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[ih] Who owns old RFCs ?

 I am not a lawyer and I never read the early BBN contracts from ARPA.? However, I was told by BBN management that documents produced by BBN employees under the ARPA contracts were in the public domain.? This included network maps, RFCs, conference papers, and so on.? As I recall we had to explicitly assert to the publishers of conference proceedings that papers we submitted could not be copyrighted.? Surely this also applies to any RFCs written by BBN employees.
As a side note, BBN did not want to make the IMP code publicly available.? The fear in the early days was that graduate students with access to IMPs might decide to tinker with the code.? A bit later, when some BBN employees started a company called Packet Communications Inc (PCI) to go into the public packet switching business they wanted to take the IMP code with them, and BBN (which was thinking about entering the public packet switching business itself) did not want to make it easy for PCI and refused.? PCI appealed to ARPA to declare that the code was in the public domain, and after a short struggle BBN consented to make the code available to PCI and anyone else who wanted it. [BBN provided the code on mag tape, and charged a $100 shipping and handling fee which was accepted as reasonable.]
So I think ISOC can state that any RFCs produced by BBN before 1 April 1994 are in the public domain.
Cheers,Alex McKenzie

    On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 10:04:52 PM EDT, John Levine via Internet-history <internet-history at elists.isoc.org> wrote:  
 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?


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