[Top] [All Lists]

Re: IETF Last Call for two IPR WG Dcouments

2008-03-25 21:24:13
Comments in response to your comments on -outbound...
Firstly, thank you for reading these.
Second, what follows are my understandings of the reasons / contents.

Peter Saint-Andre wrote:
Russ Housley wrote:
During the Wednesday Plenary at IETF 71, I gave the IETF community a 
"heads up" on two documents from the IPR WG that were nearing IETF 
Last Call.  Both of the documents have now reached IETF Last 
call.  The Last Call announcements are attached.  Please review and comment.

I've given these drafts a first reading. The following comments may
represent a misunderstanding on my part, but I provide them in the
interest of clarifying the meaning of these drafts.

One concern I have is the distinction between text and code. Where and
how is that line drawn? What about, for example, protocol examples (of
which there are many in most RFCs)? Are they text or code?

The document provides two ways to distinguish code from text.  It lists 
a set of constructs that are considered code.  Recognizing that things 
change, the draft indicates that the trustees shall maintain a list of 
such code.  The also says that the trustees shall come up with a marking 
mechanism so working groups can mark other things that need to be 
considered code, since there are often special cases.

This distinction was the working group rough consensus (as determined by 
the chairs), after MUCH discussion.

Another concern is the limitation on copying of text. It seems quite
reasonable for developers to include snippets of text in their programs
(think literate programming), and under many code licenses it is
difficult if not impossible to separately license the code and any
copied text when bundled together.

The question of whether to allow arbitrary modifications of all text 
from RFCs was discussed.  While there are some drawbacks of the 
agreement that was reached, in terms of the ability to use text from the 
RFC as documentation in programs which by license are subject to 
arbitrary change, there are also serious concerns about allowing 
arbitrary changes of text.  The text of RFCs often represents careful 
work to get the right meaning.  Arbitrary, well intentioned changes, may 
often introduce unintended problems.  (The discussion covered many 
related aspects, many of which I can not recreate on the fly.)
Obviously, this is closely related to the decision to create the code / 
text distinction.

Regarding the copying of text, Section 4.4 of the outgoing draft says:

   There is no consensus at this time to permit the use of text from
   RFCs in contexts where the right to modify the text is required.  The
   authors of IETF contributions may be able and willing to grant such
   rights independently of the rights they have granted to the IETF by
   making the contribution.

But Section 6 of the incoming draft says:

   It is also important to note that additional copyright notices are
   not permitted in IETF Documents except in the case where such
   document is the product of a joint development effort between the
   IETF and another standards development organization or the document
   is a republication of the work of another standards development
   organization.  Such exceptions must be approved on an individual
   basis by the IAB.

So it's not clear to me how contributors could (easily) grant the right
to modify text that is copied from an RFC -- unless they do so outside
the Internet Standards Process (based, I suppose, on the rights retained
by the contributors). However, it seems that each implementor would need
to separately approach the contributors in order to do that (and how
would they know that the contributors are approachable in that way if
not through inclusion of some kind of notice in the relevant RFC -- and
would such a notice comprise an "additional copyright notice" as
described in Section 6 fo the incoming draft?).
Indeed, any such grant would have to be outside the IETF process.  A 
legal notice is not what is needed to let folks know there are other 
options.  An informational note is quite different from a legal notice.

Finally, the outbound draft merely provides recommendations regarding
license text and other materials, final definition of which seems to be
under the sole purview of the Trustees of the IETF Trust. However, the
outbound draft does not specify if the work of the Trustees shall be
subject to review by the IPR WG, the IESG, the IAB, or the IETF
community (e.g., in the form of an Internet-Draft) before it takes effect.

The decision to exclude legal text from the outbound document was a 
deliberate working group decision.  Having working groups write legal 
text has produced problems repeatedly.  So we concluded that was a bad 
way to proceed.  The question of how the trust will proceed to do its 
job is outside of this working groups purview.  The trustees have said 
it will take direction from the IETF.  I presume they will come up with 
a reasonable strategy for verifying that what they produce does what the 
community has said it wants.
In the worst case, if the community concludes that the trustees actions 
aren't what we want, we can either replace the trustees or write another 
IETF RFC.  Trying to work that out in this draft did not seem productive.


Joel M. Halpern
IETF mailing list