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What is an IP Address?

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing.

Who manages IP Addresses?

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a department of ICANN, a nonprofit private American corporation that oversees global IP address allocation, autonomous system number allocation, root zone management in the Domain Name System (DNS), media types, and other Internet Protocol-related symbols and numbers.

What is a Regional Internet Registries?

Regional Internet Registries are components of the Internet Number Registry System, which is described in IETF RFC 7020. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) delegates Internet resources to the RIRs who, in turn, follow their regional policies to delegate resources to their customers, which include Internet service providers and end-user organizations. Collectively, the RIRs participate in the Number Resource Organization (NRO), formed as a body to represent their collective interests, undertake joint activities, and coordinate their activities globally. The NRO has entered into an agreement with ICANN for the establishment of the Address Supporting Organisation (ASO), which undertakes coordination of global IP addressing policies within the ICANN framework.

So IANA is a department of ICANN. On October 1, 2009 the U.S. Department of Commerce gave up its control of ICANN. In 2013, the NSA spying scandal has led to ICANN endorsing the Montevideo Statement.

The Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation was released on 7 October 2013 by the leaders of a number of organizations involved in coordinating the Internet's global technical infrastructure. The statement was signed by the heads of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Internet Society, and the five regional Internet address registries (African Network Information Center, American Registry for Internet Numbers, Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre, Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry, and Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre). In large part, the statement is seen as a response to the ongoing NSA surveillance scandal. The leaders made four main points:

  • They reinforced the importance of globally coherent Internet operations, and warned against Internet fragmentation at a national level. They expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.
  • They identified the need for ongoing effort to address Internet Governance challenges, and agreed to catalyze community-wide efforts towards the evolution of global multistakeholder Internet cooperation.
  • They called for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.
  • They also called for the transition to IPv6 to remain a top priority globally. In particular Internet content providers must serve content with both IPv4 and IPv6 services, in order to be fully reachable on the global Internet.

What jurisdiction does an IP Address fall under if a crime is committed using it?

EXAMPLE: Lets say that someone hosts a website similar to The Silk Road in the Principality of Sealand. They use TOR so they have obfuscated their location online and do not use any common TLD. What country would have jurisdiction to try and shut down the site? What if the location of the server hosting the website is in the cloud, similar to The Pirate Bay?

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    Are you asking about the country of residence of the server assigned an IP address for purpose of criminal enforcement or are you asking about the country of assignment of the address for purposes of resolving disputes over the assignment of address blocks? – David C. Rankin May 29 '15 at 16:37
  • Well, technically an IP address does not absolutely determine a servers physically location. For example, I can have a .jp TLD and simply resolve the A record to my server in the U.S. Or any other method for that matter (Think VPN pass through, or any other set of DNS tricks). But to answer your question, my thought was from a criminal enforcement POV. – Digital fire May 29 '15 at 16:43
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    I agree. The DNS assignment, regardless of which DNS service provides the entry, would be irrelevant to where the box is located. My question was are we looking to find the "box" for purposes of a criminal action, or are we looking to settle disputes of who should control a block of addresses. If it is an action for an illegal server, the jurisdiction is primarily in the country where the box is located (although this can be covered by treaty), as between 2 address holders of assignments by IANA, then there should be a choice of jurisdiction under the IANA framework (I would have to look) – David C. Rankin May 29 '15 at 16:50
  • @DigitalFire And so I have retracted the close vote... that is how it is suppsed to work. – Chad May 29 '15 at 19:53
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I'm not sure it makes sense to talk about having "jurisdiction" over an IP address, for the purposes you're discussing.

If you wanted to sue the IP address itself--something that is possible under limited circumstances--then you might need to locate it for jurisdictional purposes. But I don't think that's what you're talking about. You're talking about taking civil or criminal action against the people who are using the IP address to commit crimes.

What matters, in that case, is not a theoretical legal question about the location of an IP address. It's questions like: where do these people live? Where do the people downloading the illegal content live? Where are the physical servers located? ("In the cloud" is not an answer--there are physical servers somewhere making up that cloud).

For jurisdictional purposes, the chair they're sitting in when they upload the illegal data, and the location of the AC power outlet the physical server is plugged into, are as important as, if not more important than, the metaphysical "location" of the IP address of the server.

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    also using dial-up every time you connect you get a new IP address. There is also ways to falsify your IP address location making it look like your some one else and some place else. The goal is to find the person behind the IP. – Patrick W. McMahon Jun 9 '15 at 16:31

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