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IESG Statement on Internet Draft Authorship

10 May 2021

The IESG has received complaints from IETF participants who have been listed as document authors or contributors without their consent ("surprised authorship").

In some cases, the surprised individuals had never seen the document that surprised them. It appears that some authors think that including other participants as authors or contributors is a way to demonstrate support for the concepts in the document and gain acceptance for those concepts.

Adding names of IETF participants who did not contribute to a proposal might to some seem to be an acceptable way of highlighting "support", but this is very clearly not an acceptable practice. No one should ever be added to the list of authors or contributors on a document unless they have consented to it and have contributed significantly to the development of the document.

The practice of adding surprised authors or contributors is

  • not in line with the IETF culture, where it's the technical issues that matter, not who the authors, contributors, or supporters are;
  • unethical, as it is wrong to claim support from someone who has not consented to it;
  • misleading in terms of support; and
  • problematic in terms of IPR disclosures (BCPs 78 and 79).

To emphasize this last point, the person submitting an Internet-Draft asserts that an Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79. A submitter who has not actively confirmed this with all the listed authors and contributors cannot make that claim, and this can cause procedural and legal problems later.

All authors need to be aware of the ​RFC Editor's statement on authorship, especially related to responsibility for the document's contents. The IESG strongly recommends that all drafts have explicit permission from all authors and contributors to have their names listed before they are submitted.

If you feel that the above issues impact you, please talk to your Area Director or contact the IESG by ​sending email to <iesg@ietf.org>. As the administrator of the I-D repository (regardless of the source or intended stream for the draft), the IESG will handle each case of disputed authorship on a case-by-case basis. All reports will be investigated, and substantiated claims will be met with corrective actions.

The default corrective action will be the replacement of the offending draft with a "disputed authorship" placeholder document. Such a document would:

  • Be published as a successor to the offending draft,
  • Have the offended IETF participant listed as the only author,
  • State, "The author listed on this Internet-Draft has stated that they should not have been listed as an author on the previous version. The IETF considers being added as an author without one's permission as unethical. The default behaviour of the IESG in such cases is to approve the replacement of the offending draft with this placeholder document. Please direct any queries to the IESG or the author listed here."

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