TIFF-FX tiff stalls IETF fax stds?
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
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
"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
"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
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