Proskauer Rose’s just launched New Media & Technology Law Blog* has a very interesting post by Jeff Neuburger on the upcoming scarcity of IP addresses (the numeric identifier required for each unique location on the internet) — click here to read the post. The current IP address protocol, IPv4, is a 32-bit scheme that provides about 4.3B addresses. That is an astounding number, but according to some reports we could use all of those addresses as early as 2010 or 2011. The most likely solution to the problem is a switch to the 128-bit scheme that is known as IPv6. But doing that will come at the cost of switching out hardware not designed for IPv6 and retraining network operators.
You may be wondering whether there is a legal take away from this, and here it is. Neuburger’s post discusses the US government’s efforts to prepare for the change over by beginning to require new equipment to be IPv6 compliant. Of course, this is just as much an issue for corporations as it is for governments. And if we are running out of IPv4 addresses and if there is a switch to IPv6, we could see a large number of technology contract disputes and law suits over whether agreements were breached by failing to provide IPv6 ready hardware. But those suits will be more effective if you add a IPv6 representation and warranty to your new agreements, as Neuburger explains:
If you are an attorney involved in technology transactions, at a minimum, become IPv6 aware. You might want to query your clients on the need for representations and warranties on IPv6 capability in technology transactions. And keep your eye on the horizon for legal developments related to IPv6. If the alarmists are right and scarcity of addresses is truly looming, we may see legal disputes over issues such as hoarding of IP addresses, and efforts to create a market for IP addresses, the allocation of which is currently controlled by non-profit corporations.