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[ih] Some Questions over IPv4 Ownership

On Tue, 2010-10-12 at 13:12 -0400, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
> I predict
> interesting times ahead 

>From a technical perspective, The Internet is decades old.  There's lots
of established rules, mechanisms, and technologies.  It works.

>From a legal perspective, The Internet is in its infancy.  Few laws,
little precedent from prior court rulings, etc.

In a way, the Legal Internet today is at a stage the Technical Internet
was back in the 80s.  There's an established base of the traditional
legal framework, just like the 80s framework of PTTs etc.  But most of
the critical legal concepts - ownership, liability, etc. - might have
some informal structure of gentlemen's agreements with contracts and
MOUs in today's Internet, but little if any legal foundations that I'm
aware of.  We put together the technology, defined the protocols, and
did the engineering.  But we mostly ignored legal issues.

I've heard people ask "Who runs the Internet?"  but never heard "Who
owns the Internet?" or "Whom do I sue when the Internet does me harm?"

As in other similar technology revolutions, most laws were written when
The Internet wasn't around, or at least wasn't understood in legislative
circles - and we may not be there yet either.  So laws, even recent ones
concerning things like telephone numbers, aren't obviously applicable.
But sooner or later some judge will decide how existing laws apply.  And
legislators will make laws, which may or may not make sense technically.

Of course, there are jurisdictional issues.  What court, in what
country, hears Internet disputes, and what countrys' laws do they use?

Back in the 90s, I half-jokingly promoted the notion that The Internet
should be treated as a Country, complete with its own government, laws,
judicial system, monetary system, treaties, etc.  Parts of that
structure exist - ICANN et al - but they're not treated as a country
(whatever that means).  Given the rise of cyber-crime and cyber-wars, a
Police department and cyber-military might be needed too.  From what I
read in the news, it sounds like they may already exist.

I'm an engineer, not a lawyer or diplomat**.  So what do I know?

But maybe looking at the Internet as a country is not such a joke after

Yes, interesting times ahead...


** In the interest of full disclosure, I *am* a government official -
well sort of - an elected member of the board of our local ambulance
district.  It was an accident...