TIFF-FX tiff stalls IETF fax stds?

Rohit Khare Rohit@KnowNow.com
Tue, 14 Aug 2001 10:48:09 -0700

Klensin and Freed are doing a proper job of throwing a yellow flag on 
the field. In fact, it IS quite scary that two companies that are 
fairly savvy with the IETF standards process would push off IP 
licensing issues this far into the process. I'm sure that Dell-VESA 
accusations are flying furiously.

Homework: define "estoppel by fiat" :-)

-- Rohit Khare

Adobe, Xerox tiff slows Internet fax standard

August 13, 2001 Posted: 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT)
By Carolyn Duffy Marsan

                       (IDG) -- The Internet Engineering Task Force 
has slammed the brakes on
                       its plans to develop a common way of sending 
faxes over the Internet, due
                       to last-minute licensing problems between 
rivals Adobe Systems and

                       After five years of development, the IETF's 
Internet Fax working group was
                       ready to publish a series of documents as draft 
standards. But the documents,
                       whic h rely heavily on technology from Adobe 
and Xerox, were put on hold
                       recently pending a review of intellectual 
property claims.

                       At issue is the working group's plan to use 
Adobe's Tag Image File Format
                       (TIFF) to represent the content and structure 
of fax communications sent as
                       e-mail messages over the 'Net. The IETF chose 
TIFF because it is widely
                       supported in e-mail clients, fax machines and 
fax applications. However, TIFF
                       supports only black and white documents.

                       The IETF working group extended TIFF to support 
color documents using
                       encoding technology called Mixed Raster Content 
(MRC) from Xerox. The
                       resulting protocol was dubbed TIFF-FX for TIFF 
for Fax Extended. Authors of
                       the TIFF-FX document, which was written last 
November, include engineers
                       from Adobe, Xerox, Nortel and Brooktrout.

                       However, Adobe now claims that the IETF has 
overstepped its bounds in using
                       its TIFF technology in TIFF-FX. Adobe refuses 
to support TIFF-FX unless
                       Xerox releases rights for its MRC technology to Adobe.

                       Xerox, meanwhile, won't back TIFF-FX unless 
Adobe promises to support the
                       standard in its next version of TIFF, TIFF 7.0, 
which Adobe hasn't committed
                       to ship.

                       "We've gotten ourselves into a scary
                       situation," says John Klensin, chair of the
                       IETF's Internet Architecture Board and
                       vice president for Internet architecture at
                       AT&T. Klensin asked the Internet Fax
                       working group to review its
                       decision-making process to be sure that it
                       wants to go forward with TIFF-FX.

                       "It's late in the game ... and we're at a dead
                       stop," Klensin admits.

                       In addition to the intellectual property
                       problems, the Internet Fax working group
                       is facing criticism because it didn't design
                       TIFF-FX to work with Adobe's current
                       version of TIFF.

                       "I'm seriously annoyed by the [intellectual
                       property rights] issues, but I'm even more
                       concerned about the lack of
                       interoperability," Klensin adds.

                       While the IETF regularly faces licensing
                       issues, the Adobe/Xerox wrangling was a
                       surprise because both companies agreed
                       several years ago to contribute technology
                       to TIFF-FX.

                       "Never, in my experience, has the IETF
                       seen such a ridiculous flap over intellectual
                       property rights," says Ned Freed, co-chair
                       of the IETF's Applications Area, which
                       oversees the Internet Fax working group.
                       Freed is a distinguished engineer with Sun.

                       The IETF's Internet Fax working group is
                       designing protocols that allow companies
                       to send and receive faxes over the Internet
                       at a lesser cost than transmitting over the
                       telephone system. Internet Fax allows end users 
to send or receive faxes as
                       e-mail attachments or as hard copy documents 
printed out by Internet-enabled
                       fax machines.

                       Two dozen members of the Internet Fax working 
group gathered at the meeting
                       here decided to review and revamp the TIFF-FX 
documents with the
                       Adobe/Xerox controversy in mind. The likely 
solution is for the group to
                       replace TIFF-FX with plain old TIFF, which 
eliminates Adobe's intellectual
                       property concerns and offers interoperability 
with existing TIFF-based systems.

                       "If they just remove the extensions from the 
specification, they can move
                       forward and quickly get the document done," 
Freed says. "Otherwise, if they
                       decide to make major changes like add color in 
a different way, it could be a
                       six-month delay."