IESG Statement on Internet Draft Authorship

Date: 11 June 2015

The IESG has received some reports of IETF participants having been listed as document authors on drafts without their consent ("surprised authorship"). In some cases, the surprised authors had never seen the draft that surprised them. It appears that some draft authors think that including other participants as authors is a way to show support for the concepts in the document and gain acceptance for those concepts. This may be thought of as especially useful if the additional authors are established IETF participants.

Adding names of IETF participants who did not actually work on a proposal might seem to be a low-risk way of demonstrating "support", but this is very clearly not an acceptable practice: no one should ever be added to the list of authors on a draft unless that person has consented to it and has contributed significantly to the development of the draft.

The practice of adding surprised authors is

  • not in line with the IETF culture, where it's the technical issues that matter, not who the authors 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 is asserting that "This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79". A submitter who has not discussed this with all the listed authors 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 as it relates to responsibility for the document's contents. The IESG strongly recommends that all drafts have explicit permission from all authors to have their names listed before the draft is submitted.

If you feel that you are impacted by the above issues, 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-base 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" tombstone. Such a tombstone would:

  • Be published as a successor to the offending draft,
  • Have the offended IETF participant listed as the only author,
  • Will state "The author listed on this tombstone Internet-Draft has stated that he/she 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 replacement of the offending draft with this tombstone. Please direct any queries to the author listed here."