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[ih] Who owns old RFCs ?

The idea behind copyright is a finite time for control by the author and
then entry into public domain for the benefit of all.
While the ability to control the text ad infinitum might be attractive for
standards purposes, I am not sure copyright is the right means.

A different tactic might be to use a form of trademark which can be
protected forever (I think). The text would not be trademarked but the
indicator that something is an IETF-controlled item might be subject to
trademark.  Would that protect against someone producing a fake RFC or
altered RFC?


On Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 3:19 AM Karl Auerbach via Internet-history <
internet-history at elists.isoc.org> wrote:

> 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
> bending.)
> 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.
>         --karl--
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