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

Joel M. Halpern jmh at joelhalpern.com
Sun Aug 16 12:07:53 PDT 2009

Actually, if you go read the Trust agreement, rather than the IETF 
document about how the IETF looks at the trust (the agreement is at 
their web site) you will see that there is provision for the trust to 
handle more than just the IETF.
As I read the agreement, the IETF documents are an example of what the 
trust can handle, not a restriction.

Joel M. Halpern

SM wrote:
> Hello,
> 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
>> disclaimers...
> 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.
> Regards,
> -sm 
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