Network Working Group S. Bradner, Ed.
Request for Comments: 5378 Harvard University
BCP: 78 J. Contreras, Ed.
Obsoletes: 3978, 4748 WilmerHale
Updates: 2026 November 2008
Category: Best Current Practice
Rights Contributors Provide to the IETF Trust
Status of This Memo
This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (c) 2008 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
(http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) 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.
The IETF policies about rights in Contributions to the IETF are
designed to ensure that such Contributions can be made available to
the IETF and Internet communities while permitting the authors to
retain as many rights as possible. This memo details the IETF
policies on rights in Contributions to the IETF. It also describes
the objectives that the policies are designed to meet. This memo
obsoletes RFCs 3978 and 4748 and, with BCP 79 and RFC 5377, replaces
Section 10 of RFC 2026.
Table of Contents
1. Definitions .....................................................32. Introduction ....................................................52.1. No Retroactive Effect ......................................53. Exposition of Why These Procedures Are the Way They Are .........63.1. Rights Granted in Contributions ............................63.2. Rights to Use Contributions ................................63.3. Right to Produce Derivative Works ..........................63.4. Rights to Use Trademarks ...................................83.5. Contributions Not Subject to Copyright .....................83.6. Copyright in RFCs ..........................................94. Non-IETF Documents ..............................................95. Rights in Contributions .........................................95.1. General Policy .............................................95.2. Confidentiality Obligations ...............................105.3. Rights Granted by Contributors to the IETF Trust ..........105.4. Sublicenses by the IETF Trust .............................115.5. No Patent License .........................................115.6. Representations and Warranties ............................115.7. No Duty to Publish ........................................125.8. Trademarks ................................................125.9. Copyright in RFCs .........................................125.10. Contributors' Retention of Rights ........................126. Legends, Notices and Other Standardized Text in IETF
Documents ......................................................137. Security Considerations ........................................138. References .....................................................148.1. Normative References ......................................148.2. Informative References ....................................149. Acknowledgments ................................................1510. Changes since RFC 3978 ........................................1511. Declaration from the IAB ......................................16
The following definitions are for terms used in the context of this
document. Other terms, including "IESG", "ISOC", "IAB", and "RFC
Editor" are defined in [RFC2028].
a. "Contribution": any submission to the IETF intended by the
Contributor for publication as all or part of an Internet-Draft or
RFC (except for RFC Editor Contributions described in Section 4
below) and any statement made within the context of an IETF
activity. Such statements include oral statements in IETF
sessions as well as written and electronic communications, made at
any time or place, that are addressed to:
o the IETF plenary session,
o any IETF working group or portion thereof,
o any Birds of a Feather (BOF) session,
o the IESG, or any member thereof on behalf of the IESG,
o the IAB, or any member thereof on behalf of the IAB,
o any IETF mailing list, including the IETF list itself, any
working group or design team list, or any other list functioning
under IETF auspices,
o the RFC Editor or the Internet-Drafts function (except for RFC
Editor Contributions, as described in Section 4 below).
Statements made outside of an IETF session, mailing list, or other
function, that are clearly not intended to be input to an IETF
activity, group, or function are not IETF Contributions in the
context of this document.
b. "Contributor": an individual submitting a Contribution.
c. "Indirect Contributor": any person who has materially or
substantially contributed to a Contribution without being
personally involved in its submission to the IETF.
d. "Copyright": the legal right granted to an author in a document or
other work of authorship under applicable law. A "copyright" is
not equivalent to a "right to copy". Rather a copyright
encompasses all of the exclusive rights that an author has in a
work, such as the rights to copy, publish, distribute and create
derivative works of the work. An author often cedes these rights
to his or her employer or other parties as a condition of
employment or compensation.
e. "IETF": in the context of this document, the IETF includes all
individuals who participate in meetings, working groups, mailing
lists, functions, and other activities that are organized or
initiated by ISOC, the IESG, or the IAB under the general
designation of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), but
solely to the extent of such participation.
f. "IETF Documents": RFCs and Internet-Drafts that are used in the
IETF Standards Process as defined in 1(g). This is identical to
the "IETF stream" defined in [RFC4844].
g. "IETF Standards Process": the activities undertaken by the IETF in
any of the settings described in 1(a) above.
h. "IETF Trust": a trust established under the laws of the
Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, in order to hold and administer
intellectual property rights for the benefit of the IETF.
i. "Internet-Draft": temporary documents used in the IETF Standards
Process. Internet-Drafts are posted on the IETF web site by the
IETF Secretariat. As noted in Section 2.2 of RFC 2026, Internet-
Drafts have a nominal maximum lifetime of six months in the IETF
Secretariat's public directory.
j. "Legend Instructions": the standardized text that is maintained by
the IETF Trust and is included in IETF Documents and the
instructions and requirements for including that standardized text
in IETF Documents. The text and instructions are posted from time
to time at http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info.
k. "RFC": the publication series used by the IETF among others. RFCs
are published by the RFC Editor. Although RFCs may be superseded
in whole or in part by subsequent RFCs, the text of an RFC is not
altered once published in RFC form. (See [RFC2026] Section 2.1.)
l. "Reasonably and personally known": something an individual knows
personally or, because of the job the individual holds, would
reasonably be expected to know. This wording is used to indicate
that an organization cannot purposely keep an individual in the
dark about certain information just to avoid the disclosure
m. "Non-IETF documents": Internet-Drafts that are submitted to the
RFC Editor independently of the IETF Standards Process. (See
In all matters of copyright and document procedures, the intent is to
benefit the Internet community and the public at large, while
respecting the legitimate rights of others.
Under the laws of most countries and current international treaties
(for example the "Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and
Artistic Work" [Berne]), authors obtain numerous rights in the works
they produce automatically upon producing them. These rights include
copyrights, moral rights, and other rights. In many cases, if the
author produces a work within the scope of his or her employment,
most of those rights are usually assigned to the employer, either by
operation of law or, in many cases, under contract. (The Berne
Convention names some rights as "inalienable", which means that the
author retains them in all cases.)
In order for Contributions to be used within the IETF Standards
Process, including when they are published as Internet-Drafts or
RFCs, certain limited rights must be granted to the IETF Trust, which
then grants the necessary rights to the IETF. In addition,
Contributors must make representations to the IETF Trust and the IETF
regarding their ability to grant these rights.
Section 1 provides definitions used in these policies. Sections 3
and 4 of this document explain the rationale for these provisions.
Sections 1, 2, 5, and 6 of this document are normative, the other
sections are informative. RFC 3979 (BCP 79) [RFC3979] deals with
rights, including possible patent rights, in technologies developed
or specified as part of the IETF Standards Process. This document is
not intended to address those issues. This memo obsoletes RFCs 3978
[RFC3978] and 4748 [RFC4748] and, with RFC 3979 (BCP 79) and
[RFC5377], replaces Section 10 of RFC 2026 [RFC2026].
This document is not intended as legal advice. Readers are advised
to consult their own legal advisors if they would like a legal
interpretation of their rights or the rights of the IETF Trust
[RFC4371] in any Contributions they make.
2.1. No Retroactive Effect
This memo does not retroactively obtain additional rights from
Contributions that predate the date that the IETF Trust announces the
adoption of these procedures.
3. Exposition of Why These Procedures Are the Way They Are
3.1. Rights Granted in Contributions
The IETF Trust and the IETF must obtain the right to publish an IETF
Contribution as an RFC or an Internet-Draft from the Contributors.
A primary objective of this policy is to obtain from the document
authors only the non-exclusive rights that are needed to develop and
publish IETF Documents and to use IETF Contributions in the IETF
Standards Process and potentially elsewhere.
The authors retain all other rights, but cannot withdraw the above
rights from the IETF Trust and the IETF.
It is important to note that under this document, Contributors are
required to grant certain rights to the IETF Trust (see Section
5.3.), which holds all IETF-related intellectual property on behalf
of the IETF community. The IETF Trust will, in turn, grant a
sublicense of these rights to all IETF participants for use in the
IETF Standards Process (see Section 5.4.). This sublicense is
necessary for the standards development work of the IETF to continue.
In addition, the IETF Trust may grant certain other sublicenses of
the rights that it is granted under this document. In granting such
other sublicenses, the IETF Trust will be guided and bound by
documents such as [RFC5377].
3.2. Rights to Use Contributions
It is important that the IETF receive assurances from all
Contributors that they have the authority to grant the IETF the
rights that they claim to grant because, under the laws of most
countries and applicable international treaties, copyright rights
come into existence when a work of authorship is created (but see
Section 3.5 below regarding public domain documents), and the IETF
cannot make use of IETF Contributions if it does not have sufficient
rights with respect to these copyright rights. The IETF and its
participants would run a greater risk of liability to the owners of
these rights without this assurance. To this end, the IETF asks
Contributors to give the assurances in Section 5.6 below. These
assurances are requested, however, only to the extent of the
Contributor's reasonable and personal knowledge. (See Section 1(l).)
3.3. Right to Produce Derivative Works
The IETF needs to be able to evolve IETF Documents in response to
experience gained in the deployment of the technologies described in
such IETF Documents, to incorporate developments in research, and to
react to changing conditions on the Internet and other IP networks.
The IETF may also decide to permit others to develop derivative works
based on Contributions. In order to do this, the IETF must be able
to produce derivatives of its documents; thus, the IETF must obtain
the right from Contributors to produce derivative works. Note that
the right to produce translations is required before any Contribution
can be published as an RFC, to ensure the widest possible
distribution of the material in RFCs. The right to produce
derivative works, in addition to translations, is required for all
IETF Standards Track documents and for most IETF non-Standards Track
documents. There are two exceptions to this requirement: documents
describing proprietary technologies and documents that are
republications of the work of other standards organizations.
The right to produce derivative works must be granted in order for an
IETF working group to accept a Contribution as a working group
document or otherwise work on it. For non-working group
Contributions where the Contributor requests publication as a
Standards Track RFC, the right to produce derivative works must be
granted before the IESG will issue an IETF Last Call and, for most
non-Standards Track, non-working group Contributions, before the IESG
will consider the Internet-Draft for publication. Occasionally a
Contributor may not want to grant publication rights or the right to
produce derivative works before finding out if a Contribution has
been accepted for development in the IETF Standards Process. In
these cases, the Contributor may include a limitation on the right to
make derivative works in the form specified in the Legend
Instructions. A working group can discuss the Contribution with the
aim to decide if it should become a working group document, even
though the right to produce derivative works or to publish the
Contribution as an RFC has not yet been granted. However, if the
Contribution is accepted for development, the Contributor must
resubmit the Contribution without the limitation notices before a
working group can formally adopt the Contribution as a working group
document. The IETF Trust may establish different policies for
granting sublicenses with respect to different types of Contributions
and content within Contributions (such as executable code versus
descriptive text or references to third-party materials). The IETF
Trust's policies concerning the granting of sublicenses to make
derivative works will be guided by RFC [RFC5377].
The IETF has historically encouraged organizations to publish details
of their technologies, even when the technologies are proprietary,
because understanding how existing technology is being used helps
when developing new technology. But organizations that publish
information about proprietary technologies are frequently not willing
to have the IETF produce revisions of the technologies and then
possibly claim that the IETF version is the "new version" of the
organization's technology. Organizations that feel this way can
specify that a Contribution be published with the other rights
granted under this document but may withhold the right to produce
derivative works other than translations.
In addition, IETF Documents frequently make normative references to
standards or recommendations developed by other standards
organizations. Since the publications of some standards
organizations are not public documents, it can be quite helpful to
the IETF to republish, with the permission of the other standards
organization, some of these documents as RFCs so that the IETF
community can have open access to them to better understand what they
are referring to. In these cases, the RFCs can be published without
the right for the IETF to produce derivative works. In both of the
above cases, in which the production of derivative works is excluded,
the Contributor must include a special legend in the Contribution, as
specified in the Legend Instructions, in order to notify IETF
participants about this restriction.
3.4. Rights to Use Trademarks
Contributors may wish to seek trademark or service mark protection on
any terms that are coined or used in their Contributions. The IETF
makes no judgment about the validity of any such trademark rights.
However, the IETF requires each Contributor, under the licenses
described in Section 5.3 below, to grant the IETF Trust a perpetual
license to use any such trademarks or service marks solely in
exercising rights to reproduce, publish, discuss, and modify the IETF
Contribution. This license does not authorize the IETF or others to
use any trademark or service mark in connection with any product or
3.5. Contributions Not Subject to Copyright
Certain documents, including those produced by the U.S. government
and those which are in the public domain, may not be protected by the
same copyright and other legal rights as other documents.
Nevertheless, we ask each Contributor to grant to the IETF the same
rights he or she would grant, and to make the same representations,
as though the IETF Contribution were protected by the same legal
rights as other documents, and as though the Contributor could be
able to grant these rights. We ask for these grants and
representations only to the extent that the Contribution may be
protected. We believe they are necessary to protect the ISOC, the
IETF Trust, the IETF, the IETF Standards Process, and all IETF
participants, and because the IETF does not have the resources or
wherewithal to make any independent investigation as to the actual
proprietary status of any document submitted to it.
3.6. Copyright in RFCs
As noted above, Contributors to the IETF (or their employers) retain
ownership of the copyright in their Contributions. This includes
Internet-Drafts and all other Contributions made within the IETF
Standards Process (e.g., via e-mail, oral comment, and otherwise).
However, it is important that the IETF (through the IETF Trust) own
the copyright in documents that are published as RFCs (other than
Informational RFCs and RFCs that are submitted as RFC Editor
Contributions). Ownership of the copyright in an RFC does not
diminish the Contributors' rights in their underlying contributions,
but it does prevent anyone other than the IETF Trust (and its
licensees) from republishing or modifying an RFC in RFC format. In
this respect, Contributors are treated the same as anybody else:
though they may extract and republish their own Contributions without
limitation, they may not do so in the RFC format used by the IETF.
And while this principle (which is included in Section 5.9 below) may
appear to be new to the IETF, it actually reflects historical
practice and has been observed for many years through the inclusion
of an ISOC or IETF Trust copyright notice on all RFC documents since
the publication of RFC 2026.
4. Non-IETF Documents
This document only relates to Contributions made as part of the IETF
Processes. Other documents that are referred to as Internet-Drafts
and RFCs may be submitted to and published by the RFC Editor
independently of the IETF Standards Process. Such documents are not
covered by this document, unless the controlling entity for that
document stream, as described in [RFC4844] chooses to apply these
rules. Non-IETF Contributions must be marked appropriately as
described in the Legend Instructions. See the RFC Editor web page
for information about the policies concerning rights in RFC Editor
Documents; for other document streams, the controlling entity must be
contacted. See Section 11 for a declaration from the IAB on this
5. Rights in Contributions
5.1. General Policy
By submission of a Contribution, each person actually submitting the
Contribution and each named co-Contributor is deemed to have read and
understood the rules and requirements set forth in this document.
Each Contributor is deemed, by the act of submitting a Contribution,
to enter into a legally-binding agreement to comply with the terms
and conditions set forth in this document.
The Contributor is further deemed to have agreed that he/she has
obtained the necessary permissions to enter into such an agreement
from any party that the Contributor reasonably and personally knows
may have rights in the Contribution, including, but not limited to,
the Contributor's sponsor or employer.
No further acknowledgment, signature, or other action is required to
bind a Contributor to these terms and conditions. The operation of
the IETF and the work conducted by its many participants is dependent
on such agreement by each Contributor, and each IETF participant
expressly relies on the agreement of each Contributor to the terms
and conditions set forth in this document.
5.2. Confidentiality Obligations
No information or document that is subject to any requirement of
confidentiality or any restriction on its dissemination may be
submitted as a Contribution or otherwise considered in any part of
the IETF Standards Process, and there must be no assumption of any
confidentiality obligation with respect to any Contribution. Each
Contributor agrees that any statement in a Contribution, whether
generated automatically or otherwise, that states or implies that the
Contribution is confidential or subject to any privilege, can be
disregarded for all purposes, and will be of no force or effect.
5.3. Rights Granted by Contributors to the IETF Trust
To the extent that a Contribution or any portion thereof is protected
by copyright or other rights of authorship, the Contributor and each
named co-Contributor grant a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive,
royalty-free, world-wide, sublicensable right and license to the IETF
Trust under all such copyrights and other rights in the Contribution:
a. to copy, publish, display, and distribute the Contribution, in
whole or in part,
b. to prepare translations of the Contribution into languages other
than English, in whole or in part, and to copy, publish, display,
and distribute such translations or portions thereof,
c. to modify or prepare derivative works (in addition to
translations) that are based on or incorporate all or part of the
Contribution, and to copy, publish, display, and distribute such
derivative works, or portions thereof unless explicitly disallowed
in the notices contained in a Contribution (in the form specified
by the Legend Instructions), and
d. to reproduce any trademarks, service marks, or trade names which
are included in the Contribution solely in connection with the
reproduction, distribution, or publication of the Contribution and
derivative works thereof as permitted by this Section 5.3,
provided that when reproducing Contributions, trademark and
service mark identifiers used in the Contribution, including TM
and (R), will be preserved.
5.4. Sublicenses by the IETF Trust
The IETF Trust will sublicense the rights granted to it under Section
5.3 to all IETF participants for use within the IETF Standards
Process. This license is expressly granted under a license agreement
issued by the IETF Trust, which can be found at
This license is expressly granted under a license agreement issued by
the IETF Trust and must contain a pointer to the full IETF Trust
In addition, the IETF Trust may grant additional sublicenses of the
licenses granted to it hereunder. In doing so, the IETF Trust will
comply with the guidance provided under RFC 5377 [RFC5377].
5.5. No Patent License
The licenses granted in Section 5.3 shall not be deemed to grant any
right under any patent, patent application, or other similar
intellectual property right disclosed by the Contributor under BCP 79
[RFC3979] or otherwise.
5.6. Representations and Warranties
With respect to each Contribution, each Contributor represents that,
to the best of his or her knowledge and ability:
a. The Contribution properly acknowledges all Contributors, including
b. No information in the Contribution is confidential, and the IETF,
IETF Trust, ISOC, and its affiliated organizations may freely
disclose any information in the Contribution.
c. There are no limits to the Contributor's ability to make the
grants, acknowledgments, and agreements herein that are reasonably
and personally known to the Contributor.
d. The Contributor has not intentionally included in the Contribution
any material that is defamatory or untrue or which is illegal
under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the Contributor has
his or her principal place of business or residence.
e. All trademarks, trade names, service marks, and other proprietary
names used in the Contribution that are reasonably and personally
known to the Contributor are clearly designated as such where
5.7. No Duty to Publish
The Contributor, and each named co-Contributor, acknowledges that the
IETF has no duty to publish or otherwise use or disseminate any
Contribution. The IETF reserves the right to withdraw or cease using
any Contribution that does not comply with the requirements of this
Contributors who claim trademark rights in terms used in their IETF
Contributions are requested to state specifically what conditions
apply to implementers of the technology relative to the use of such
trademarks. Such statements should be submitted in the same way as
is done for other intellectual property claims. (See [RFC3979]
5.9. Copyright in RFCs
Subject to each Contributor's (or its sponsor's) ownership of its
underlying Contributions as described in Section 5.6 (which ownership
is qualified by the irrevocable licenses granted under Section 5.3),
each Contributor hereby acknowledges that the copyright in any RFC in
which such Contribution is included, other than an RFC that is an RFC
Editor Contribution, shall be owned by the IETF Trust. Such
Contributor shall be deemed to assign to the IETF Trust such
Contributor's copyright interest in the collective work constituting
such RFC upon the submission of such RFC for publication, and
acknowledges that a copyright notice acknowledging the IETF Trust's
ownership of the copyright in such RFC will be included in the
5.10. Contributors' Retention of Rights
Although Contributors provide specific rights to the IETF, it is not
intended that this should deprive them of their right to exploit
their Contributions. To underscore this principle, the IETF Trust is
directed to issue a license or assurance to Contributors, which
confirms that they may each make use of their Contributions as
published in an RFC in any way they wish, subject only to the
restriction that no Contributor has the right to represent any
document as an RFC, or equivalent of an RFC, if it is not a full and
complete copy or translation of the published RFC.
6. Legends, Notices and Other Standardized Text in IETF Documents
The IETF requires that certain standardized text be reproduced
verbatim in certain IETF Documents (including copies, derivative
works, and translations of IETF Documents). Some of this
standardized text may be mandatory (e.g., copyright notices and
disclaimers that must be included in all RFCs) and some may be
optional (e.g., limitations on the right to make derivative works).
The text itself, as well as the rules that explain when and how it
must be used, is contained in the Legend Instructions. The Legend
Instructions may be updated from time to time, and the version of the
standardized text that must be included in IETF Documents is that
which was posted in the Legend Instructions on the date of
The IETF reserves the right to refuse to publish Contributions that
do not include the legends and notices required by the Legend
It is important to note that each Contributor grants the IETF Trust
rights pursuant to this document and the policies described herein.
The legends and notices included in certain written Contributions
such as Internet-Drafts do not themselves convey any rights. They
are simply included to inform the reader (whether or not part of the
IETF) about certain legal rights and limitations associated with such
It is also important to note that additional copyright notices are
not permitted in IETF Documents except in the case where such
document is the product of a joint development effort between the
IETF and another standards development organization or is a
republication of the work of another standards development
organization. Such exceptions must be approved on an individual
basis by the IAB.
7. Security Considerations
This memo relates to the IETF process, not any particular technology.
There are security considerations when adopting any technology, but
there are no known issues of security with IETF Contribution rights
The editors would like to acknowledge the help the IETF IPR Working
Group provided during the development of the document.
10. Changes since RFC 3978
This document represents a significant reorganization and rewording
of RFC 3978, along with a number of substantive changes.
The most basic change is to limit this document to the rights that a
Contributor grants to the IETF Trust when making a Contribution. All
sublicenses of rights for the use of IETF Documents must be provided
by the IETF Trust. (See Section 5.4.)
Material added from RFC 4748 that recognized the IETF Trust.
Most of the material relating to RFC Editor documents has been
removed since the RFC Editor maintains their own rules and processes
for RFC Editor documents. Renamed these documents to "non-IETF
documents". Added section 11 from the IAB discussing this topic.
Changes in the definitions section include defining the terms
"Contribution", "Indirect Contributor", "Copyright", "IETF Trust",
and "Legend Instructions", as well as minor tweaks to some of the
The responsibility for the text of notices has been given to the IETF
Trust and removed from this document. (See Section 6.)
Clarified that Contributors enter into a legally binding contract
when they submit a Contribution. (See Section 5.1.)
The right to produce derivative works provided by the Contributor to
the IETF Trust is not limited to being within the IETF Standards
Made it clear that this document does not deal with patent licenses.
(See Section 5.5.)
Clarified the ownership of the Copyrights to IETF Documents. (See
Clarified the rights retained by authors of IETF Contributions. (See
11. Declaration from the IAB
The IAB discussed the IPR documents during its most recent call. It
unanimously decided that the IAB stream is to be covered by the
incoming IPR document. It is our understanding that IAB stream
documents' IPR are then automatically covered by the outbound rights
that the IETF Trust will establish based on the advice in [RFC5377].
We also want to stress that, for any change in the inbound rights for
streams other than the IETF and IAB streams, there needs to be a
stream-dependent discussion and approval process, as indicated in RFC
4844, "The RFC Series and RFC Editor" [RFC4844], section 4.2.3.
To that extent, section 4 of the document should explicitly mention
that the IRTF, the Independent, and any possible future streams are
not covered by the document.
For the IAB,
April 4, 2008
29 Oxford St.
Cambridge MA, 02138 USA
Phone: +1 617 495 3864
Jorge L. Contreras
1875 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20006 USA
Phone: +1 202 663 6872