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Re: IETF Last Call for two IPR WG Dcouments

2008-03-26 07:26:12

--On Tuesday, March 25, 2008 21:30:54 -0600 Peter Saint-Andre 
<stpeter(_at_)stpeter(_dot_)im> 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

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 -outgoing draft contains this text:

   IETF contributions often include components intended to be directly
   processed by a computer.  Examples of these include ABNF definitions,
   XML Schemas, XML DTDs, XML RelaxNG definitions, tables of values,
   MIBs, ASN.1, or classical programming code.

And, recognizing that it's impossible to come up with a closed list of such
items that is valid for all time:

   While it is up to the Trustees of the IETF Trust to determine the
   best way of meeting this objective, two mechanisms are suggested here
   that are believed to be helpful in documenting the intended grant to
   readers and users of IETF contributions.

   Firstly, the Trustees of the IETF Trust should maintain, in a
   suitable, easily accessible fashion, a list of common RFC components
   which will be considered to be code.  To start, this list should
   include at least the items listed above.  The Trustees of the IETF
   Trust will add to this list as they deems suitable or as it is
   directed by the IETF.

   Additionally, the Trustees of the IETF Trust should define a textual
   representation to be included in an IETF contribution to indicate
   that a portion of the document is considered by the authors (and
   later the working group, and upon approval the IETF) to be code, and
   to be subject to the permissions granted to use code.

I don't think protocol examples are code - they're not written in a 
parseable language. OTOH, if someone were to write protocol examples using 
an ASCII representation of ITU-T's TTCN, that would probably be code, and 
the IETF Trust should update their list to include that format.

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.

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?).

Exactly; this is no change from the current copying conditions for RFCs. In 
fact, the code copying conditions are more permissive than the status quo 

A note claiming that "this text is also available from source X, check 
copying conditions there" would not be a copyright notice.
I don't think "this text is also available under GFDL from source X" is a 
copyright notice either; it's a license, not a copyright 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.

No, it does not. I'd like someone from the Trust to speak up about their 
thoughts about suitable review processes.

Note that the IPR WG can't do the review going forward; once these 
documents are approved (if they are), I intend to ask that the group is 
shut down.


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