Request for comments on proposed changes to the IETF Trust Legal Provisions (January 8, 2009)

The purpose of this message is twofold:

1) To summarize the issues that some members of our community have experienced since the publication of RFC 5378 in November 2008, and
2) To invite community review and discussion on a potential work-around being considered by the IETF Trustees.

Some I-D authors are having difficulty implementing RFC 5378. An example of the difficulty is as follows:
  • an author wants to include pre-5378 content in a new submission or contribution to the IETF, but
  • s/he is not certain that all of the author(s) of the earlier material have agreed to license it to the IETF Trust according to RFC 5378.

If an I-D author includes pre-5378 material in a new document, then s/he must represent or warrant that all of the authors who created the pre-5378 material have granted rights for that material to the IETF Trust. If s/he cannot make this assertion, then s/he has a problem.

This situation has halted the progression of some Internet-Drafts and interrupted the publication of some RFCs. The Trustees of the IETF Trust are investigating ways to implement a temporary work-around so that IETF work can continue to progress. A permanent solution to this "pre-5378 problem" may require an update to RFC 5378, for example new work by the community to create a 5378-bis document.

The remainder of this message provides an outline of the temporary work- around being considered by the Trustees.

RFC 5378 sections 1.j and 5.3.c provide the IETF Trust with the authority to develop legend text for authors to use in situations where they wish to limit the granting of rights to modify and prepare derivatives of the documents they submit. The Trustees used this authorityin 2008 to develop and adopt the current "Legal Provisions Relating to IETF Documents" which are posted at:

The Trustees are now considering the creation of optional new legend text which could be used by authors experiencing the "pre-5378 problem".

The new legend text, if implemented, would do the following:

a. Provide Authors and Contributors with a way to identify (to the
IETF Trust) that their contributions contain material from pre-5378
documents for which RFC 5378 rights to modify the material outside
the IETF standards process may not have been granted, and

b. Provide the IETF Trust and the community with a clear indication
of every document containing pre-5378 content and having the
"pre-5378 problem".

So, how could the creation and use of some new legend text help people work-around the pre-5378 problem?

The proposed answer is as follows:

1. Anyone having a contribution with the "pre-5378" problem should add
new legend text to the contribution, to clearly flag that it includes
pre-5378 material for which all of the rights needed under RFC 5378
may not have been granted, and

2. The IETF Trust will consider authors and contributors (with the
pre-5378 problem) to have met their RFC 5378 obligations if the
new legend text appears on their documents, and

3. Authors and contributors should only resort to adding the new
legend text to their documents (per #1) if they cannot develop
certainty that all of the author(s) of pre-5378 material in
their documents have agreed to license the pre-5378 content to
the IETF Trust according to RFC 5378.

The proposed wording for the new legend text is now available for your review and comments in section 6.c.iii of a draft revision to the IETF Trust's "Legal Provisions Relating to IETF Documents" located at

Please note that the above document also contains new text in section 5.c dealing with "License Limitations".

If your review and feedback on this proposed work-around is positive, then the new text may be adopted by the Trustees in early February 2009, and then be published as an official revision to the Legal Provisions document. If so adopted, Internet-Drafts with pre-5378 material may advance within the Internet standards process and get published as RFCs where otherwise qualified to do so. Unless covered by sections 6.c.i or 6.c.ii, authors of documents in which there is no pre-5378 material must provide a RFC 5378 license with no limitation on modifications outside the IETF standards process.

The IETF Trust will not grant the right to modify or prepare derivative works of any specific RFC or other IETF Contribution outside the IETF standards process until RFC 5378 rights pertaining to that document have been obtained from all authors and after compliance by the IETF Trust with RFC 5377. The Trustees will establish one or more mechanisms by which authors of pre-5378 documents may grant RFC 5378 rights.

The Trustees hereby invite your review, comments and suggestions on this proposed work-around to the "pre-5378 problem". The period for this review is 30 days. Microsoft WORD and PDF versions of the proposed revisions are attached to this message. Copies are also available on the IETF Trust website under the heading "DRAFT Policy and Procedures Being Developed" at:

All feedback submitted before the end of February 7th will be considered by the Trustees. A decision on whether to move forward with this proposal will be made and communicated to you before the end of February 15th.

Please give this your attention.

Regards and Happy New Year!

Ed Juskevicius, on behalf of the IETF Trustees