Network Working Group                                Ned Freed
Internet Draft                                     Keith Moore

      MIME Parameter Value and Encoded Word Extensions:
         Character Sets, Languages, and Continuations

                          June 1997

                     Status of this Memo

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The current draft of this memo reflects comments received
during the last call period. In particular, a reference to RFC
2119 has been added, as have some directives on how to handle
character sets with embedded language tagging facilities.

1.  Abstract

This memo defines extensions to the RFC 2045 media type and
RFC CDISP disposition parameter value mechanisms to provide

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

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

 (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 2047 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-2045,
RFC-2046, RFC-2047, RFC-2048, RFC-2049], define a message
format that allows for

 (1)   textual message bodies in character sets other than

 (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

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email.  This inherently imposes three crucial limitations:

 (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 limited to 7bit US-ASCII, and the
       encoded-word mechanisms of RFC 2047 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

 (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-2130].  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 2047, 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.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  These mechanisms end up being somewhat
gibbous when they actually are used. As such, use of these
mechanisms should not be used lightly; they should be reserved
for situations where a real need for them exists.

2.1.  Requirements notation

This document occasionally uses terms that appear in capital
letters. When the terms "MUST", "SHOULD", "MUST NOT", "SHOULD

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NOT", and "MAY" appear capitalized, they are being used to
indicate particular requirements of this specification. A
discussion of the meanings of these terms appears in [RFC-

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
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.

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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;

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.

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 that
language and character set information is present and encoding
is being used. A single quote ("'") is used to delimit the
character set and language information at the beginning  of
the parameter value. Percent signs ("%") are used as the
encoding flag, which agrees with RFC 2047.

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;

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Note that it is perfectly permissible to leave either the
character set or language field blank.  Note also that the
single quote delimiters MUST be present even when one of the
field values is omitted.  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 field definitions MUST
NOT assign a default character set or lanugage.

4.1.  Combining Character Set, Language, and Parameter

Character set and language information may be combined with
the parameter continuation mechanism. For example:

Content-Type: application/x-stuff
 title*3="isn't it!"

Note that:

 (1)   Language and character set information only appear at
       the beginning of a given parameter value.

 (2)   Continuations do not provide a facility for using more
       than one character set or language in the same
       parameter value.

 (3)   A value presented using multiple continuations may
       contain a mixture of encoded and unencoded segments.

 (4)   The first segment of a continuation MUST be encoded if
       language and character set information are given.

 (5)   If the first segment of a continued parameter value is
       encoded the language and character set field delimiters
       MUST be present even when the fields are left blank.

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5.  Language specification in Encoded Words

RFC 2047 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:

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

6.  IMAP4 Handling of Parameter Values

IMAP4 [RFC-2060] servers SHOULD decode parameter value
continuations when generating the BODY and BODYSTRUCTURE fetch

7.  Modifications to MIME ABNF

The ABNF for MIME parameter values given in RFC 2045 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

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

section := initial-section / other-sections

initial-section := "*1"

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

extended-parameter := (extended-initial-name "="
                       extended-value) /
                      (extended-other-names "="

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

extended-other-names := attribute other-sections "*"

extended-initial-value := [charset] "'" [language] "'"

extended-other-values := *(ext-octet / attribute-char)

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

charset := <registered character set name>

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

The ABNF given in RFC 2047 for encoded-words is:

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

This specification changes this ABNF to:

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

8.  Character sets which allow specification of language

In the future it is likely that some character sets will
provide facilities for inline language labelling. Such

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facilities are inherently more flexible than those defined
here as they allow for language switching in the middle of a

If and when such facilities are developed they SHOULD be used
in preference to the language labelling facilities specified
here. Note that all the mechanisms defined here allow for the
omission of language labels so as to be able to accomodate
this possible future usage.

9.  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.

10.  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.

     Freed, N. and Borenstein, N., "Multipurpose Internet Mail
     Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message
     Bodies", RFC 2045, Innosoft, First Virtual Holdings,
     December 1996.

     Freed, N. and Borenstein, N., "Multipurpose Internet Mail
     Extensions (MIME) Part Two: Media Types", RFC 2046,
     Innosoft, First Virtual Holdings, December 1996.

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     Moore, K., "Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME)
     Part Three: Representation of Non-ASCII Text in Internet
     Message Headers", RFC 2047, University of Tennessee,
     December 1996.

     Freed, N., Klensin, J., Postel, J., "Multipurpose
     Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) Part Four: MIME
     Registration Procedures", RFC 2048, Innosoft, MCI, ISI,
     December 1996.

     Freed, N. and Borenstein, N., "Multipurpose Internet Mail
     Extensions (MIME) Part Five: Conformance Criteria and
     Examples", RFC 2049, Innosoft, FIrst Virtual Holdings,
     December 1996.

     Crispin, M., "Internet Message Access Protocol - Version
     4rev1", RFC 2060, December 1996.

     Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
     Requirement Levels", RFC 2119, March 1997.

     Weider, C., Preston, C., Simonsen, K., Alvestrand, H.,
     Atkinson, R., Crispin, M., Svanberg, P., "Report from the
     IAB Character Set Workshop", RFC 2130, April 1997.

     Troost, R., Dorner, S., and Moore, K., "Communicating
     Presentation Information in Internet Messages:  The
     Content-Disposition Header", Internet Draft, February

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11.  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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