[rfc-i] Copyrights and the IRTF and Independent Stream

Olaf Kolkman olaf at NLnetLabs.nl
Thu Aug 13 09:59:42 PDT 2009

Dear Colleagues,

This mail is about rights in RFCs and Internet drafts. The topic draws
context, and uses terminology from:
RFC 4844: The RFC Series and RFC Editor
RFC 4846: Independent Submissions to the RFC Editor
RFC 5378: Rights Contributors Provide to the IETF Trust
RFC 5377: Advice to the Trustees of the IETF Trust on Rights to Be
Granted in IETF Documents

First some administrational notes.

This mail serves as setting a baseline for a public discussion and is
based on a few (virtual and real-life) hallway discussions. The goal
of this discussion is to make sure all issues are brought to the table
and the stream maintainers and the Trust are aware of the communities
opinions. I see my role as an IAB member that is driving the
discussion, and mildly moderating it. In the end it is the role of the
IAB to see that an appropriate stream dependent process has been
followed and that the streams do not interact inapropriatly. So in
that sense this discussion informs the IAB too.

Although this mail is sent to multiple lists I would like to urge folk
to discuss the issues on the rfc-interest list:

Without further ado.

As you may know RFCs are published from different streams. With
respect to the incoming and outgoing rights only the rights of the
IETF stream documents are well defined. And currently the IAB has
chosen to have IAB documents fall under this regime too. The situation
is less clear for Independent and IRTF Stream documents: all existing
provisions are targeted specifically towards IETF Contributions (in
the narrow context defined by RFC5378). Besides, currently and in the
context of copyrights, Internet Drafts (I-Ds) are seen as IETF

Maintainers of the Independent and IRTF stream would like to have
documents from their streams published with full rights to make
derivative works or make no derivative works whatsoever, and require
attribution in both cases.

There are two strategies to make this work:

1. Allow I-Ds and RFCs for the IAB, IRTF, and Independent stream to be
published with a Creative Commons license added.

A rough outline of one of the ideas that is floating around ist that
all contributions that are intended to become an RFC or are an IETF
contribution (in the sense of RFC 5378 definition) will continue to
have the 5378 license terms as defined by the trust. Since 5378 is
non-exclusive authors may add a creative commons license if they'd
like to. Care should be taken that those licenses would not be applied
to IETF contributions, as that could lead to 'spoofed standard-track

2. Have the trust manage the rights for the IAB, IRTF, and Independent
streams RFCs and I-Ds.

Both strategies may require that at the moment Internet Drafts is
published as an RFC it is clear on which stream they are intended to
be published, with which rights, and that the authors have appropriate
authority to grant/sublicense those rights.

In both cases we want to avoid that IETF contributions (I-Ds and
RFCs, although it is not clear whether this is a strong requirement
for I-Ds) are published with a license policy that would circumvent the
Trust's control over the outgoing rights.

A tactic/straw-man to implement (2) is as follows:

    i) Treat all I-Ds as or similar to IETF contributions (this way
       there is no doubt about the Trust having all necessary rights,
       see BCP78 section 5.3). There seem to be two paths to proceed:

        i.1) The stream controllers choose to apply the RFC5378 rules.
        	    This possibility is offered in section 4 of 5378 and the
  	    IAB stream chooses to apply the rules through its
	    declaration in section 11.

        i.2) The streams write a stream specific "Rights contributors
             provide to the IETF trust" document.

     ii) Have the stream controllers request  the IETF Trust to create
         license(s) for non IETF-Stream RFCs that grant for (full|no)
	derivative rights, attribution required. (document this
	request in an RFC).

    iii) Ask the trust to develop language that can be put on an I-D
         with which the author can request (full|no) derivative rights
         if/when the I-D is published on a specific non-IETF stream
	document. This sort of text would serve as an indication of
	consent with wide licensing and could be included as
	boilerplate material together with an indication of intended
	stream (as in draft-iab-streams-headers- boileplates).

There are some pros and cons to this scheme that we need to identify
in public discussion, hence this mail.

During the hallway discussion, I've seen the following arguments and
identified the following open questions. I don't claim completeness.

- The Trust is not well equiped to hold non-IETF documents. Mainly
   because it requires the interperetation that all documents are IETF

   Is this interpretation based on language in the Trust agreement or
   on the definition of IETF Documents in the context of BCP78?

   Or, is the trust well suited, and does implementation only need some
   boilerplate changes?

- IETF Stream RFCs need to be protected by limited derivative rights
   so that the IETF keeps ownership over its Standards and can maintain

   Suppose a I-D with full derivative rights is posted (either because
   the author has published it with Creative Commons, or because the
   Trust allows full derivative rights for stream specific I-Ds) would
   narrowing down the rights by publication as an IETF stream RFC cause
   any problems?

Feedback welcome,

--Olaf Kolkman

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