[rfc-i] RFC citations committee I-D issued

"Martin J. Dürst" duerst at it.aoyama.ac.jp
Sun Feb 13 22:36:18 PST 2011

Hello Joe,

On 2011/02/12 12:23, Joe Touch wrote:
> On 2/11/2011 6:44 PM, Henning Schulzrinne wrote:
>> I wonder if you've talked to a patent lawyer, librarian or historian
>> of technology about your position.
> I have. They want the world archived. I don't.

The more and the better technology (higher-capacity storage, network) we 
get, the easier it is for "them" to win, without effort.

>> There is demonstrated value in being able to retrieve old ideas,
>> even if only for giving proper credit and keeping the patent trolls at
>> bay.
>> And non-preserved IETF mailing lists have made life more difficult in
>> patent cases - I've been there.
> I understand that value.
>> The notion that an author would hesitate to commit an idea as an I-D
>> because it persists more than six months seems pure conjecture. It would
>> be useful to cite some evidence for this.
> Tell, that was the logic behind what I-Ds are, and why they were deemed
> to disappear from online archives after a fixed period.

Yes, that *was*. That worked as long as people didn't have gigabytes of 
disk space on their notebooks,..., and it worked as long as patents 
weren't really a big concern.

>> In any event, any author who
>> relies on that to protect his reputation or anything else clearly has a
>> limited understanding of the persistence of I-Ds or anything else that
>> is stored on somebody else's disk or indexed by Google.
> And perhaps those who do have a limited understanding of copyright law.
>  From those I've talked to, the copyright reverts to the author after
> the 6 month period. At that point, those who use those copies for other
> than personal use are in violation of copyright law.

Even if the above copyright reversion were true (of which I'm not at all 
sure), fair use isn't limited to personal use. Say you have had an idea 
that you don't want to be associated with anymore, and I have a personal 
copy of the I-D where you expressed that idea. There isn't much you can 
stop me with if I'm going to publish that fact, with a citation of a few 
lines or paragraphs.

[If I'm not careful, I might risk to touch on libel laws, but that's 
another issue; there is a big difference between saying somebody 
proposed an idea that turned out to maybe not be so great, and calling 
somebody words.]

>> Just because not all IETF mailing lists are preserved and not all
>> I-Ds will survive forever means that deliberately destroying them is
>> a good idea.
> While I understand that we don't want to go around just trashing things
> randomly, the whole *point* of the I-D series is that things created
> therein *are* removed after a fixed period.

That *was* the whole point, quite a few years ago. Things have been 
moving in the meantime. The 6-month guillotine is still quite efficient 
in getting authors and editors to update their documents, the pressure 
to move to RFC in order to be citeable (normatively) in another RFC is 
still useful, and the regular updating is still helpful in getting the 
message across that an I-D is not a spec that is suited for final 

But in a day and age where everybody can put up a Web server and host a 
few gigabytes of I-Ds, the actual removal from the original archive just 
doesn't make any sense anymore.

> I.e., if that's not what the author intends, then I-Ds are the *wrong*
> place to submit them. If that's not desirable, e.g., for the IETF
> process, then let's create another series (ITRs - Internet Tech Reports,
> perhaps), and publish those as persistent, unedited documents, and let
> the author decide whether a pre-RFC document is distributed first as an
> I-D or an ITR.

The problem is not the intent. The intent is fine. I fully agree that we 
want people who submit I-Ds to understand that they have to submit 
another version within 6 months. I very much want people to understand 
that if they implement against an I-D, they are on dangerous ground. I 
think that almost everybody on this list would agree.

But even if the author intends the proposal to be temporary, only 
history can say whether and what importance it will have in the future. 
In terms of percentage, I'm sure that the number of I-Ds relevant for 
patent stuff is something way below 1% of all I-Ds. Similar for other 
citation/reference purposes. But nobody can guess which ones these will be.

> But, IMO, let's not try to redefine what an I-D is.

I don't think we are trying to do that. We are just trying to live with 
reality, a reality that changed a little since we first saw I-Ds.

Regards,   Martin.

#-# Martin J. Dürst, Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University
#-# http://www.sw.it.aoyama.ac.jp   mailto:duerst at it.aoyama.ac.jp

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