IPR Questions Raised by Sam Hartman at the IETF 73 Plenary

IETF Chair <chair@ietf.org> Thu, 11 December 2008 22:48 UTC

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Subject: IPR Questions Raised by Sam Hartman at the IETF 73 Plenary
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During the IETF 73 Plenary, Sam Hartman asked some questions about the
recent updates to the IETF IPR policy.  Before responding to Sam's
question, it will be important to provide context about the recently
approved IPR policy.  The policy has two components, each governed by
different documents.


Under the previous IPR policy (most recently, RFC 3978), all contributors
were required to grant broad, perpetual licenses to all IETF participants,
for use of their contributions in the IETF Standards Process.  Under the
updated IPR policy, which is a product of the concluded IPR WG and
published as RFC 5378, contributors to the IETF are required to grant a
few additional rights.  The rights to IETF contributions are held by the
IETF Trust, and the additional rights cover cases beyond the IETF
Standards Process.  One fairly recent example where the IETF Trust could
have made use of these additional rights, had they existed at the time,
was the transition of a MIB that was developed in the IETF to IEEE 802.1
for maintenance.  Since these right were unavailable, IEEE 802.1 was asked
to contact each of the authors of the RFCs that contained the MIB to
obtain the necessary rights.


The IPR WG asked the Trustees of the IETF Trust to construct licenses
that grant the rights needed for the IETF Standards Process and rights for
the use of code included in IETF contributions.  This request is
documented in RFC 5377.  The Trustees of the IETF Trust generated a
license for each situation, one for text and another one for code.  These
licenses can be found at http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info.

The text license grants a broad, perpetual license to all IETF
participants, for use of their contributions in the IETF Standards Process
and also allows the reproduction and translation of IETF Documents in
full, as well as excerpting from IETF Documents with certain requirements
of attribution.

The code license grants right to copy and modify code.  This is a
practical matter; code often needs modification to run in a particular
environment, and this license permits these modifications.


As described above, prior to the publication of RFC 5378 authors did not
grant the IETF a license to modify their IETF contributions outside the
IETF Standards Process.  The IPR Working Group fixed this situation with
the new IPR structure.

RFC 5378 is an approved BCP, and it took effect the day that it was
published: 10 November 2008.  This action was not taken by the Trustees of
the IETF Trust.  This action was taken by the IETF community in the same
way that all process BCPs are approved.  In this case, that included
significant discussion within the IPR WG, significant discussion within
the IETF during Last Call, followed by IESG evaluation and approval.

When a someone makes a contribution to the IETF, for example by
submitting a Internet-Draft, they are required to make a representation
that they have all rights necessary to make that contribution and grant to
the IETF Trust all of the rights described in RFC 5378.  In most cases, a
contributor can make this representation without any problem for their own
work.  A contributor can also make this representation as to modifications
of older work, but only insofar as the original contributor granted rights
to IETF.  If the older work was contributed prior to RFC 5378, then the
original contributor granted IETF an unlimited license to use the that
older work in the IETF Standards Process; however, the new contributor is
required to grant the IETF Trust some additional rights.  The new
contributor is required to grant the IETF Trust a license that permits the
IETF Trust to give a license for modification outside the IETF Standards


What does a contributor do in the situation when then want to build on an
older work that was contributed prior to RFC 5378?

In short, the contributor must obtain the additional rights from the
original contributor.  A form is being developed to assist in this task. 
There is no requirement that the form be used, but it will be available
shortly for anyone that chooses to make use of it.


As part of the IPR policy upgrade, the boilerplate and the IETF Note Well
text have been updated.

The updated boilerplate will be required on I-D submissions beginning 16
December 2008.  This boilerplate simply provides a pointer to the current
IPR policy.  Posting with the older boilerplate was allowed from 10
November 2008 through 15 December 2008 to facilitate document template
updates.  Regardless of the boilerplate that was used on a particular
contribution, the BCPs determine the IPR policy that applies, not the

In other words, all contributions by participants after publication of
RFC 5378 are granting the Trust the license allow modification of their
IETF contributions outside the IETF Standards Process, but only in the
limited circumstances deemed by the IETF Trust to be consistent with the
wishes of the IETF community.

Likewise, the IETF Note Well text has been updated to reflect pointers to
the current IPR policy.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

Your General Area Director,

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