Re: [antitrust-policy] Who enforces an Antitrust Policy for the IETF

"John R Levine" <johnl@taugh.com> Fri, 20 January 2012 22:40 UTC

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Date: 20 Jan 2012 17:40:44 -0500
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From: "John R Levine" <johnl@taugh.com>
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Subject: Re: [antitrust-policy] Who enforces an Antitrust Policy for the IETF
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> I would not anticipate an official "enforcer" either.  A main benefit
> of the policy is to provide IETF (i.e., ISOC/IETF Trust) a defense if
> it is sued for an antitrust violation committed by its participants.
> At least the organization can say: "We don't condone that type of
> behavior.  See our policy that expressly prohibits it."

Lawyer: Do you make any attempt to enforce that policy?

IETF person: Not really.

Lawyer: Have you ever sanctioned anyone for violating it?

IETF: No.

Lawyer: What would happen if I started talking about price fixing at a meeting?

IETF: I hope someone would tell you to stop.

Lawyer: What would happen if I didn't?

IETF: Probably nothing.

This would not impress any judge I know.

An anti-trust policy is different from our existing policies.  The current 
policies are about stuff we want, from informal rules about no want ads to the 
IPR rules intended to keep someone from pulling another Rambus. (Given the 
history of RFCs, I don't think there is any serious chance of a copyright 
suit.)

Anti-trust rules are intended to minimize the chance that the IETF gets dragged 
into an anti-trust suit as a co-conspirator, or to help get such a suit 
dismissed as easily as possible.  An unenforced policy doesn't do that.

If you want to publish an info sheet about how anti-trust law might apply to 
IETF participants, sure, go ahead.  But please don't say it's a policy if it 
isn't.

Meta-question: The IETF presumably expects participants to obey all applicable 
laws.  I presume nobody thinks we need a policy about smoking marijuana at 
meetings.  Why is this different?

R's,
John