Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) J. Halpern, Ed.
Request for Comments: 8721
Advice to the Trustees of the IETF Trust on Rights to Be Granted in IETF
Contributors grant intellectual property rights to the IETF. The
IETF Trust holds and manages those rights on behalf of the IETF. The
Trustees of the IETF Trust are responsible for that management. This
management includes granting the licenses to copy, implement, and
otherwise use IETF Contributions, among them Internet-Drafts and
RFCs. The Trustees of the IETF Trust accept direction from the IETF
regarding the rights to be granted. This document describes the
desires of the IETF regarding outbound rights to be granted in IETF
Contributions. This document obsoletes RFC 5377
solely for the
purpose of removing references to the IETF Administrative Oversight
Committee (IAOC), which was part of the IETF Administrative Support
Status of This Memo
This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for informational purposes.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Not all documents
approved by the IESG are candidates for any level of Internet
Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8721
Copyright (c) 2020 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
document authors. All rights reserved.
This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
) in effect on the date of
publication of this document. Please review these documents
carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
to this document. Code Components extracted from this document must
include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
described in the Simplified BSD License.
Table of Contents 1.
Purpose in Granting Rights 3.
Powers and Authority 4.
Recommended Grants of Right to Copy 4.1.
Rights Granted for Reproduction of RFCs 4.2.
Rights Granted for Quoting from IETF Contributions 4.3.
Rights Granted for Implementing Based on IETF Contributions 4.4.
Rights Granted for Use of Text from IETF Contributions 4.5.
Additional Licenses for IETF Contributions 5.
IANA Considerations 6.
Security Considerations 7.
Normative References 7.2.
Under the current operational and administrative structures, IETF
intellectual property rights are vested in the IETF Trust
administered by a board of trustees. This includes the right to make
use of IETF Contributions, as granted by Contributors under the rules
laid out in [RFC5378
]. The Trustees of the IETF Trust are therefore
responsible for defining the rights to copy granted by the IETF to
people who wish to make use of the material in these documents.
For consistency and clarity, this document uses the same terminology
laid out in [RFC5378
] and uses the same meanings as defined in that
The IETF Trust, by way of its Trustees, has indicated, as is
consistent with the IETF structure, that it will respect the wishes
of the IETF in regard to what these granted rights ought to be. It
is therefore the IETF's responsibility to articulate those wishes.
This document represents the wishes of the IETF regarding the rights
granted to all users in regard to IETF Contributions, until it is
2. Purpose in Granting Rights
In providing a description of the wishes of the IETF with regard to
rights granted in RFCs, it is helpful to keep in mind the purpose of
granting such rights.
The mission of the IETF is to produce documents that make the
Internet work better (see [RFC3935
] for more details). These
documents, when completed, are published as RFCs.
An important subclass of RFCs is standards describing protocols; for
these, the primary value to the Internet is the ability of
implementors to build solutions (products, software, etc.) that
interoperate using these standards. Hence, the IETF has a strong
interest in seeing accurate, interoperable implementations of the
material the IETF publishes. The IETF Trust grants rights to copy to
people to make use of the text in the RFCs in order to encourage
accurate and interoperable implementations.
As early implementations from Internet-Drafts make use of
descriptions in those Internet-Drafts, similar desires apply to
Similar considerations also apply to non-standard, non-protocol
documents such as BCP (Best Current Practice) and Informational
documents; in this document, we recommend a common approach to the
issue of right-to-use licenses for all IETF documents.
Previous documents regarding rights in IETF documents have included
in the RFC text specific text to be used to achieve the stated goals.
This has proved problematic. When problems are found with such text,
even when the problem is not a change in intent, it is necessary to
revise the RFC to fix the problem. At best, this delays fixing legal
issues that need prompt attention. As such, this document describes
the IETF desires to the Trustees of the IETF Trust, but does not
provide the specific legal wording to address the goals. The
selection, and updating as necessary, of legal wording is left to the
Trustees of the IETF Trust.
3. Powers and Authority
As described in the introduction, and formally specified in
], the legal authority for determining and granting users
rights to copy material in RFCs and other IETF Contributions rests
with the Trustees for the IETF Trust. This document provides
guidance to that body, based on the rough consensus of the IETF. The
Trustees of the IETF Trust have the authority and responsibility to
determine the exact text insertions (or other mechanisms), if any,
needed in Internet-Drafts, RFCs, and all IETF Contributions to meet
these goals. The IETF Trust License Policy is available from
To ensure continuity, the starting point for license text and other
materials will be that previously created by the Trustees of the IETF
under the authority of [RFC5377
] which this document supersedes.
Changes to the IETF documentation, and document policies themselves,
take effect as determined by the Trustees of the IETF Trust.
This document does not specify what rights the IETF Trust receives
from others in IETF Contributions. That is left to another document
]). While care has been taken by the working group in
developing this document, and care will be taken by the Trustees of
the IETF Trust, to see that sufficient rights are granted to the IETF
Trust in IETF Contributions, it is also the case that the Trust can
not grant rights it has not or does not receive, and it is expected
that policies will be in line with that fact. Similarly, the rights
granted for pre-existing documents can not be expanded unless the
holders of rights in those Contributions choose to grant expanded
rights. Nonetheless, to the degree it can, and without embarking on
a massive effort, it is desirable if similar rights to those
described below can be granted in older RFCs.
4. Recommended Grants of Right to Copy
The IETF grants rights to copy and modify parts of IETF Contributions
in order to meet the objectives described earlier. As such,
different circumstances and different parts of documents may need
different grants. This section contains subsections for each such
different grant that is currently envisioned. Each section is
intended to describe a particular usage, to describe how that usage
is recognizable, and to provide guidance to the Trustees of the IETF
Trust as to what rights the IETF would like to see granted in that
circumstance and what limitations should be put on such granting.
These recommendations for outgoing rights are structured around the
assumptions documented in [RFC5378
]. Thus, this document is about
granting rights derived from those granted to the IETF Trust. The
recommendations below are how those granted rights should in turn be
passed on to others using IETF documents in ways and for purposes
that fit with the goals of the IETF. This discussion is also
separate from discussion of the rights the IETF itself requires in
documents to do its job, as those are not "outbound" rights. It is
expected that the rights granted to the IETF will be a superset of
those copying rights we wish to grant to others.
4.1. Rights Granted for Reproduction of RFCs
It has long been IETF policy to encourage copying of RFCs in full.
This permits wide dissemination of the material, without risking loss
of context or meaning. The IETF wishes to continue to permit anyone
to make full copies and translations of RFCs.
4.2. Rights Granted for Quoting from IETF Contributions
There is rough consensus that it is useful to permit quoting without
modification of excerpts from IETF Contributions. Such excerpts may
be of any length and in any context. Translation of quotations is
also to be permitted. All such quotations should be attributed
properly to the IETF and the IETF Contribution from which they are
4.3. Rights Granted for Implementing Based on IETF Contributions
IETF Contributions often include components intended to be directly
processed by a computer. Examples of these include ABNF definitions,
XML Schemas, XML DTDs, XML RelaxNG definitions, tables of values,
MIBs, ASN.1, and classical programming code. These are included in
IETF Contributions for clarity and precision in specification. It is
clearly beneficial, when such items are included in IETF
Contributions, to permit the inclusion of such code components in
products that implement the Contribution. It has been pointed out
that in several important contexts, use of such code requires the
ability to modify the code. One common example of this is simply the
need to adapt code for use in specific contexts (languages,
compilers, tool systems, etc.) Such use frequently requires some
changes to the text of the code from the IETF Contribution. Another
example is that code included in open source products is frequently
licensed to permit any and all of the code to be modified. Since we
want this code included in such products, it follows that we need to
permit such modification. While there has been discussion of
restricting in some way the rights to make such modifications, the
rough consensus of the IETF is that such restrictions are likely a
bad idea, and are certainly very complex to define.
As such, the rough consensus is that the IETF Trust is to grant
rights such that code components of IETF Contributions can be
extracted, modified, and used by anyone in any way desired. To
enable the broadest possible extraction, modification, and usage, the
IETF Trust should avoid adding software license obligations beyond
those already present in a Contribution. The granted rights to
extract, modify, and use code should allow creation of derived works
outside the IETF that may carry additional license obligations. As
the IETF Trust can not grant rights it does not receive, the rights
to extract, modify, and use code described in this paragraph can not
be granted in IETF Contributions that are explicitly marked as not
permitting derivative works.
While it is up to the Trustees of the IETF Trust to determine the
best way of meeting this objective, two mechanisms are suggested here
that are believed to be helpful in documenting the intended grant to
readers and users of IETF Contributions.
Firstly, the Trustees of the IETF Trust should maintain, in a
suitable, easily accessible fashion, a list of common RFC components
that will be considered to be code. To start, this list should
include at least the items listed above. The Trustees of the IETF
Trust will add to this list as they deem suitable or as they are
directed by the IETF.
Additionally, the Trustees of the IETF Trust should define a textual
representation to be included in an IETF Contribution to indicate
that a portion of the document is considered by the authors (and
later, the working group, and upon approval, the IETF) to be code and
thus subject to the permissions granted to use code.
4.4. Rights Granted for Use of Text from IETF Contributions
There is no consensus at this time to permit the use of text from
RFCs in contexts where the right to modify the text is required. The
authors of IETF Contributions may be able and willing to grant such
rights independently of the rights they have granted to the IETF by
making the Contribution.
4.5. Additional Licenses for IETF Contributions
There have been contexts where the material in an IETF Contribution
is also available under other license terms. The IETF wishes to be
able to include content that is available under such licenses. It is
desirable to indicate in the IETF Contribution that other licenses
are available. It would be inappropriate and confusing if such
additional licenses restricted the rights the IETF intends to grant
in the content of RFCs.
However, the IETF does not wish to have IETF Contributions contain
additional licenses, as that introduces a number of additional
difficulties. Specifically, additional text in the document, and any
additional license referred to by permitted additional text, must not
in any way restrict the rights the IETF intends to grant to others
for using the contents of IETF Contributions.
Authors of Contributions retain all rights in their Contributions.
As such, an author may directly grant any rights they wish separately
from what the IETF grants. However, a reader wishing to determine or
make use of such grants will need to either consult external sources
of information, possibly including open source code and documents, or
contact the author directly.
5. IANA Considerations
No values are assigned in this document, no registries are created,
and there is no action assigned to the IANA by this document. One
list (of kinds of code sections) is anticipated, to be created and
maintained by the Trustees of the IETF Trust. It is up to the
Trustees of the IETF Trust whether they create such a list and
whether they choose to involve the IANA in maintaining that list.
6. Security Considerations
This document introduces no new security considerations. It is a
process document about the IETF's IPR rights being granted to other
people. While there may be attacks against the integrity or
effectiveness of the IETF processes, this document does not address
7.1. Normative References
] Halpern, J., Ed., "Advice to the Trustees of the IETF
Trust on Rights to Be Granted in IETF Documents", RFC 5377
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5377
, November 2008,
] Bradner, S., Ed. and J. Contreras, Ed., "Rights
Contributors Provide to the IETF Trust", BCP 78, RFC 5378
, November 2008,
7.2. Informative References
] Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF",
BCP 95, RFC 3935
, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935
, October 2004,
IETF Trust, "Legal Provisions Relating to IETF Documents",
March 2015, <http://trustee.ietf.org/docs/IETF-Trust-
Joel M. Halpern (editor)
P. O. Box 6049
Leesburg, VA 20178
United States of America