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RFC 2031 - IETF-ISOC relationship


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Network Working Group                                         E. Huizer
Request for Comments: 2031                  SURFnet ExpertiseCentrum bv
Category: Informational                                    October 1996

                         IETF-ISOC relationship

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  This memo
   does not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of
   this memo is unlimited.

Abstract

   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.

Introduction

   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 will at least
   cover:
   - legal insurance for all IETF officers (IAB, IESG, Nomcom and WG
      chairs);
   - 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 protection 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
     ISOC?

   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
   E-mail: Erik.Huizer@sec.nl

 

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