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Re: Copyright status of early RFCs

2006-04-07 07:44:19
Carl Malamud wrote:
John and Brian -

My jaw dropped when I saw this query come through.

I thought that wide replication of the series was the whole

It is. And I can tell you that the IETF Trust's firm intention
is to maintain this. But the IETF, and the Trust on behalf of the
IETF, can't convey rights it doesn't own, and the question was
about early RFCs. The IETF is a mere 20 years old, younger than
RFC 791 for example. (BTW we should have celebrated the 25th
anniversary of that, I think.)

If there are issues, I thought they had to do with derivative
works.  For example, a particularly risk-averse author of a new
book might query whether "publication of 3 random pages from each
RFC" falls within the scope of allowable actions.

I would take the position that checking with authors is not necessary
because permission has already been granted for replication of unmodified
RFCs.  It would not seem a stretch for the IETF chair, the IAB, and
the RFC Editor to take a similar position.

But we are not lawyers. The legal advice has consistently been
to also check with the original authors. That's all I can tell you.

If a position is taken to the contrary, I would be more than happy
to undertake the publishing project and invite the relevant parties
to bring legal action

I'd guess that for all the RFCs that carry the magic words "Distribution
of this memo is unlimited" you'd be on fairly safe ground. But those
words aren't in the early RFCs.




At the moment there has been no transfer of rights in the early
RFCs to the IETF Trust, so I think you need to ask the
RFC Editor, or simply look at

IANAL, but I have been told that in any case it is necessary
to check with the original authors.


John Levine wrote:

A friend of mine wants to include copies of some early RFCs in a book.

My understanding is that anything published before 1976 without a
copyright notice, which would presumably include RFCs up through about
number 700, is in the public domain.

Does the IETF or IAB or RFC Editor take a position on this?

John Levine, johnl(_at_)iecc(_dot_)com, Primary Perpetrator of "The Internet for 
Information Superhighwayman wanna-be,, Mayor
"More Wiener schnitzel, please", said Tom, revealingly.

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