[rfc-i] Copyright and the Independent Stream
sm at resistor.net
Sat Sep 5 14:34:01 PDT 2009
Leslie posted some comments about what copyrights should apply to
Internet-Drafts. We can either have a separate discussion about the
copyrights on I-Ds and RFCs or we can look at them as a whole. The
different viewpoints about copyrights, the different streams and who
is the authority turns the topic into a minefield.
Copying for free redistribution is allowed and encouraged. That's
the easy part. The copyright comes into play when we try to
determine how to handle derivatives of the work. There are two types
(i) we reuse the text in another RFC
(ii) we use the "code" in implementations or in documentation.
Type (i) is not an issue, unless stated otherwise in the RFC, as the
work is published for the information of the community (documenting
what gets used in the Internet is always good) and it's traditional
of a RFC or part of it to be used as a basis for work that may be
published as a RFC in future.
The entire RFC is the work. Type (ii) became a problem as we
attempted to define what's "text" and what's code so that we can
allow different uses. The result was two copyrights. The decision
to "legalize" the RFC also affected the readability of RFCs as we
identify what is code and the applicable license.
Copyrights can be ignored and the holder may have to take
action. Some organizations who have taken legal action in such cases
have ended up looking bad. Community opinion can be a more effective
tool in rectifying any misuse.
Copyright does not equate with FRAND. Even if the copyright says
free to copy, it does not mean that you are free to implement. It's
not worth opening that issue. We ask of the people using parts of
the work that they acknowledge the source. This allows the reader to
review the original work. It's also a way to give people credit for
How many words do we need to say all that in derivative work? The
general idea, in my opinion, would be to include an acknowledgement
that identifies the title of the RFC and its number. Another
alternative would be to provide the same information as for the
The above would be applicable to the Independent Stream. There has
been some questions from the IETF Community about whether the stream
serves any purpose. If the IETF wants to retain sole rights to
critical thought and to the RFC "brand", it has the means to drop
this stream from the RFC Series. The fact that we are thinking in
terms of brand instead of creating an environment which encourages
the review and implementation of technical proposals speaks for itself.
The Independent Stream has been on hold since 15th February,
2009. Is it really that bad to go back to Section 4 of RFC 3978
until the community can agree on what it wants and the implementation
details? I don't think so.
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