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[ih] Who owns old RFCs ?
- Subject: [ih] Who owns old RFCs ?
- From: johnl at iecc.com (John Levine)
- Date: 21 Apr 2020 22:04:20 -0400
The IETF Trust, of which I am a current trustee, is finally getting
around to updating its dusty old web site.
I have to job of figuring out what we can say about rights in very old
RFCs, which I realize is a longstanding can of worms. Here's what I
think I have figured out, corrections welcome.
RFC 1602 said that all contributions after 1 April 1994 granted a
copyright license to ISOC. In October 1996, RFC 2026 made the grant
of rights much clearer, and also specified a copyright notice to put
on standards track RFCs, although first RFC with the notice wasn't
until 2156 in 1998.
In December 2005 the trust was set up, and the Article V of the trust
agreement says that the grantors CNRI and ISOC contribute IPR to the
trust. Schedule A lists the IPR including:
All of its rights in, and copies of, each of the following
materials that is currently used (as of the Effective Date) in the
administrative, financial and/or other operation of the IETF: ...
current Internet Drafts and Request for Comments.
I don't know what "current" means here but since I am an optimist I
hope it means the rights they may have to all RFCs published up to
that point rather than ones that were standards at the time.
We have a Confirmatory Assignment of trademarks and service marks,
nothing more for copyright licenses.
The trust agreement sec 5.2 encourages other parties to contribute
rights relevant to the IETF, which I assume means copyrights in older
RFCs or I-D's or licenses to them. I have found no documentation that
anyone ever did, but it's possible there's something lurking in an old
There are a few early RFCs with specific copyright notices from MIT, U
of Michigan and Dan Bernstein, and there's RFC 20 which is a photocopy
of most of ANSI X3.4-1968 with nothing suggesting that ANSI's
predecessor granted a license.
I conclude that we have rights to RFCs published since 1 April 1994
which would be 1605, 1606, 1607 (dated 1 April 1994) and everything
since 1610, which was dated May 1994. Earlier than that, find the
authors if you can.
Anything I've missed here?