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A First for the RIPE NCC: Seizure of the “Right to Registration of IPv4 Addresses” for the Recovery of Money

Ciaran Byrne — 02 Oct 2020
We recently processed our first IPv4 transfer on the basis of a Dutch court order. In this article we provide an overview of this case and briefly explain how things will work moving forwards.

On 16 December 2019, bailiffs from the Netherlands delivered a court order to the RIPE NCC’s offices for the seizure of the right to registration of IP addresses for the recovery of money. The order was the result of a dispute between two German entities – one a RIPE NCC member and the other a third party in liquidation. It was issued by a German court but was then brought to the Dutch courts through the standard legal procedure in the Netherlands. The RIPE NCC was ordered to issue a statement to the bailiff, prevent any transfer of the IPv4 addresses and, once the addresses had been auctioned, to transfer them to the buyer.

As per our obligations, we issued a statement to the bailiff outlining the IPv4 addresses allocated to the member, while also specifying that the IPv4 addresses were not owned by the member (Article 10.2 of the SSA). The legal counsel representing the third party understood that the resources were not owned by the member and that it was the right to the registration which could be seized. Their intention was to follow all RIPE NCC procedures and that any transfer would be to a RIPE NCC member in accordance with RIPE policy and our own procedures.  To this end, the terms of the auction included that RIPE NCC procedures must be followed by any prospective buyer.

In the meantime, we sought counsel from a specialist law firm to verify the legality of the seizure. After a detailed review, they were confident in their assessment that the proper procedure had been followed and we had little recourse to object to the transfer. So long as the registration of IPv4 addresses was transferable and had economic value, the rights to the registration could be seized for the recovery of money. And, as the transfer was in line with our procedures and RIPE policies, there was little room to dispute our obligation to comply with the seizure.

A court order must be recognised by the Dutch courts for the RIPE NCC to take action.  While this order was not issued by a Dutch court, legal procedure in the Netherlands allowed for the affected RIPE NCC member to dispute the recognition of a court order. As they never contested the proceedings, we were obliged to make the transfer in accordance with the order. To be clear, while the RIPE NCC and the IPv4 addresses were specifically named in the order, we were not a party to the proceedings.

What does this mean moving forwards?

While this is a new development, both for the RIPE NCC and the RIPE community, we are confident that our current procedures are suitably robust in light of the legal challenges it represents.

In summary, the RIPE NCC will only comply with court orders for the seizure of the right to registration of IP addresses for the recovery of money that:

  1. Has entered into force and is recognised by the Dutch courts.
  2. Be served by a bailiff in advance on the RIPE NCC in the form of an authentic enforceable document (e.g. a court order).
  3. Specifically mention the RIPE NCC and create an obligation for the RIPE NCC to perform the transfer. (i.e. the enforceable title must apply specifically to the RIPE NCC). This does not mean the RIPE NCC needs to be named as a defendant.
  4. State the specific resources at issue.

Finally, it’s worth noting that each order will be reviewed on a case by case basis. If we believe that an order or the third party seeking to enforce the order does not comply with RIPE policies or RIPE NCC procedures, we reserve the right to dispute any transfer.

We will update our published procedures accordingly. We also plan to present on this development at RIPE 81.

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