Talk of a black market in Internet IPv4 addresses is a little premature according to the managing director of European registry agency RIPE NCC, but it’s something that could happen in the future.
Axel Pawlik was speaking as yet another couple of batches of IPv4 addresses were taken up. Last week, Internet commentator R. Kevin Oberman pointed out that a black market for IP addresses already existed, albeit on a small scale but was set to grow. "The probability of black market growth depends on how run-out of IPv4 addresses is handled by the regional registries. A black market is uncontrolled by definition. If you have a commodity that has value and is required for commerce, the price will rise to whatever willing buyers will pay," said Oberman.
But Pawlik said that talk of a black market was over-stating the case. “How can there be a black market when addresses are readily available? Is there going to be a black market when addresses do run out? Possibly,” he said. But he warned that there was not really a business case for them. “Is it going to be a get rich scheme? I very much doubt it,” he added. He claimed that part of the problem was the registry would need to know who has acquired the address, something that would surely cause problems if organisations want to use them.
However, Pawlik said that RIPE had tightened its procedures for issuing addresses. We’re being more rigorous, he said. “We are scrutinising a little bit more – we do require to know how much of your address holding that you’ve used. Now, you have to have 80 percent of your addresses used up before we issue another batch.”
He said that after IPv6 comes into full sway, there might be a change in climate with the possibility of companies handing IPv4 addresses back, so if there was no black market but a market in used addresses.
Pawlik did say that there had been a few cases were IPv4 addresses crop up on eBay. “but we contact eBay, point out that it’s illegal to sell those addresses and ask them to take them down.”
On the question of IPv4 address depletion, Pawlik said that the agency was still expecting the final batch to be released in April 2010, a slight increase on the June 2011 date that was expected last year. But, Pawlik said, this was not significant.