[arin-ppml] Policy Proposal 108: Eliminate the term license in the NRPM

Milton L Mueller mueller at syr.edu
Fri Feb 12 16:59:06 EST 2010

> -----Original Message-----
> From: arin-ppml-bounces at arin.net 
> [mailto:arin-ppml-bounces at arin.net] On Behalf Of David Farmer

>> 1.1 Number resources are not property
>> To serve the interests of the Internet community as a whole, number
>> resources are not property (real, personal, or intellectual). The
>> allocation and assignment of IP addresses, ASNs, and other number
>> resources are subject to the terms of the ARIN Registration Services
>> Agreement, the policies in this document, and any amendments as may be
>> made to either one.

What is the purpose of this? What does it accomplish technically, legally, politically or economically? How does it make IP addresses and routing function better? Does it make addresses more abundant, easier to use, etc.? 

The concept of "property" and "property rights" is far more flexible and much less dichotomous that you seem to understand. Radio spectrum has been declared a "public resource" since 1927 and the notion that they are "property" has attracted angry denunciations from Congresscritters and others for decades after. But anyone who understands what actually goes on in licensed spectrum and applies well-established and useful ways of thinking drawn from economics and law knows that the assignment of a license is in fact a grant of exclusivity, one that allows the person so granted to economically exploit the resource in regulated and conditioned ways, and which (in the case of spectrum) allows the grantee to sell the right, and thus qualifies in economic theory as a property right. The same is true of IP addresses, except that some people have an irrational fetish against the transfer of the resource for money (which of course doesn't stop it from happening routinely). 

Oliver Williamson just received the Nobel Prize for his analysis of how contracts constitute an exchange of property rights. ARIN governs addresses via contract; i.e., it issues contracts granting exclusive assignment of a block of addresses. 

> This is on a fast track to try to make it on to the Toronto 
> meeting agenda, so any suggestions you might have would be 
> appreciated by early to the middle of next week.

My humble suggestion is that you abandon this proposal completely and do a bit more research into what the terms "license," "property" and "property rights" mean when used by lawyers, regulators, economists and institutionalists, and how those concepts are actually applied in the allocation and assignment of virtual resources. You can insist that addresses are "not property" until you are blue in the face. But as long as they are scarce, exclusive, transferable to some degree and can be used to generate economic value then they meet all the conditions of the definition of a property right. We can deal with reality, or we can deal with labels. 


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