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[ih] Who owns old RFCs ?
- Subject: [ih] Who owns old RFCs ?
- From: karl at cavebear.com (Karl Auerbach)
- Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 00:19:13 -0700
- In-reply-to: <[email protected]>
- References: <[email protected]>
I am really glad that you asked this question.
First off, I would be willing and happy to sign some sort of copyright
quitclaim of any copyright rights I might have in any RFC (or other IETF
material). If we can't resurrect the one that we previously used, I
think that the Free Software folks may have a baseline document for
doing this kind of thing.
Second - someone ought to look at the rules that apply in places other
then the US. Some of the older RFCs may be slipping into the public
domain or need some sort of renewal process.
This stuff is far from simple; there are flow charts floating around the
US copyright lawyer community - and they are surprisingly complicated
and filled with dates and odd distinctions. (Good thing we are dealing
with textual materials and not music - the distinctions there are mind
Personally I like having IETF or someone hold a copyright right rather
than the RFCs falling into the public domain. This is not that there
would be restrictions or controls, but rather that there would be some
potential (even if largely conjectural) lever should deviant versions be
published or wrong claims of authorship made.
As John Gilmore mentions, we might not be able to fully pull the rights
together. But even a partial gathering would be better than nothing. I
like John G's suggestion of asserting "nobody owns it", but I've seen
too many good ideas get hosed in the copyright area to trust that boldly
asserting would be a safe or sufficient course of action. (If anybody
want's an example, look at the mess about the Java API's in the Google
vs Oracle lawsuit.)
(And, there is, of course, the fairly recent decision in the US that
makes it clear that before any enforcement action can begin, the
copyright has to be registered - by the ones who hold the copyright.
Because of the legal goodies that registration provides, it could be
advisable that the IETF Trust follow the path being taken by some of the
open/free source groups: formally acquire the copyright rights from the
authors and then register each RFC - last time I checked it was a fairly
simply form (for each RFC) plus a fee (if I remember correctly it is
still about $35 each.)
Better to have the power to protect the integrity of the RFCs and not
ever use it than to someday need the power and not have it.