Network Working Group                      Ned Freed, Innosoft
Internet Draft                      Keith Moore, Univ. of Tenn

           MIME Parameter Value and Encoded Words:
         Character Sets, Language, and Continuations

                         October 1996

                     Status of this Memo

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1.  Abstract

This memo defines extensions to the RFC MIME-IMB media type
and RFC 1806 disposition parameter value mechanisms to provide

 (1)   a means to specify parameter values in character sets
       other than US-ASCII,

 (2)   to specify the language to be used should the value be
       displayed, and

Internet Draft MIME Parameters and Encoded Words  October 1996

 (3)   a continuation mechanism for long parameter values to
       avoid problems with header line wrapping.

This memo also defines an extension to the encoded words
defined in RFC MIME-HEADERS to allow the specification of the
language to be used for display as well as the character set.

2.  Introduction

The Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, or MIME [RFC-MIME-
CONF], define a message format that allows for

 (1)   textual message bodies in character sets other than US-

 (2)   non-textual message bodies,

 (3)   multi-part message bodies, and

 (4)   textual header information in character sets other than

MIME is now widely deployed and is used by a variety of
Internet protocols, including, of course, Internet email.
However, MIME's success has resulted in the need for
additional mechanisms that were not provided in the original
protocol specification.

In particular, existing MIME mechanisms provide for named
media type (content-type field) parameters as well as named
disposition (content-disposition field).  A MIME media type
may specify any number of parameters associated with all of
its subtypes, and any specific subtype may specify additional
parameters for its own use. A MIME disposition value may
specify any number of associated paramters, the most important
of which is probably the attachment disposition's filename

These parameter names and values end up appearing in the
content-type and content-disposition header fields in Internet
email.  This inherently imposes three crucial limitations:

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 (1)   Lines in Internet email header fields are folded
       according to RFC 822 folding rules.  This makes long
       parameter values problematic.

 (2)   MIME headers, like the RFC 822 headers they often
       appear in, are inherently limited to 7bit US-ASCII, and
       the encoded-word mechanisms of RFC MIME-HEADERS are not
       available to parameter values. This makes it impossible
       to have parameter values in character sets other than
       US-ASCII without specifying some sort of private per-
       parameter encoding.

 (3)   It has recently become clear that character set
       information is not sufficient to properly display some
       sorts of information -- language information is also
       needed [RFC-IAB-CHARSETS].  For example, support for
       handicapped users may require reading text string
       aloud. The language the text is written in is needed
       for this to be done correctly.  Some parameter values
       may need to be displayed, hence there is a need to
       allow for the inclusion of language information.

The last problem on this list is also an issue for the encoded
words defined by RFC MIME-HEADERS, as encoded words are
intended primarily for display purposes.

This document defines extensions that address all of these
limitations.  All of these extensions are implemented in a
fashion that is completely compatible at a syntactic level
with existing MIME implementations. In addition, the
extensions are designed to have as little impact as possible
on existing uses of MIME.

3.  Parameter Value Continuations

Long MIME media type or disposition parameter values do not
interact well with header line wrapping conventions.  In
particular, proper header line wrapping depends on there being
places where linear whitespace (LWSP) is allowed, which may or
may not be present in a parameter value, and even if present
may not be recognizable as such since specific knowledge of
parameter value syntax may not be available to the agent doing
the line wrapping. The result is that long parameter values
may end up getting truncated or otherwise damaged by incorrect

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line wrapping implementations.

A mechanism is therefore needed to break up parameter values
into smaller units that are amenable to line wrapping. Any
such mechanism must be compatible with existing MIME
processors. This means that

 (1)   the mechanism must not change the syntax of MIME media
       type and disposition lines, and

 (2)   the mechanism must not depend on parameter ordering
       since MIME states that parameters are not order
       sensitive.  Note that while MIME does prohibit
       modification of MIME headers during transport, it is
       still possible that parameters will be reordered when
       user agent level processing is done.

The obvious solution, then, is to use multiple parameters to
contain a single parameter value and to use some kind of
distinguished name to indicate when this is being done.  And
this obvious solution is exactly what is specified here: The
asterisk character ("*") followed by a decimal count is
employed to indicate that multiple parameters are being used
to encapsulate a single parameter value.  The count starts at
0 and increments by 1 for each subsequent section of the
parameter value.  Decimal values are used and neither leading
zeroes nor gaps in the sequence are allowed.

The original parameter value is recovered by concatenating the
various sections of the parameter, in order.  For example, the
content-type field

     Content-Type: message/external-body; access-type=URL; URL*0="ftp://";

is semantically identical to

     Content-Type: message/external-body; access-type=URL;

Note that quotes around parameter values are part of the value
syntax; they are NOT part of the value itself.  Furthermore,
it is explicitly permitted to have a mixture of quoted and
unquoted continuation fields.

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4.  Parameter Value Character Set and Language Information

Some parameter values may need to be qualified with character
set or language information.  It is clear that a distinguished
parameter name is needed to identify when this information is
present along with a specific syntax for the information in
the value itself.  In addition, a lightweight encoding
mechanism is needed to accomodate 8 bit information in
parameter values.

Asterisks ("*") are reused to provide the indicator. A single
quote ("'") is used to delimit the character set and language
information. Percent signs ("%") are used as the encoding
flag, which agrees with RFC 1522.  Specifically, an asterisk
at the end of a parameter name acts as an indicator that
character set and language information may appear at the
beginning of the parameter value. A single quote is used to
separate the character set, language, and actual value
information in the parameter value string, and an percent sign
is used to flag octets encoded in hexadecimal. For example:

     Content-Type: application/x-stuff;

Note that it is perfectly permissible to leave either the
character set or language field blank.  This is done when
either character set, language, or both are not relevant to
the parameter value at hand.  This MUST NOT be done in order
to indicate a default character set or language -- parameter
fields may not assign a default character set or lanugage.

5.  Language specification in Encoded Words

RFC MIME-HEADERS provides support for non-US-ASCII character
sets in RFC 822 message header comments, phrases, and any
unstructured text field.  This is done by defining an encoded
word construct which can appear in any of these places.  Given
that these are fields intended for display, it is sometimes
necessary to associate language information with encoded words
as well as just the character set.  This specification extends
the definition of an encoded word to allow the inclusion of
such information.  This is simply done by suffixing the
character set specification with an asterisk followed by the
language tag.  For example:

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     From: =?US-ASCII*EN?Q?Keith_Moore?= <>

6.  Modifications to the ABNF for MIME Parameter Values and
Encoded Words

The ABNF for MIME parameter values given in RFC MIME-IMB is:

parameter := attribute "=" value

attribute := token
             ; Matching of attributes
             ; is ALWAYS case-insensitive.

This specification changes this ABNF to:

parameter := regular-parameter / extended-parameter

regular-parameter := regular-parameter-name "=" value

regular-parameter-name := attribute [section]

attribute := 1*attribute-char

attribute-char := <any (US-ASCII) CHAR except SPACE, CTLs,
                  "*", "'", "%", or tspecials>

section := "*" ("1" / "2" / "3" / "4" / "5" /
                "6" / "7" / "8" / "9") *DIGIT

extended-parameter := extended-parameter-name "="

extended-parameter-name := attribute [section] "*"

extended-value := [charset] "'" [language] "'"
                  *(ext-octet / attribute-char)

ext-octet := "%" 2(DIGIT / "A" / "B" / "C" / "D" / "E" / "F")

charset := <registered character set name [RFC-CHARSET-REG]>

language := <registered language tag [RFC-1766]>

The ABNF given in RFC MIME-HEADERS for encoded-words is:

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encoded-word := "=?" charset "?" encoding "?" encoded-text "?="

This specification changes this ABNF to:

encoded-word := "=?" charset ["*" language] "?" encoded-text "?="

7.  Security Considerations

This RFC does not discuss security issues and is not believed
to raise any security issues not already endemic in electronic
mail and present in fully conforming implementations of MIME.

8.  References

     Crocker, D., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet
     Text Messages", RFC 822 August, 1982.

     Alvestrand, H., "Tags for the Identification of
     Languages", RFC 1766, March, 1995.

     Troost, R. and Dorner, S., "Communicating Presentation
     Information in Internet Messages:  The Content-
     Disposition Header", RFC 1806, June 1995.

     Freed, N. and Borenstein, N., "Multipurpose Internet Mail
     Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message
     Bodies", RFC MIME-IMB, Innosoft, FIrst Virtual Holdings,
     June 1996.

     Freed, N. and Borenstein, N., "Multipurpose Internet Mail
     Extensions (MIME) Part Two: Media Types", RFC MIME-IMT,
     Innosoft, First Virtual Holdings, June 1996.

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Internet Draft MIME Parameters and Encoded Words  October 1996

     Moore, K., "Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME)
     Part Three: Representation of Non-ASCII Text in Internet
     Message Headers", RFC MIME-HEADERS, University of
     Tennessee, June 1996.

     Freed, N., Klensin, J., Postel, J., "Multipurpose
     Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) Part Four: MIME
     Registration Procedures", RFC MIME-REG, Innosoft, MCI,
     ISI, June 1996.

     Freed, N. and Borenstein, N., "Multipurpose Internet Mail
     Extensions (MIME) Part Five: Conformance Criteria and
     Examples", RFC MIME-CONF, Innosoft, FIrst Virtual
     Holdings, June 1996.

     Freed, N. and Postel, J., "IANA Character Set
     Registration Procedures, Innosoft, ISI, June 1996.

     Weider, C., Preston, C., Simonsen, K., Alvestrand, H.,
     Atkinson, R., Crispin, M., Svanberg, P., "Report from the
     IAB Character Set Workshop", Version 2.0, June 1996.

9.  Authors' Addresses

Ned Freed
Innosoft International, Inc.
1050 East Garvey Avenue South
West Covina, CA 91790
 tel: +1 818 919 3600           fax: +1 818 919 3614

Keith Moore
Computer Science Dept.
University of Tennessee
107 Ayres Hall
Knoxville, TN 37996-1301

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