Copyrights on WWW protocols?

Dan Connolly (
Tue, 7 Mar 1995 22:05:39 +0500

Pat Ryan writes:
> I need to find out what, if any, copyrights exist on the protocol
> documents archived at W3C.

Hmmm... I haven't checked into it officially, but I think you can
safely proceed as if it all has the MIT X11 copyright statement,
i.e. as long as you don't claim ownership, you can do anything
you want with it.

> Specifically, I'm working the chapter on
> HTTP/1.0 right now. I realize that the spec is an "Internet draft" and
> subject to change without notice. During my examination of the protocol, I
> need to copy certain descriptions almost word-for-word.

As long as you cite your source and make a good faith effort to use
the most up-to-date material on the web, I think this is fine.

> Now, I certainly don't want to be accused of plagiarism or get my
> tush dragged into court.

If you want to be certain, check with a lawyer. In fact, have Prentice
Hall's lawyer check into it. But I think you're pretty darned safe.

> Whom do I contact to find out what permissions I need?

Hmmm... somebody at the IETF, and somebody at W3C -- probably
I don't know whom to contact at IETF. Their web server is at:

> And while
> I'm asking, who hold the copyrights on RFCs? Is it IETF? The individual
> authors?

Good question. I think the authors, though RFCs always say
"distribution of this memo is unlimited."