[rfc-i] issue: canonical formats

Phillip Hallam-Baker hallam at gmail.com
Sat Jun 2 08:20:47 PDT 2012

My view is that at present the lawyers would almost certainly turn the RFC
into PDF for the purposes of distribution.

That is what they do with everything - HTML, email, etc. If it isn't in pdf
they turn it into pdf.

We already have tools that turn html into pdf so what I see here is a
'requirement' to produce a PDF/A output document.

I don't think we need to dance around declaring that to be the canonical
form but if you like, well yeah, call the PDF/A version the canonical

On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 1:12 PM, John Levine <johnl at taugh.com> wrote:

> >"While the canonical source format MUST be easily converted in to a
> variety
> >of other formats, a single canonical display format must exist to satisfy
> >the requirements of legal and content disputes"
> I see that, but based on my experience in court, I think it's wrong.
> The IETF needs to be able to hand a document to a court and say this
> is RFC 9999, but the IETF is also allowed to use a small amount of
> intelligence and send an appropriate version.  In the current model,
> is the canonical version the file of ASCII characters and formatting
> codes?  Is a printout of that file canonical?  If an attorney makes a
> PDF, by using enscript, by printing one of the web page versions of
> RFCs, or by scanning a printout, and then uploads the PDF to the PACER
> court document system, which I can assure you is what would happen to
> any RFC used in federal court, is that canonical?
> The answer is that so long as they all say the same thing, it doesn't
> matter.  Ditto if one version happens to be fixed pitch ASCII and
> another one a PDF made from proportionally spaced HTML.
> >I'm more worried about contracts than IPR.  The use case is that a
> contract
> >specifies that software X complies with RFC Y.  How does an expert witness
> >decide?
> She looks at the document, and if there is doubt about its accuracy,
> at the XML or whatever authoritative version.  Having done rather a
> lot of expert witnessing, I can report that this sort of thing simply
> is not a problem.  Courts are not stupid, and sorting out variant
> versions of documents has been a well understood problem for
> centuries.  It used to be a lot harder, when copies were made by hand.
> R's,
> John
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Website: http://hallambaker.com/
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