[Standards] XEP Authors

Peter Saint-Andre stpeter at stpeter.im
Thu Jun 8 22:52:08 UTC 2017


First, the XSF does not currently have legal counsel. Engineers
typically aren't good at devising solutions to legal problems. It might
be advisable to see how larger standards development organizations (such
as the IETF and W3C) deal with this problem before we jump to conclusions.

Second, this problem applies to authors whose employers are tempting
targets for litigation. That's certainly the case with the company
(Cisco) referenced in the WebRTC-PC issue mentioned in the original
message. Certain XEP authors happen to have been employees of that same
company (me, Joe Hildebrand, and Matt Miller foremost among them)
although we're not employed there any longer.

Third, this gets complicated very quickly because of specification
versioning. In the IETF, RFCs never change so you could know that (say)
I was employed at Cisco when RFC 6120 was published but not when 6120bis
is published (if we decided to work on that spec). When you have a
"living standard" then those assurances aren't in place.

Fourth, if you're a spec author and you (or your company) are worried
about patent litigation, then it's incumbent upon you to pay attention.
I'm not convinced that it's the SDO's job to protect you from yourself.
My sense of the WebRTC-PC issue is that the spec author involved is very
busy and wasn't necessarily paying attention all the time. The solution
is to pay attention or remove yourself from the authoring team.


On 6/8/17 4:16 PM, Guus der Kinderen wrote:
> I am the first to admit that I have next to no legal knowledge, and I'm
> not familiar with the background other than reading the comment that
> Dave linked to, but: this feels like an overreaction to me. Because
> (American - how does this apply to other countries?) juries assume
> things, we need to consider making these changes? Isn't that to preemptive?
> On 8 Jun 2017 23:52, "Peter Saint-Andre" <stpeter at stpeter.im
> <mailto:stpeter at stpeter.im>> wrote:
>     Sadly, I think this is necessary.
>     On 6/8/17 3:08 PM, Dave Cridland wrote:
>     > Folks,
>     >
>     > I came across an interesting case recently where a listed author of an
>     > open standard was presumed to know the contents of the specification
>     > fully - that is, as if they had written every word. Moreover, by
>     > inference so was their employer. This came up in an IPR court case.
>     >
>     > The (very high) level detail is here:
>     >
>     > https://github.com/w3c/webrtc-pc/issues/942#issuecomment-277034696
>     <https://github.com/w3c/webrtc-pc/issues/942#issuecomment-277034696>
>     >
>     > I'm considering advising Board that we should address this by
>     > instituting a policy whereby changes to XEPs result in all listed
>     > authors being notified (a PR will do, I imagine), and those who do not
>     > respond within a reasonable time (hand-wave, hand-wave) must be
>     > de-listed and moved to a "Previous Authors" section of the XEP.
>     >
>     > Note that this is *NOT* intended as a punishment for unresponsive
>     > authors, hence the "Previous Authors" section - it's to protect
>     > authors and their employers from legal action.
>     >
>     > I have to admit I'm surprised that such legal considerations exist,
>     > but the central argument - that if your name is on a document, you're
>     > presumed to know what it contains - seems sufficiently intuitive that
>     > we should take notice.
>     >
>     > Comments?
>     >
>     > Dave.

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