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IETF-ISOC relationship

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 2031.
Author Dr. Erik Huizer
Last updated 2013-03-02 (Latest revision 1996-04-09)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status (None)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state (None)
Document shepherd (None)
IESG IESG state Became RFC 2031 (Informational)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD (None)
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INTERNET-DRAFT                                              Erik Huizer
Network Working Group                       SURFnet ExpertiseCentrum bv
                                                             April 1996

                        IETF-ISOC relationship

Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

   This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
   documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas,
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This Internet-draft expires on October 15th 1996


This memo summarises the issues on IETF - ISOC relationships as the have
been discussed by the Poised Working Group. The purpose of the document
is to gauge consensus on these issues. And to allow further discussions
where necessary.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the body that is
responsible for the development and maintenance of the Internet
Standards. Traditionally the IETF is a volunteer organization. The
driving force is dedicated high quality engineers from all over the
world. In a structure of working groups these engineers exchange ideas
and experience, and through discussion (both by e-mail and face to
face) they strive to get rough consensus. The engineers then work on
building running code to put the consensus to the test and evolve it
into an Internet Standard.

The growth of the Internet has also led to a growth of the IETF. More
and more people, organizations and companies rely on Internet
Standards. The growth of responsibility as well as amount of
participants has forced the IETF to more and more structure its
processes. Non technical issues, such as legal issues, liaison issues

etc., have become an undesirable but a seemingly unavoidable part of
the IETF organization. To address these issues the IETF established the
Poised95 working group. The working group is now trying to structure
and document the IETF processes in such a way as to keep the maximum
flexibility and freedom for the engineers in the IETF to work in the
way the IETF has always been most successful, and to honour the IETF
credo: "Rough consensus and running code".

One of the more obvious recommendations that came out of the Poised WG
was to move all non technical issues that can be moved safely, to
another related organization. The Poised WG finds that the Internet
Society (ISOC) is the obvious choice for this task. A straw poll at the 
open plenary session of the IETF in december 1995 in Dallas clearly
confirmed this notion.

However, since this is an issue that is crucial to the functioning of
the IETF as a whole it is necessary to get a broad (rather than a
rough) consensus on this issue. At the same time it is necessary to
clearly indicate the extend of the relationship between the IETF and
ISOC. So both the IETF participants and the ISOC board of trustees get
a clear picture on the division of responsibilities.

The details of the Poised WG recommendations on the IETF - ISOC
relationships can be found in the appropriate places in a series of
Poised documents in progress:
- The IETF Standards Process
- The IETF organizational structure
- The IETF charter
- The Nomcom procedures
- The Appeals procedures

The current document is meant to summarize the Poised WG recommendations
in order to gauge the consensus. This document does not have, and is
not intended to get, a formal status. The current and upcoming working
documents of the Poised WG will become the formal documents. Readers
who are interested in the nitty gritty details are referred to these
working documents of the Poised WG.

Main boundary condition
The IETF remains responsible for the development and quality of the
Internet Standards. The ISOC will aid the IETF by facilitating legal
and organizational issues as described below. Apart from the roles
described below, the IETF and ISOC acknowledge that the ISOC has no
influence whatsoever on the Internet Standards process, the Internet
Standards or their technical content.

All subgroups in the IETF and ISOC that have an official role in the
standards process should be either:
- open to anyone (like Working Groups); or
- have a well documented restricted membership in which the voting
  members are elected or nominated through an open process.

The latter means that within the IETF the IAB and the IESG need to be
formed through a nomination process that is acceptable to the IETF
community and that gives all IETF participants an equal chance to be
candidate for a position in either of these bodies. For the ISOC this

means that the Board of Trustees should be elected by the ISOC
individual membership, where all individual members have an equal vote
and all individual members have an equal opportunity to stand as a
candidate for a position on the Board of Trustees.  

ISOC will, like the IETF use public discussion and consensus building
processes when it wants to develop new policies or regulations that may
influence the role of ISOC in the Internet or the Internet Technical
work. ISOC will always put work related to Internet standards,
Internet technical issues or Internet operations up for discussion in
the IETF through the IETF Internet-drafts publication process.

The legal umbrella
To avoid the fact that the IETF has to construct its own legal structure
to protect the standards and the standards process, ISOC should provide
a legal umbrella. The legal umbrella should cover:
- legal insurance for all IETF officers (IAB, IESG, Nomcom and WG
- legal protection of the RFC series of documents; In such a way that
  these documents can be freely (i.e. no restrictions financially or
  otherwise) distributed, copied etc. but cannot be altered or misused.
  And that the right to change the document lies with the IETF.
- legal assistance in case of Intellectual property rights disputes over
  Internet Standards or parts thereof.

The standards process role
ISOC will assist the standards process by
  - appointing the nomcom chair
  - approving IAB candidates
  - reviewing and approving the documents that describe the standards
    process (i.e. the formal Poised documents).
  - acting as the last resort in the appeals process

Security considerations
By involving ISOC into specific parts of the Standards process, the 
IETF has no longer absolute control. It can be argued that this is a 
breach of security. It is therefore necessary to make sure that the 
ISOC involvement is restricted to well defined and understood parts, 
at well defined and understood boundary conditions. The Poised WG 
attempts to define these, and they are summarised in this document.

There are three alternatives:

- Do nothing and ignore the increasing responsibility and growth; the
  risk here is that the IETF either becomes insignificant, or will be
  suffocated by US law suits. 

- The IETF does everything itself; this keeps the IETf in control, but 
  it would distract enormously from the technical work the IETF is 
  trying to get done.

- The IETF finds another organization than ISOC to take on the role
  described above. But why would another organization be better than

All in all a certain risk seems unavoidable, and a relationship with
ISOC, under the restrictions and boundary conditions as have been
described above, seems more like an opportunity for the IETF than like
a risk.

Acknowledgement and disclaimer
The author is chair of the Poised 95 WG. The author has tried to
summarise e-mail and face to face discussions in the WG. All the good
ideas in this paper are the result of the WG, all the mistakes and
errors are probably due to the author or his lack of command of the
American language as well as the American legal system.

The author is a member of the Internet Society.

Author's address
Erik Huizer
SURFnet ExpertiseCentrum bv
P.O. Box 19115
3501 DC  Utrecht
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 302 305 305
Fax: +31 302 305 329