Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Give Your IP Address a Unique Nonaneticon + Legal & Policy Aspects of IP Numbers

IP Addresses are Unique, but...

IP Addresses are unique but, as noted by the NRO, they "are not property, cannot be bought, sold, traded…, [are] provided on non-permanent basis for use and [are] returned to [the] provider when no longer required." Moreover, IP Numbers are shifting from the old, soon to be overcrowded IPv4 address form such as 205.150.58.7 (limit 4 billion addresses, of which only 1.5 billion are left) to the new IPv6 form 2001:0503:OC27:0000:0000:0000:0000 (16 billion addresses).

Get a Unique Nonaneticon for Your IP Address

We discover at Alex Mayrhofer's blog, that he is, among other things, co-author of an RFC at IETF. Alex at his NoNa.Net website not only has a useful (to us) personal world-wide city mapping service (try it here), but he also has a feature at his page which can create a unique if not necessarily exclusive nonaneticon for one's IP Address using the least significant 25 bits of the address (33554432 possibilities). We write "unique but not necessarily exclusive" because every device that connects to the internet must have a unique IP address, so that this can also be a router, a switch or a server, which means that IP addresses can be "dynamic" (e.g. temporarily assigned by an internet service provider) and not "static" (permanently assigned)" and that they can be shared by multiple users, often without their knowledge.

When you visit the NoNa.Net site, you will see a small icon which asks you to guess what you think it is. We guessed - before we knew that it was a graphic representation of our IP Address - and wagered the idea that the icon looked a bit and a byte like a coffee cup, so we guessed "cup", and received the following automated answer from Alex's resulting page:

_____________________________________________________

01010100101001100111100110100001

nonaneticon - to you it looks like a 'cup'


the creativity of coincidence ::
Why always try to be creative when coincidences can provide surprisingly 'semi-creative' results? The tiny 5x5 pixel icon above is rendered using a technical requirement of any internet connection, namely the client ip address of your web browser's connection. A binary, world wide unique number of 32 digits, more or less randomly assigned, depending on where and how you connect to the internet.
the internet equivalent of the inkblot test? ::
It's close to impossible to choose a specific ip address. It usually does not matter at all which one you use, but it matters here. It determines how your icon looks like. What it resembles is up to your imagination.
33554432 different ones - even more chances ::
Despite an ip address may look short (and even memorizeable) there are 33554432 different nonaneticons (using the least significant 25 bits of the address). Not all ip addresses out of this range are in use, but anyway only a very small percentage of that range has been explored by visitors yet.

_____________________________________________________

Find your IP Address and more detailed information about it at:
ip-adress.com: English, Deutsch
or at
geobytes.com
: geobytes.com.

Note at the first site linked that the second "d" in address is struck out and colored red because "address" is spelled "Adresse" with only one "d" in German.

The first result - as an example for this process - we obtained at ip-adress.com (you need not enter anything, this all happens automatically) . To create the image below, we captured the screen result for the IP address location, cut out a section via Paint Shop Pro (Corel), added a border, and then saved it as a .png via Image Optimizer (Xat.com):

ip address locator example result

The second result - as an example for this process - we obtained at the IP locator at geobytes.com (you need not enter anything, this all happens automatically). To make the image below, we captured the screen result for the IP address location, cut out a section via Paint Shop Pro (Corel), added a border, and then saved it as a .png via Image Optimizer (Xat.com):

ip address locator example result

Notice in both examples - as will usually be the case for most users - that the exact location of the user can not be determined, but only the general location of the service provider (ISP), who has a range of IP addresses that are temporarily assigned. Note also that these alleged geographic locations can be random in a given geographical area and can vary considerably, not actually showing the user location at all, but only nearly so.

Legal and Policy Aspects of IP Addresses

In this connection, an important paper on Legal and Policy Aspects of Internet Number Resources was recently presented in Edinburgh, Scotland (Sept. 6, 2006) to the Sixth Computer Law World Conference by Raymond A. Plzak, President and CEO of ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) and Stephen M. Ryan, Esq., General Counsel, American Registry for Internet Numbers. The contents of the paper are described as follows in their introduction:

"First, we provide background on what IP addresses are....

Second, we describe the history of the evolution of Regional Internet Registries (“RIRs”).... We also describe the more recent creation of the Number Resource Organization (“NRO”)....

Third, we describe the open and transparent public policy process that currently creates Internet number resource allocation policies....

Fourth, we address and contrast the legal nature of domain names, which is increasingly well understood and settled, and IP addresses, which is equally clear but different from domain names, but which has not yet been the subject of a definitive judicial review." [emphasis added]

One should be aware in this regard that IP addresses are considered "personal data" in Europe and that misuse of them can put you in jail, ownership or not. See the Wikipedia, last viewed January 31, 2007 for a general discussion of this, with citation of the applicable laws.

The paper by Plzak and Ryan contains interesting observations concerning the internet as a new type of territorial geography:

"It may be useful for lawyers to conceive of the Internet’s “geography” by analogy to the more familiar concept of nation states. The “nations” of the Internet do not end at national borders. Networks are the new “nations.” The “frontiers” of these Internet “nations” are border routers between networks. The “treaties” are voluntary peering relationships between networks. The Internet has a dynamic geography. New “nations”/networks are formed each day. New “borders”/border routers are established hourly. Routing tables are changed by the minute, and all of this activity takes place in most parts of the world without government control or intervention, and with no centralized control, although in some countries Internet activities inside the country are carefully controlled.

Courts struggling to adapt to the Internet have stated as much. In ACLU v. Reno, 217 F. 3d 162 (3rd Circuit 2000) the Court stated:

"The Internet has an international, geographically-borderless nature [
citation omitted]...Indeed, the Internet negates geometry...it is fundamentally and profoundly anti-spacial. You can not say where it is or describe its memorable shape and proportions or tell a stranger how to get there. But you can find things in it without knowing where they are. The [Internet] is ambient – nowhere in particular and elsewhere at once." [Citation omitted."

Such statements definitely give the reader cause to again read Lawrence Lessig's CODE and other Laws of Cyberspace.

In any case, in this new territorial geography called the Internet, as Plzak and Ryan write - examining the prevailing case law - domain names ARE property, but IP addresses are not:

"Not a single reported decision has indicated any plaintiff has successfully argued they should be permitted to “own” an IP address, in the manner famous trademark domain names can be “owned.”"

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