are free to do as they please with their IP number blocks within the bounds of accepted Internet practices, including selling them on the open market or through judicial proceedings such as a bankruptcy.

The recent Nortel Networks/Microsoft bankruptcy court-sanctioned sale of pre-1997 IP number blocks has set up a showdown between those who believe IP number blocks are assets that can be bought and sold and those who believe IP number blocks are common Internet identifiers that cannot be owned by anyone except the “Internet community.”  Additionally, the sale also highlights the differences between the pre- and post-1997 camps.  Given the high value assigned to these IP number blocks in this transaction, it would make sense that the post‑1997 camp eventually will start demanding the same rights as those afforded to the pre-1997 IP number block holders.  Many questions remain to be answered regarding future attempts to sell IP number blocks either through judicial proceedings or on the open market.  A few are:

  • What is an IP number block?  Is it a registration of a commodity owned only by the “Internet community”?  Is it an asset owned by the assigned organization?  Is it something else?
  • What rights does a purchaser of an IP number block have?
  • What if the next purchaser of pre-1997 IP number blocks chooses not to sign an RSA with ARIN?  Will ARIN try to block the sale?  Will ARIN refuse to change the official registration information within the IP number block database it manages?  Must the purchaser sign the RSA?  Must ARIN honor a court-sanctioned sale?
  • What happens if a post-1997 holder attempts to sell either through bankruptcy or in a private transaction?  Will the courts allow it based on past sales given that the current RSA prohibits transfer without express permission of ARIN?  Does the post-1997 IP number block holder need ARIN’s permission?  What conditions will ARIN place on permission given and would any conditions be valid or upheld?
  • Will the rubric of two distinct classes of IP number block holders with unequal rights continue?
  • How will the other RIRs around the world respond?

New tests of these issues are now brewing.  Borders Group, Inc. has recently marketed and sold 60,000 pre-1997 IPv4 addresses in its bankruptcy for almost $800,000.  And, many more attempts to buy and sell IP number blocks will occur – both within the framework of a judicial proceeding such as bankruptcy and on the open market.  As with all things in the law, only time and accumulated precedent will tell how these issues will be resolved.  Everyone with a vested interest is well advised to pay close attention.

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  1. no. The machine said great, take your tkeict, it’s on the right! I have no doubt the tkeict will be put to good use at some point or another, but it definitely wasn’t planned for today.Due to this event, we missed the first 1 Train and would have to wait 8 minutes for the next. I began my subtle watching for fellow agents once again, and this time I was rewarded. Standing just to my right was a small group of four, each wearing a solid colored shirt and carrying a large bag! I nudged my friend, quietly pointing the group out, but no confirmation could be made without further evidence, so we waited patiently until we came across it (we did, during the ride to the ferry, when I saw one girl pulling her water gun out of her bag). Fellow Agents, confirmed. Though my cover wasn’t blown (as I briefly thought), one of the girls came up to us on our way off the subway car. She smiled at me and said, “Hey, can I ask you two a question?” We agreed, knowing already what she was about to ask. Sure enough- “Are you part of the mp3 thing?” I quickly shushed her, not wanting my cover blown to non-agents, but quickly nodded, and we soon parted ways pleased with our deductions. (This girl was Stranger #2, for the record.)There was an initial moment of confusion as my friend and I emerged from the subway station. I knew that the Staten Island ferry would be right in front of us, but I had never been to Governor’s Island. At first, we were going to head into the Staten Island terminal and ask for directions, but our deduction skills were salvaged as we spotted a large crowd of people in solid shirts sporting large bags headed off to our left. Quietly, without drawing attention to ourselves…we followed them and almost immediately noticed the large “Governor’s Island” sign waiting to capture our attention.Fellow agents were becoming more and more obvious as the line for the 1 p.m. ferry stretched along the sidewalk. Deciding to continue pursuing my goal, I turned around and laughed briefly with Stranger #3. We commented lightly on the number of agents, and nothing else needed to be said as we headed into the ferry terminal. The line for the ferry snaked like a line at Disneyworld. As we made it to the actual beginning of the line (not the extra lines made by all the people preferring the air conditioning to the outside), a man casually asked us if we were part of the event today. A code, we realized, and so we casually answered back that we were. He slipped us a piece of yellow paper and we moved further into the line. Looking at it, it suggested we download an app that would allow us to chat with fellow agents while waiting for the event. A good suggestion, but not one I would be able to take with my mp3 player. So instead, my goal of talking to strangers was fueled even further.The line progressed quickly. The man and woman checking bags at the entrance to the ferry were trained well; neither batted an eye at the hundreds of water guns, the variety of musical instruments, or the myriad of small plushies stuffed into the bags of the people on line. I applaud them for their commendable effort at appearing unfazed – the woman only broke her rhythm for a moment to ask my friend and me when “this thing is supposed to start”. Taking only a moment to think on the level of secrecy for the mission, I decided it was okay to say “3 o’clock” and hurry on my way. I saw her nod her thanks and return to her bag checks. Wanting to feel the breeze, my friend and I headed to the second deck of the ferry, which was rapidly filling with fellow agents. Many were abandoning secrecy here, discussing what they thought might happen at the event with fellow agents, some taking out their water guns and inspecting them for leaks. Others remained true, pretending they were on the boat alone and had no idea why so many people were there. Figuring I had discovered a good conversation starter earlier, I waited until I made eye contact with a woman leaning against the wall next to me. “Hi,” I said. She responded in kind, a little confused at first, but I continued on nonplussed. “So the little yellow piece of paper in my pocket told me to talk to strangers today.” Having gone through the same process back in the terminal, the woman knew exactly what paper I was talking about, and started to laugh. Thus, Stranger #4 and I launched into a lengthy discussion about a variety of things, which lasted until the ferry docked at Governor’s Island. Upon our first step on to the island, my friend and I moved rapidly into phase two of the mission. Casually, we passed by Charlie Todd and his camera crew, who seemed to be preparing for the event. While inwardly I was excited to see him in person, I knew it was in the mission’s best interest to keep walking, and it was only after we had passed by that I mentioned all of this to my friend. We walked along the path until we came to the first set of restrooms in order to fill our water guns. Walking in, it seemed countless others had had the same idea as us – two of the “non-drinkable” sinks seemed to be reserved for the filling of our weapons. The process was efficient, and we were out of there in minutes, guns hidden away once again. I paused briefly to speak to Stranger #5, a girl hanging out near the bathroom. She seemed wary of my smile, so I left our conversation at hello. From there, it was a matter of finding a place to settle down and relax inconspicuously (given that we had an hour and a half to kill). While wandering I ran into Stranger #6, a man named Josh, and we exchanged compliments on our black t-shirts, and then walked together to a map of Governor’s Island. Working together, the three of us figured out where we were, then parted ways. After stopping to get water bottles (and being disappointed that regular iced tea was $2 while diet was only $1.50) we quickly spotted two agents sword fighting on top of a nearby hill and headed over to casually watch. On the way, Strangers #7 and 8 stopped us. 7 was hoping we would “draw in her book” (one of those awesome “destroy me!” books). My friend (the artist) drew a quick sketch, commenting that it wasn’t that great of a drawing. 7 and I exchanged complaints about how artists always criticize their art. I furthered my point by drawing a stick figure next to her sketch. It was an angry stick figure, pointing out that it wasn’t a “cruddy drawing”, haha. 7 and 8 then decided to go try and participate in the sword fighting, and my friend and I settled down to watch.We didn’t move again until the fighting was over – and only then because the sun was beating down harshly by that point. Climbing a staircase (“just because we can”) we soon found shade under a tree, and settled in to continue the wait. Slowly but surely, the area started filling up with agents – some inspecting their water guns, others comparing their hard, flat objects, and countless more with earbuds hanging from their shoulders. There were white sheets everywhere as agents stretched out lazily in the sun. Even more slowly, the minute hand on my waterproof watch (just in case) ticked towards the awaited hour. Not wanting to be too obvious, I put my headphones on around 2:45 and started bobbing my head now and then, pretending to listen to music while I observed my fellow agents. At 2:55 I had the mp3 open and paused, my finger itching to press play while those last, agonizingly slow minutes ticked by. All around me, headphones were being slipped on, earbuds put into ears, mp3 players and iPods taken out and hidden in laps. Around ten seconds to the hour, an excited voice started a countdown, but was quickly hushed into silence by other agents. The mission was not to be compromised. Silently, I counted down the last three seconds with my fingers –for my friend’s benefit, whose pocket watch had stopped working a half hour earlier. At 3 p.m. on the dot, I pressed play, watching as hundreds of fingers mimicked the motion. I then managed to wink at three different people. Everyone was smiling, getting a kick out of what they were being asked to do. Despite synchronized watches, it felt like I was a second or two ahead of everyone else. Because of this, I was able to get a ridiculous amount of amusement as the command was given and I abruptly dropped to the ground – seconds before the first wave of collapses began. (This had to be one of my favorite parts.)Immediately after hitting the ground, I encountered Slight Problem #2 – not once, but three times. Problem 2 involved my iPod deciding it had had enough of the Experiment and switching me to a new song.I took myself through Steve’s breathing exercises while lazily trying to lock my iPod so Problem 2 wouldn’t occur again. One of the ferry staff walked past and glanced down at me, but part of the mission was to not move so I pretended not to notice him. Though I hadn’t caught up yet, I stood up with the rest of the group and quickly walked over to my friend and confirmed how far into the mp3 we were, then caught myself back up. (I had to do this again as we moved into position to follow a nearby “fan”.) I may have ended up a few seconds early or late, but it didn’t seem to matter. The “fan” we were following seemed, at first, startled and alarmed when people began lining up behind her, but while confused, I soon saw her smiling as she continued on her way. The command to walk casually away was given, and so I casually changed directions, leaving the line of people who must have been seconds behind me. Soon after, we began our slow motion walking – another fun moment. I slow-motion tried to tie my shoes – no easy feat when you’re still holding your iPod for fear of it skipping to a new song again. All around me, agents were walking so slowly they barely seemed to be moving at all! I slow-motion turned my head, but the only person I saw moving at full speed was the ferry staff man from before. He seemed to be getting a kick out of not walking, but running through the crowd of slow-motion agents. The pace soon picked back up and my friend and I found ourselves scrambling to find a “fan” to high five. I saw one of the cameramen hard at work and considered, if just for a moment, running up and giving him a high five, but decided it wouldn’t be the best idea. We weren’t able to find any “fans” in time, but made good progress towards the park anyway. It was just as amusing seeing the lines of people high fiving the few fans in the vicinity! More commands were given, and I began doing the opposite of what I was told to do. Dancing the opposite of a graceful ballerina was by far the easiest part – I just had to dance like I normally do! When it came time to choose left or right, my friend chose one ear and I chose the other, just to see what would happen. It was an amusing sight filled with many awkward handshakes!Soon enough, I found myself running like a super hero down into the main arena for the competitions. I took Steve’s suggestion and began weaving around agents, my cape flying behind me in the wind until I was near the center of the arena. Turning behind me, I saw an amazing thing – the second wave of super heroes, streaming down the hill. It was a glorious sight indeed. Easily another favorite moment. As the wave came into sight, a loud cheer came from those of us waiting for their arrival.Synchronized dancing was a series of laughs for all of those in my group. We clearly were not professional dancers, but dutifully we took turns following each other in a miniature coordinated mash-up of random arm movements and feet shifting. Stretching was also a great moment, especially when a voice, clearly not Steve, crackled ominously in my ear. Obediently, I held my position, fingers brushing the tips of my shoes as the voice explained that I was one of a select group of agents who would end up turning on their own team. Me, a turncoat? The idea was exciting, but I couldn’t let anything give away to my agents that I would soon be their demise.Agents began to spread out as we prepared to create bed-sheet-parachutes. Stuffed animals galore came slipping out of backpacks, and the three members of my team of four – my friend and Strangers #9 and 10 – smiled at my cross-eyed frog and shared their own items as well. My friend had brought a small sheep. Stranger 9, a hamster (which I was pleased to take home). 10, a pack of tissues. “Your soft object isn’t as soft as you thought, it might be best if you put it away now.” All of our items passed. Grinning, we launched the soft objects into the air, scrambling to keep them airborne, yet succeeding more in dropping them. During our fun, I noticed three “fans” – a mother and her two young children – watching amidst the groups. The children were wide-eyed, trying to figure out what was going on. The mother smiled at it all, then herded them away after a flying plush came a bit too close. I noticed a number of other “fans” watching from the perimeter of the arena, and took silent pride in the fact that I was part of such a grand mission. I can’t imagine what this all looked like to the unsuspecting.The first droplets of rain came falling from the sky, and jokingly, I put my corner of the sheet over my head. Steve’s well-timed cue to create a canopy to “keep off the rain, if it’s raining” came almost immediately after, and my group shared another laugh. We melded into the giant mass of white that was forming, then took out our hard, flat objects. My Disney princess plate drew laughs and a thumbs up from a nearby agent. We formed a small group and worked hard to stack our mass of random objects. A larger group swarmed past us to add their pile to a team who was actually doing really well at stacking theirs. We all looked at each other, then came to the agreement and brought ours over to help make tall even taller. Having been towards the back of the group, I came away from our tower stacking with an empty CD case, but had a good time all the same.Our team’s national anthem filled the air. I added the sound of my coffee-can drum (painted and decorated by my friend, the artist) to the mix, and briefly slipped a headphone off in order to hear the sounding call from the other team. 50 paces soon separated, black, white, and color. The moment of my turning was quickly approaching. Our team began marching forward in silence, guns pointed to the sky in a wordless call to arms.Then, the screaming began. I could barely hear the voice in my ear as those at the front of the group turned on their own. Black vs. White. Color vs. Color. I was not one of 300, I was one of 3,000, and I was quickly getting soaked. I ran, attacking any agent who crossed my path – hitting a number of faces and necks, admittedly, until the warning to aim below the neck finally reached my headset. I ran until the command to stop was given. We were berated for our actions. Ashamed at how easily I was turned, I looked around to see other agents exchanging looks, but soon we were all grinning and waving our flags of peace and surrender as both groups merged. After the goodbye wave was complete and other music began playing in my ear, my friend and I engaged in a miniature water fight of our own to rid our guns of unused water. I convinced a few other agents to take photos of us in full garb, and then we prepared to head out…but not until after we had played a few rounds of Ninja. (I spotted the group as they entered their first game, and told my friend we couldn’t leave without playing.)The wait for the ferry was long and hot, but it was also accompanied by bursts of energy. At one point it looked like someone was shouting at the line from what he must have thought was the safety of the hill. Suddenly, agents were cheering on some of their number who chased after the man with their water guns. At another point, one agent sparked up a few rounds of the wave. At a third point, one agent must have decided to take pictures with his small camera-that-doesn’t-look-like-a-camera. He set it on top of a tall structure, then shadily walked away and stood almost out of sight, occasionally peering down the line of agents waiting for the ferry. My friend and I spent the next five minutes trying to decide if he had just planted an explosive and was waiting to set it off. (He wasn’t.)I ended the day by having one final conversation with Stranger #11 on the ferry ride back. It wasn’t long, just enough to ask her if she had had fun today. She explained that she had been one of a number of agents stuck on the ferry when the hour arose. I was almost jealous to hear of how they dropped to the floor of the ferry while confused “fans” watched on. How awesome it must have been!All in all, my first mp3 Experiment – and IE event in general, for that matter – was an absolute blast. I really hope I’ll be able to attend again next year!Agent Aelric, signing out.

    November 30, 2013

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