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

SM sm at resistor.net
Sun Aug 16 11:34:31 PDT 2009


At 15:17 15-08-2009, John C Klensin wrote:
>works subject only to attribution provisions.  There is also a
>desire to make those rights available without depending on the
>discretion of the Trust, especially given the Trust's apparent

Quoting Section 1.1 of RFC 4748:

   "The IETF Trust was recently formed to act as the administrative
    custodian of all copyrights and other intellectual property rights
    relating to the IETF Standards Process that had previously been held
    by ISOC and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI)"

If I read that narrowly, I conclude that the IETF Trust is entrusted 
with the rights  relating to the IETF.  My claim could be debunked by 
bringing up the question of Internet-Drafts.  I'll ignore that 
question as my focus is RFCs from the Independent Stream.

One of the issues with the IETF Trust is that it is centers around 
the IETF.  There is nothing wrong with that if the discussion is 
about IETF work.  Although a large number of RFCs originate from the 
IETF and people identify RFCs with the IETF, there is non-IETF work 
that is published as RFCs.

I'll quote a philosophical assumption about the Independent 
Submissions (RFC 4846):

   "From the perspective of the IETF, Independent Submissions are especially
    important as checks on the IETF processes even though such checks are
    not the only, or even a common, reason for them.  That role is
    compromised if IETF-related entities are able to block or deprecate
    such documents to a degree beyond that needed to avoid difficulties
    with the standards process."

I'll assert that the check is important and it is a reminder that the 
IETF is not the sole producer of "technical standards".  Even though 
the Independent Stream is not functioning as it should, that does not 
mean that we should reduce it to a poor relative of the IETF 
Stream.  During the discussions about the RFC Editor model, it was 
pointed out that the RFC Editor serves the wider community.  The IETF 
Trust is not representative of that community.  For these reasons, my 
preference is that the rights for IETF Stream should not depend on 
the IETF Trust for the time being.  This leaves open the question of 
how to handle the copyrights for the Independent Stream.

Copyright has been a controversial subject within the IETF as it 
pitches diverging non-technical views against each other.  The fad of 
the day is to bring it in line with the demands of the vocal 
non-corporate community.  There is an overtly legalistic approach 
being taken when it comes to copyright discussions within the 
IETF.  RFCs have traditionally been about the open and widespread 
dissemination of information about technical specifications and some 
non-technical subjects.  This "openness" regresses as the IETF 
attempts to satisfy the calls from its community of the day by 
adopting a copyright policy.

People from academic backgrounds have looked at copyright, or to be 
more precise the attribution bit, as a way to earn recognition for 
their works.  There has been a change in some countries where 
intellectual pursuits are assessed in terms of financial rewards.

Should we be content to be the "holder of the flame" or do we aspire 
to create these sparks that will spur new ideas and 
technologies?  Some people may point out that there is money to be 
made off these ideas.  Although it may seem naive to dispel monetary 
concerns, it can be argued that such concerns stifle creativity when 
they become our sole concern.  It is an interesting exercise to 
ponder on what we seek to achieve through copyrights.

>I do know that we've got some fairly constipated streams for
>what ought to be, IMO, a problem that is easily solved, at least
>for the medium term, in at least two ways:
>(1) The IESG could, with a bit of cleverness, un-do the
>"obsoletes" properties of 5738 and turn them into "updates" with
>regard to the IETF Stream only.  Depending on how the IESG felt
>about procedures, that might require posting of an I-D and its
>approval as an RFC, but that action could be initiated today
>(and could have been initiated six months ago).  With that
>action in place, the IASA could direct the RFC Editor to publish
>non-IETF documents under RFC 3798 provisions, probably with ISOC
>copyright.  That would return us to status quo ante and unblock
>things.  Then, when and if the Trust got all issues with
>non-IETF streams sorted out, ISOC could contribute any RFC IPR
>it has accumulated to the Trust.

That is a workable solution for the Independent Stream.

One of the advantages of normalizing the four streams is that it 
makes the situation less murky as we do not have to determine where a 
Contribution originates or deal with contributions that cross 
streams.  I have been reminded that when you ask a question within 
the IETF, the answer is "it depends".

>Just my opinion, IANAL, I have an appeal pending, and other

That appeal was filed on July 18.  We are one month minus two days 
away.  The IETF Trust was asked a question about the appeal during 
the last plenary.  The matter remains unresolved.


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