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Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message Bodies :: RFC2045

Network Working Group                                          N. Freed
Request for Comments: 2045                                     Innosoft
Obsoletes: 1521, 1522, 1590                               N. Borenstein
Category: Standards Track                                 First Virtual
                                                          November 1996

                 Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions
                            (MIME) Part One:
                   Format of Internet Message Bodies

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   STD 11, RFC 822, defines a message representation protocol specifying
   considerable detail about US-ASCII message headers, and leaves the
   message content, or message body, as flat US-ASCII text.  This set of
   documents, collectively called the Multipurpose Internet Mail
   Extensions, or MIME, redefines the format of messages to allow for

    (1)   textual message bodies in character sets other than

    (2)   an extensible set of different formats for non-textual
          message bodies,

    (3)   multi-part message bodies, and

    (4)   textual header information in character sets other than

   These documents are based on earlier work documented in RFC 934, STD
   11, and RFC 1049, but extends and revises them.  Because RFC 822 said
   so little about message bodies, these documents are largely
   orthogonal to (rather than a revision of) RFC 822.

   This initial document specifies the various headers used to describe
   the structure of MIME messages. The second document, RFC 2046,
   defines the general structure of the MIME media typing system and
   defines an initial set of media types. The third document, RFC 2047,
   describes extensions to RFC 822 to allow non-US-ASCII text data in

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   Internet mail header fields. The fourth document, RFC 2048, specifies
   various IANA registration procedures for MIME-related facilities. The
   fifth and final document, RFC 2049, describes MIME conformance
   criteria as well as providing some illustrative examples of MIME
   message formats, acknowledgements, and the bibliography.

   These documents are revisions of RFCs 1521, 1522, and 1590, which
   themselves were revisions of RFCs 1341 and 1342.  An appendix in RFC
   2049 describes differences and changes from previous versions.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction .........................................    3
   2. Definitions, Conventions, and Generic BNF Grammar ....    5
   2.1 CRLF ................................................    5
   2.2 Character Set .......................................    6
   2.3 Message .............................................    6
   2.4 Entity ..............................................    6
   2.5 Body Part ...........................................    7
   2.6 Body ................................................    7
   2.7 7bit Data ...........................................    7
   2.8 8bit Data ...........................................    7
   2.9 Binary Data .........................................    7
   2.10 Lines ..............................................    7
   3. MIME Header Fields ...................................    8
   4. MIME-Version Header Field ............................    8
   5. Content-Type Header Field ............................   10
   5.1 Syntax of the Content-Type Header Field .............   12
   5.2 Content-Type Defaults ...............................   14
   6. Content-Transfer-Encoding Header Field ...............   14
   6.1 Content-Transfer-Encoding Syntax ....................   14
   6.2 Content-Transfer-Encodings Semantics ................   15
   6.3 New Content-Transfer-Encodings ......................   16
   6.4 Interpretation and Use ..............................   16
   6.5 Translating Encodings ...............................   18
   6.6 Canonical Encoding Model ............................   19
   6.7 Quoted-Printable Content-Transfer-Encoding ..........   19
   6.8 Base64 Content-Transfer-Encoding ....................   24
   7. Content-ID Header Field ..............................   26
   8. Content-Description Header Field .....................   27
   9. Additional MIME Header Fields ........................   27
   10. Summary .............................................   27
   11. Security Considerations .............................   27
   12. Authors' Addresses ..................................   28
   A. Collected Grammar ....................................   29

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1.  Introduction

   Since its publication in 1982, RFC 822 has defined the standard
   format of textual mail messages on the Internet.  Its success has
   been such that the RFC 822 format has been adopted, wholly or
   partially, well beyond the confines of the Internet and the Internet
   SMTP transport defined by RFC 821.  As the format has seen wider use,
   a number of limitations have proven increasingly restrictive for the
   user community.

   RFC 822 was intended to specify a format for text messages.  As such,
   non-text messages, such as multimedia messages that might include
   audio or images, are simply not mentioned.  Even in the case of text,
   however, RFC 822 is inadequate for the needs of mail users whose
   languages require the use of character sets richer than US-ASCII.
   Since RFC 822 does not specify mechanisms for mail containing audio,
   video, Asian language text, or even text in most European languages,
   additional specifications are needed.

   One of the notable limitations of RFC 821/822 based mail systems is
   the fact that they limit the contents of electronic mail messages to
   relatively short lines (e.g. 1000 characters or less [RFC-821]) of
   7bit US-ASCII.  This forces users to convert any non-textual data
   that they may wish to send into seven-bit bytes representable as
   printable US-ASCII characters before invoking a local mail UA (User
   Agent, a program with which human users send and receive mail).
   Examples of such encodings currently used in the Internet include
   pure hexadecimal, uuencode, the 3-in-4 base 64 scheme specified in
   RFC 1421, the Andrew Toolkit Representation [ATK], and many others.

   The limitations of RFC 822 mail become even more apparent as gateways
   are designed to allow for the exchange of mail messages between RFC
   822 hosts and X.400 hosts.  X.400 [X400] specifies mechanisms for the
   inclusion of non-textual material within electronic mail messages.
   The current standards for the mapping of X.400 messages to RFC 822
   messages specify either that X.400 non-textual material must be
   converted to (not encoded in) IA5Text format, or that they must be
   discarded, notifying the RFC 822 user that discarding has occurred.
   This is clearly undesirable, as information that a user may wish to
   receive is lost.  Even though a user agent may not have the
   capability of dealing with the non-textual material, the user might
   have some mechanism external to the UA that can extract useful
   information from the material.  Moreover, it does not allow for the
   fact that the message may eventually be gatewayed back into an X.400
   message handling system (i.e., the X.400 message is "tunneled"
   through Internet mail), where the non-textual information would
   definitely become useful again.

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   This document describes several mechanisms that combine to solve most
   of these problems without introducing any serious incompatibilities
   with the existing world of RFC 822 mail.  In particular, it

    (1)   A MIME-Version header field, which uses a version
          number to declare a message to be conformant with MIME
          and allows mail processing agents to distinguish
          between such messages and those generated by older or
          non-conformant software, which are presumed to lack
          such a field.

    (2)   A Content-Type header field, generalized from RFC 1049,
          which can be used to specify the media type and subtype
          of data in the body of a message and to fully specify
          the native representation (canonical form) of such

    (3)   A Content-Transfer-Encoding header field, which can be
          used to specify both the encoding transformation that
          was applied to the body and the domain of the result.
          Encoding transformations other than the identity
          transformation are usually applied to data in order to
          allow it to pass through mail transport mechanisms
          which may have data or character set limitations.

    (4)   Two additional header fields that can be used to
          further describe the data in a body, the Content-ID and
          Content-Description header fields.

   All of the header fields defined in this document are subject to the
   general syntactic rules for header fields specified in RFC 822.  In
   particular, all of these header fields except for Content-Disposition
   can include RFC 822 comments, which have no semantic content and
   should be ignored during MIME processing.

   Finally, to specify and promote interoperability, RFC 2049 provides a
   basic applicability statement for a subset of the above mechanisms
   that defines a minimal level of "conformance" with this document.

   HISTORICAL NOTE:  Several of the mechanisms described in this set of
   documents may seem somewhat strange or even baroque at first reading.
   It is important to note that compatibility with existing standards
   AND robustness across existing practice were two of the highest
   priorities of the working group that developed this set of documents.
   In particular, compatibility was always favored over elegance.

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   Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet Official
   Protocol Standards" for the standardization state and status of this
   protocol.  RFC 822 and STD 3, RFC 1123 also provide essential
   background for MIME since no conforming implementation of MIME can
   violate them.  In addition, several other informational RFC documents
   will be of interest to the MIME implementor, in particular RFC 1344,
   RFC 1345, and RFC 1524.

2.  Definitions, Conventions, and Generic BNF Grammar

   Although the mechanisms specified in this set of documents are all
   described in prose, most are also described formally in the augmented
   BNF notation of RFC 822. Implementors will need to be familiar with
   this notation in order to understand this set of documents, and are
   referred to RFC 822 for a complete explanation of the augmented BNF

   Some of the augmented BNF in this set of documents makes named
   references to syntax rules defined in RFC 822.  A complete formal
   grammar, then, is obtained by combining the collected grammar
   appendices in each document in this set with the BNF of RFC 822 plus
   the modifications to RFC 822 defined in RFC 1123 (which specifically
   changes the syntax for `return', `date' and `mailbox').

   All numeric and octet values are given in decimal notation in this
   set of documents. All media type values, subtype values, and
   parameter names as defined are case-insensitive.  However, parameter
   values are case-sensitive unless otherwise specified for the specific

   FORMATTING NOTE:  Notes, such at this one, provide additional
   nonessential information which may be skipped by the reader without
   missing anything essential.  The primary purpose of these non-
   essential notes is to convey information about the rationale of this
   set of documents, or to place these documents in the proper
   historical or evolutionary context.  Such information may in
   particular be skipped by those who are focused entirely on building a
   conformant implementation, but may be of use to those who wish to
   understand why certain design choices were made.

2.1.  CRLF

   The term CRLF, in this set of documents, refers to the sequence of
   octets corresponding to the two US-ASCII characters CR (decimal value
   13) and LF (decimal value 10) which, taken together, in this order,
   denote a line break in RFC 822 mail.

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2.2.  Character Set

   The term "character set" is used in MIME to refer to a method of
   converting a sequence of octets into a sequence of characters.  Note
   that unconditional and unambiguous conversion in the other direction
   is not required, in that not all characters may be representable by a
   given character set and a character set may provide more than one
   sequence of octets to represent a particular sequence of characters.

   This definition is intended to allow various kinds of character
   encodings, from simple single-table mappings such as US-ASCII to
   complex table switching methods such as those that use ISO 2022's
   techniques, to be used as character sets.  However, the definition
   associated with a MIME character set name must fully specify the
   mapping to be performed.  In particular, use of external profiling
   information to determine the exact mapping is not permitted.

   NOTE: The term "character set" was originally to describe such
   straightforward schemes as US-ASCII and ISO-8859-1 which have a
   simple one-to-one mapping from single octets to single characters.
   Multi-octet coded character sets and switching techniques make the
   situation more complex. For example, some communities use the term
   "character encoding" for what MIME calls a "character set", while
   using the phrase "coded character set" to denote an abstract mapping
   from integers (not octets) to characters.

2.3.  Message

   The term "message", when not further qualified, means either a
   (complete or "top-level") RFC 822 message being transferred on a
   network, or a message encapsulated in a body of type "message/rfc822"
   or "message/partial".

2.4.  Entity

   The term "entity", refers specifically to the MIME-defined header
   fields and contents of either a message or one of the parts in the
   body of a multipart entity.  The specification of such entities is
   the essence of MIME.  Since the contents of an entity are often
   called the "body", it makes sense to speak about the body of an
   entity.  Any sort of field may be present in the header of an entity,
   but only those fields whose names begin with "content-" actually have
   any MIME-related meaning.  Note that this does NOT imply thay they
   have no meaning at all -- an entity that is also a message has non-
   MIME header fields whose meanings are defined by RFC 822.

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2.5.  Body Part

   The term "body part" refers to an entity inside of a multipart

2.6.  Body

   The term "body", when not further qualified, means the body of an
   entity, that is, the body of either a message or of a body part.

   NOTE:  The previous four definitions are clearly circular.  This is
   unavoidable, since the overall structure of a MIME message is indeed

2.7.  7bit Data

   "7bit data" refers to data that is all represented as relatively
   short lines with 998 octets or less between CRLF line separation
   sequences [RFC-821].  No octets with decimal values greater than 127
   are allowed and neither are NULs (octets with decimal value 0).  CR
   (decimal value 13) and LF (decimal value 10) octets only occur as
   part of CRLF line separation sequences.

2.8.  8bit Data

   "8bit data" refers to data that is all represented as relatively
   short lines with 998 octets or less between CRLF line separation
   sequences [RFC-821]), but octets with decimal values greater than 127
   may be used.  As with "7bit data" CR and LF octets only occur as part
   of CRLF line separation sequences and no NULs are allowed.

2.9.  Binary Data

   "Binary data" refers to data where any sequence of octets whatsoever
   is allowed.

2.10.  Lines

   "Lines" are defined as sequences of octets separated by a CRLF
   sequences.  This is consistent with both RFC 821 and RFC 822.
   "Lines" only refers to a unit of data in a message, which may or may
   not correspond to something that is actually displayed by a user

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3.  MIME Header Fields

   MIME defines a number of new RFC 822 header fields that are used to
   describe the content of a MIME entity.  These header fields occur in
   at least two contexts:

    (1)   As part of a regular RFC 822 message header.

    (2)   In a MIME body part header within a multipart

   The formal definition of these header fields is as follows:

     entity-headers := [ content CRLF ]
                       [ encoding CRLF ]
                       [ id CRLF ]
                       [ description CRLF ]
                       *( MIME-extension-field CRLF )

     MIME-message-headers := entity-headers
                             version CRLF
                             ; The ordering of the header
                             ; fields implied by this BNF
                             ; definition should be ignored.

     MIME-part-headers := entity-headers
                          [ fields ]
                          ; Any field not beginning with
                          ; "content-" can have no defined
                          ; meaning and may be ignored.
                          ; The ordering of the header
                          ; fields implied by this BNF
                          ; definition should be ignored.

   The syntax of the various specific MIME header fields will be
   described in the following sections.

4.  MIME-Version Header Field

   Since RFC 822 was published in 1982, there has really been only one
   format standard for Internet messages, and there has been little
   perceived need to declare the format standard in use.  This document
   is an independent specification that complements RFC 822.  Although
   the extensions in this document have been defined in such a way as to
   be compatible with RFC 822, there are still circumstances in which it
   might be desirable for a mail-processing agent to know whether a
   message was composed with the new standard in mind.

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   Therefore, this document defines a new header field, "MIME-Version",
   which is to be used to declare the version of the Internet message
   body format standard in use.

   Messages composed in accordance with this document MUST include such
   a header field, with the following verbatim text:

     MIME-Version: 1.0

   The presence of this header field is an assertion that the message
   has been composed in compliance with this document.

   Since it is possible that a future document might extend the message
   format standard again, a formal BNF is given for the content of the
   MIME-Version field:

     version := "MIME-Version" ":" 1*DIGIT "." 1*DIGIT

   Thus, future format specifiers, which might replace or extend "1.0",
   are constrained to be two integer fields, separated by a period.  If
   a message is received with a MIME-version value other than "1.0", it
   cannot be assumed to conform with this document.

   Note that the MIME-Version header field is required at the top level
   of a message.  It is not required for each body part of a multipart
   entity.  It is required for the embedded headers of a body of type
   "message/rfc822" or "message/partial" if and only if the embedded
   message is itself claimed to be MIME-conformant.

   It is not possible to fully specify how a mail reader that conforms
   with MIME as defined in this document should treat a message that
   might arrive in the future with some value of MIME-Version other than

   It is also worth noting that version control for specific media types
   is not accomplished using the MIME-Version mechanism.  In particular,
   some formats (such as application/postscript) have version numbering
   conventions that are internal to the media format.  Where such
   conventions exist, MIME does nothing to supersede them.  Where no
   such conventions exist, a MIME media type might use a "version"
   parameter in the content-type field if necessary.

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   NOTE TO IMPLEMENTORS:  When checking MIME-Version values any RFC 822
   comment strings that are present must be ignored.  In particular, the
   following four MIME-Version fields are equivalent:

     MIME-Version: 1.0

     MIME-Version: 1.0 (produced by MetaSend Vx.x)

     MIME-Version: (produced by MetaSend Vx.x) 1.0

     MIME-Version: 1.(produced by MetaSend Vx.x)0

   In the absence of a MIME-Version field, a receiving mail user agent
   (whether conforming to MIME requirements or not) may optionally
   choose to interpret the body of the message according to local
   conventions.  Many such conventions are currently in use and it
   should be noted that in practice non-MIME messages can contain just
   about anything.

   It is impossible to be certain that a non-MIME mail message is
   actually plain text in the US-ASCII character set since it might well
   be a message that, using some set of nonstandard local conventions
   that predate MIME, includes text in another character set or non-
   textual data presented in a manner that cannot be automatically
   recognized (e.g., a uuencoded compressed UNIX tar file).

5.  Content-Type Header Field

   The purpose of the Content-Type field is to describe the data
   contained in the body fully enough that the receiving user agent can
   pick an appropriate agent or mechanism to present the data to the
   user, or otherwise deal with the data in an appropriate manner. The
   value in this field is called a media type.

   HISTORICAL NOTE:  The Content-Type header field was first defined in
   RFC 1049.  RFC 1049 used a simpler and less powerful syntax, but one
   that is largely compatible with the mechanism given here.

   The Content-Type header field specifies the nature of the data in the
   body of an entity by giving media type and subtype identifiers, and
   by providing auxiliary information that may be required for certain
   media types.  After the media type and subtype names, the remainder
   of the header field is simply a set of parameters, specified in an
   attribute=value notation.  The ordering of parameters is not

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   In general, the top-level media type is used to declare the general
   type of data, while the subtype specifies a specific format for that
   type of data.  Thus, a media type of "image/xyz" is enough to tell a
   user agent that the data is an image, even if the user agent has no
   knowledge of the specific image format "xyz".  Such information can
   be used, for example, to decide whether or not to show a user the raw
   data from an unrecognized subtype -- such an action might be
   reasonable for unrecognized subtypes of text, but not for
   unrecognized subtypes of image or audio.  For this reason, registered
   subtypes of text, image, audio, and video should not contain embedded
   information that is really of a different type.  Such compound
   formats should be represented using the "multipart" or "application"

   Parameters are modifiers of the media subtype, and as such do not
   fundamentally affect the nature of the content.  The set of
   meaningful parameters depends on the media type and subtype.  Most
   parameters are associated with a single specific subtype.  However, a
   given top-level media type may define parameters which are applicable
   to any subtype of that type.  Parameters may be required by their
   defining content type or subtype or they may be optional. MIME
   implementations must ignore any parameters whose names they do not

   For example, the "charset" parameter is applicable to any subtype of
   "text", while the "boundary" parameter is required for any subtype of
   the "multipart" media type.

   There are NO globally-meaningful parameters that apply to all media
   types.  Truly global mechanisms are best addressed, in the MIME
   model, by the definition of additional Content-* header fields.

   An initial set of seven top-level media types is defined in RFC 2046.
   Five of these are discrete types whose content is essentially opaque
   as far as MIME processing is concerned.  The remaining two are
   composite types whose contents require additional handling by MIME

   This set of top-level media types is intended to be substantially
   complete.  It is expected that additions to the larger set of
   supported types can generally be accomplished by the creation of new
   subtypes of these initial types.  In the future, more top-level types
   may be defined only by a standards-track extension to this standard.
   If another top-level type is to be used for any reason, it must be
   given a name starting with "X-" to indicate its non-standard status
   and to avoid a potential conflict with a future official name.

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5.1.  Syntax of the Content-Type Header Field

   In the Augmented BNF notation of RFC 822, a Content-Type header field
   value is defined as follows:

     content := "Content-Type" ":" type "/" subtype
                *(";" parameter)
                ; Matching of media type and subtype
                ; is ALWAYS case-insensitive.

     type := discrete-type / composite-type

     discrete-type := "text" / "image" / "audio" / "video" /
                      "application" / extension-token

     composite-type := "message" / "multipart" / extension-token

     extension-token := ietf-token / x-token

     ietf-token := 

     x-token := 

     subtype := extension-token / iana-token

     iana-token := 

     parameter := attribute "=" value

     attribute := token
                  ; Matching of attributes
                  ; is ALWAYS case-insensitive.

     value := token / quoted-string

     token := 1*

     tspecials :=  "(" / ")" / "<" / ">" / "@" /
                   "," / ";" / ":" / "\" / <">
                   "/" / "[" / "]" / "?" / "="
                   ; Must be in quoted-string,
                   ; to use within parameter values

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   Note that the definition of "tspecials" is the same as the RFC 822
   definition of "specials" with the addition of the three characters
   "/", "?", and "=", and the removal of ".".

   Note also that a subtype specification is MANDATORY -- it may not be
   omitted from a Content-Type header field.  As such, there are no
   default subtypes.

   The type, subtype, and parameter names are not case sensitive.  For
   example, TEXT, Text, and TeXt are all equivalent top-level media
   types.  Parameter values are normally case sensitive, but sometimes
   are interpreted in a case-insensitive fashion, depending on the
   intended use.  (For example, multipart boundaries are case-sensitive,
   but the "access-type" parameter for message/External-body is not

   Note that the value of a quoted string parameter does not include the
   quotes.  That is, the quotation marks in a quoted-string are not a
   part of the value of the parameter, but are merely used to delimit
   that parameter value.  In addition, comments are allowed in
   accordance with RFC 822 rules for structured header fields.  Thus the
   following two forms

     Content-type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii (Plain text)

     Content-type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

   are completely equivalent.

   Beyond this syntax, the only syntactic constraint on the definition
   of subtype names is the desire that their uses must not conflict.
   That is, it would be undesirable to have two different communities
   using "Content-Type: application/foobar" to mean two different
   things.  The process of defining new media subtypes, then, is not
   intended to be a mechanism for imposing restrictions, but simply a
   mechanism for publicizing their definition and usage.  There are,
   therefore, two acceptable mechanisms for defining new media subtypes:

    (1)   Private values (starting with "X-") may be defined
          bilaterally between two cooperating agents without
          outside registration or standardization. Such values
          cannot be registered or standardized.

    (2)   New standard values should be registered with IANA as
          described in RFC 2048.

   The second document in this set, RFC 2046, defines the initial set of
   media types for MIME.

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5.2.  Content-Type Defaults

   Default RFC 822 messages without a MIME Content-Type header are taken
   by this protocol to be plain text in the US-ASCII character set,
   which can be explicitly specified as:

     Content-type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

   This default is assumed if no Content-Type header field is specified.
   It is also recommend that this default be assumed when a
   syntactically invalid Content-Type header field is encountered. In
   the presence of a MIME-Version header field and the absence of any
   Content-Type header field, a receiving User Agent can also assume
   that plain US-ASCII text was the sender's intent.  Plain US-ASCII
   text may still be assumed in the absence of a MIME-Version or the
   presence of an syntactically invalid Content-Type header field, but
   the sender's intent might have been otherwise.

6.  Content-Transfer-Encoding Header Field

   Many media types which could be usefully transported via email are
   represented, in their "natural" format, as 8bit character or binary
   data.  Such data cannot be transmitted over some transfer protocols.
   For example, RFC 821 (SMTP) restricts mail messages to 7bit US-ASCII
   data with lines no longer than 1000 characters including any trailing
   CRLF line separator.

   It is necessary, therefore, to define a standard mechanism for
   encoding such data into a 7bit short line format.  Proper labelling
   of unencoded material in less restrictive formats for direct use over
   less restrictive transports is also desireable.  This document
   specifies that such encodings will be indicated by a new "Content-
   Transfer-Encoding" header field.  This field has not been defined by
   any previous standard.

6.1.  Content-Transfer-Encoding Syntax

   The Content-Transfer-Encoding field's value is a single token
   specifying the type of encoding, as enumerated below.  Formally:

     encoding := "Content-Transfer-Encoding" ":" mechanism

     mechanism := "7bit" / "8bit" / "binary" /
                  "quoted-printable" / "base64" /
                  ietf-token / x-token

   These values are not case sensitive -- Base64 and BASE64 and bAsE64
   are all equivalent.  An encoding type of 7BIT requires that the body

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   is already in a 7bit mail-ready representation.  This is the default
   value -- that is, "Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7BIT" is assumed if the
   Content-Transfer-Encoding header field is not present.

6.2.  Content-Transfer-Encodings Semantics

   This single Content-Transfer-Encoding token actually provides two
   pieces of information.  It specifies what sort of encoding
   transformation the body was subjected to and hence what decoding
   operation must be used to restore it to its original form, and it
   specifies what the domain of the result is.

   The transformation part of any Content-Transfer-Encodings specifies,
   either explicitly or implicitly, a single, well-defined decoding
   algorithm, which for any sequence of encoded octets either transforms
   it to the original sequence of octets which was encoded, or shows
   that it is illegal as an encoded sequence.  Content-Transfer-
   Encodings transformations never depend on any additional external
   profile information for proper operation. Note that while decoders
   must produce a single, well-defined output for a valid encoding no
   such restrictions exist for encoders: Encoding a given sequence of
   octets to different, equivalent encoded sequences is perfectly legal.

   Three transformations are currently defined: identity, the "quoted-
   printable" encoding, and the "base64" encoding.  The domains are
   "binary", "8bit" and "7bit".

   The Content-Transfer-Encoding values "7bit", "8bit", and "binary" all
   mean that the identity (i.e. NO) encoding transformation has been
   performed.  As such, they serve simply as indicators of the domain of
   the body data, and provide useful information about the sort of
   encoding that might be needed for transmission in a given transport
   system.  The terms "7bit data", "8bit data", and "binary data" are
   all defined in Section 2.

   The quoted-printable and base64 encodings transform their input from
   an arbitrary domain into material in the "7bit" range, thus making it
   safe to carry over restricted transports.  The specific definition of
   the transformations are given below.

   The proper Content-Transfer-Encoding label must always be used.
   Labelling unencoded data containing 8bit characters as "7bit" is not
   allowed, nor is labelling unencoded non-line-oriented data as
   anything other than "binary" allowed.

   Unlike media subtypes, a proliferation of Content-Transfer-Encoding
   values is both undesirable and unnecessary.  However, establishing
   only a single transformation into the "7bit" domain does not seem

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   possible.  There is a tradeoff between the desire for a compact and
   efficient encoding of largely- binary data and the desire for a
   somewhat readable encoding of data that is mostly, but not entirely,
   7bit.  For this reason, at least two encoding mechanisms are
   necessary: a more or less readable encoding (quoted-printable) and a
   "dense" or "uniform" encoding (base64).

   Mail transport for unencoded 8bit data is defined in RFC 1652.  As of
   the initial publication of this document, there are no standardized
   Internet mail transports for which it is legitimate to include
   unencoded binary data in mail bodies.  Thus there are no
   circumstances in which the "binary" Content-Transfer-Encoding is
   actually valid in Internet mail.  However, in the event that binary
   mail transport becomes a reality in Internet mail, or when MIME is
   used in conjunction with any other binary-capable mail transport
   mechanism, binary bodies must be labelled as such using this

   NOTE: The five values defined for the Content-Transfer-Encoding field
   imply nothing about the media type other than the algorithm by which
   it was encoded or the transport system requirements if unencoded.

6.3.  New Content-Transfer-Encodings

   Implementors may, if necessary, define private Content-Transfer-
   Encoding values, but must use an x-token, which is a name prefixed by
   "X-", to indicate its non-standard status, e.g., "Content-Transfer-
   Encoding: x-my-new-encoding".  Additional standardized Content-
   Transfer-Encoding values must be specified by a standards-track RFC.
   The requirements such specifications must meet are given in RFC 2048.
   As such, all content-transfer-encoding namespace except that
   beginning with "X-" is explicitly reserved to the IETF for future

   Unlike media types and subtypes, the creation of new Content-
   Transfer-Encoding values is STRONGLY discouraged, as it seems likely
   to hinder interoperability with little potential benefit

6.4.  Interpretation and Use

   If a Content-Transfer-Encoding header field appears as part of a
   message header, it applies to the entire body of that message.  If a
   Content-Transfer-Encoding header field appears as part of an entity's
   headers, it applies only to the body of that entity.  If an entity is
   of type "multipart" the Content-Transfer-Encoding is not permitted to
   have any value other than "7bit", "8bit" or "binary".  Even more
   severe restrictions apply to some subtypes of the "message" type.

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   It should be noted that most media types are defined in terms of
   octets rather than bits, so that the mechanisms described here are
   mechanisms for encoding arbitrary octet streams, not bit streams.  If
   a bit stream is to be encoded via one of these mechanisms, it must
   first be converted to an 8bit byte stream using the network standard
   bit order ("big-endian"), in which the earlier bits in a stream
   become the higher-order bits in a 8bit byte.  A bit stream not ending
   at an 8bit boundary must be padded with zeroes. RFC 2046 provides a
   mechanism for noting the addition of such padding in the case of the
   application/octet-stream media type, which has a "padding" parameter.

   The encoding mechanisms defined here explicitly encode all data in
   US-ASCII.  Thus, for example, suppose an entity has header fields
   such as:

     Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
     Content-transfer-encoding: base64

   This must be interpreted to mean that the body is a base64 US-ASCII
   encoding of data that was originally in ISO-8859-1, and will be in
   that character set again after decoding.

   Certain Content-Transfer-Encoding values may only be used on certain
   media types.  In particular, it is EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN to use any
   encodings other than "7bit", "8bit", or "binary" with any composite
   media type, i.e. one that recursively includes other Content-Type
   fields.  Currently the only composite media types are "multipart" and
   "message".  All encodings that are desired for bodies of type
   multipart or message must be done at the innermost level, by encoding
   the actual body that needs to be encoded.

   It should also be noted that, by definition, if a composite entity
   has a transfer-encoding value such as "7bit", but one of the enclosed
   entities has a less restrictive value such as "8bit", then either the
   outer "7bit" labelling is in error, because 8bit data are included,
   or the inner "8bit" labelling placed an unnecessarily high demand on
   the transport system because the actual included data were actually

   NOTE ON ENCODING RESTRICTIONS:  Though the prohibition against using
   content-transfer-encodings on composite body data may seem overly
   restrictive, it is necessary to prevent nested encodings, in which
   data are passed through an encoding algorithm multiple times, and
   must be decoded multiple times in order to be properly viewed.
   Nested encodings add considerable complexity to user agents:  Aside
   from the obvious efficiency problems with such multiple encodings,
   they can obscure the basic structure of a message.  In particular,
   they can imply that several decoding operations are necessary simply

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   to find out what types of bodies a message contains.  Banning nested
   encodings may complicate the job of certain mail gateways, but this
   seems less of a problem than the effect of nested encodings on user

   Any entity with an unrecognized Content-Transfer-Encoding must be
   treated as if it has a Content-Type of "application/octet-stream",
   regardless of what the Content-Type header field actually says.

   ENCODING: It may seem that the Content-Transfer-Encoding could be
   inferred from the characteristics of the media that is to be encoded,
   or, at the very least, that certain Content-Transfer-Encodings could
   be mandated for use with specific media types.  There are several
   reasons why this is not the case. First, given the varying types of
   transports used for mail, some encodings may be appropriate for some
   combinations of media types and transports but not for others.  (For
   example, in an 8bit transport, no encoding would be required for text
   in certain character sets, while such encodings are clearly required
   for 7bit SMTP.)

   Second, certain media types may require different types of transfer
   encoding under different circumstances.  For example, many PostScript
   bodies might consist entirely of short lines of 7bit data and hence
   require no encoding at all.  Other PostScript bodies (especially
   those using Level 2 PostScript's binary encoding mechanism) may only
   be reasonably represented using a binary transport encoding.
   Finally, since the Content-Type field is intended to be an open-ended
   specification mechanism, strict specification of an association
   between media types and encodings effectively couples the
   specification of an application protocol with a specific lower-level
   transport.  This is not desirable since the developers of a media
   type should not have to be aware of all the transports in use and
   what their limitations are.

6.5.  Translating Encodings

   The quoted-printable and base64 encodings are designed so that
   conversion between them is possible.  The only issue that arises in
   such a conversion is the handling of hard line breaks in quoted-
   printable encoding output. When converting from quoted-printable to
   base64 a hard line break in the quoted-printable form represents a
   CRLF sequence in the canonical form of the data. It must therefore be
   converted to a corresponding encoded CRLF in the base64 form of the
   data.  Similarly, a CRLF sequence in the canonical form of the data
   obtained after base64 decoding must be converted to a quoted-
   printable hard line break, but ONLY when converting text data.

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6.6.  Canonical Encoding Model

   There was some confusion, in the previous versions of this RFC,
   regarding the model for when email data was to be converted to
   canonical form and encoded, and in particular how this process would
   affect the treatment of CRLFs, given that the representation of
   newlines varies greatly from system to system, and the relationship
   between content-transfer-encodings and character sets.  A canonical
   model for encoding is presented in RFC 2049 for this reason.

6.7.  Quoted-Printable Content-Transfer-Encoding

   The Quoted-Printable encoding is intended to represent data that
   largely consists of octets that correspond to printable characters in
   the US-ASCII character set.  It encodes the data in such a way that
   the resulting octets are unlikely to be modified by mail transport.
   If the data being encoded are mostly US-ASCII text, the encoded form
   of the data remains largely recognizable by humans.  A body which is
   entirely US-ASCII may also be encoded in Quoted-Printable to ensure
   the integrity of the data should the message pass through a
   character-translating, and/or line-wrapping gateway.

   In this encoding, octets are to be represented as determined by the
   following rules:

    (1)   (General 8bit representation) Any octet, except a CR or
          LF that is part of a CRLF line break of the canonical
          (standard) form of the data being encoded, may be
          represented by an "=" followed by a two digit
          hexadecimal representation of the octet's value.  The
          digits of the hexadecimal alphabet, for this purpose,
          are "0123456789ABCDEF".  Uppercase letters must be
          used; lowercase letters are not allowed.  Thus, for
          example, the decimal value 12 (US-ASCII form feed) can
          be represented by "=0C", and the decimal value 61 (US-
          ASCII EQUAL SIGN) can be represented by "=3D".  This
          rule must be followed except when the following rules
          allow an alternative encoding.

    (2)   (Literal representation) Octets with decimal values of
          33 through 60 inclusive, and 62 through 126, inclusive,
          MAY be represented as the US-ASCII characters which
          correspond to those octets (EXCLAMATION POINT through
          LESS THAN, and GREATER THAN through TILDE,

    (3)   (White Space) Octets with values of 9 and 32 MAY be
          represented as US-ASCII TAB (HT) and SPACE characters,

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          respectively, but MUST NOT be so represented at the end
          of an encoded line.  Any TAB (HT) or SPACE characters
          on an encoded line MUST thus be followed on that line
          by a printable character.  In particular, an "=" at the
          end of an encoded line, indicating a soft line break
          (see rule #5) may follow one or more TAB (HT) or SPACE
          characters.  It follows that an octet with decimal
          value 9 or 32 appearing at the end of an encoded line
          must be represented according to Rule #1.  This rule is
          necessary because some MTAs (Message Transport Agents,
          programs which transport messages from one user to
          another, or perform a portion of such transfers) are
          known to pad lines of text with SPACEs, and others are
          known to remove "white space" characters from the end
          of a line.  Therefore, when decoding a Quoted-Printable
          body, any trailing white space on a line must be
          deleted, as it will necessarily have been added by
          intermediate transport agents.

    (4)   (Line Breaks) A line break in a text body, represented
          as a CRLF sequence in the text canonical form, must be
          represented by a (RFC 822) line break, which is also a
          CRLF sequence, in the Quoted-Printable encoding.  Since
          the canonical representation of media types other than
          text do not generally include the representation of
          line breaks as CRLF sequences, no hard line breaks
          (i.e. line breaks that are intended to be meaningful
          and to be displayed to the user) can occur in the
          quoted-printable encoding of such types.  Sequences
          like "=0D", "=0A", "=0A=0D" and "=0D=0A" will routinely
          appear in non-text data represented in quoted-
          printable, of course.

          Note that many implementations may elect to encode the
          local representation of various content types directly
          rather than converting to canonical form first,
          encoding, and then converting back to local
          representation.  In particular, this may apply to plain
          text material on systems that use newline conventions
          other than a CRLF terminator sequence.  Such an
          implementation optimization is permissible, but only
          when the combined canonicalization-encoding step is
          equivalent to performing the three steps separately.

    (5)   (Soft Line Breaks) The Quoted-Printable encoding
          REQUIRES that encoded lines be no more than 76
          characters long.  If longer lines are to be encoded
          with the Quoted-Printable encoding, "soft" line breaks

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          must be used.  An equal sign as the last character on a
          encoded line indicates such a non-significant ("soft")
          line break in the encoded text.

   Thus if the "raw" form of the line is a single unencoded line that

     Now's the time for all folk to come to the aid of their country.

   This can be represented, in the Quoted-Printable encoding, as:

     Now's the time =
     for all folk to come=
      to the aid of their country.

   This provides a mechanism with which long lines are encoded in such a
   way as to be restored by the user agent.  The 76 character limit does
   not count the trailing CRLF, but counts all other characters,
   including any equal signs.

   Since the hyphen character ("-") may be represented as itself in the
   Quoted-Printable encoding, care must be taken, when encapsulating a
   quoted-printable encoded body inside one or more multipart entities,
   to ensure that the boundary delimiter does not appear anywhere in the
   encoded body.  (A good strategy is to choose a boundary that includes
   a character sequence such as "=_" which can never appear in a
   quoted-printable body.  See the definition of multipart messages in
   RFC 2046.)

   NOTE: The quoted-printable encoding represents something of a
   compromise between readability and reliability in transport.  Bodies
   encoded with the quoted-printable encoding will work reliably over
   most mail gateways, but may not work perfectly over a few gateways,
   notably those involving translation into EBCDIC.  A higher level of
   confidence is offered by the base64 Content-Transfer-Encoding.  A way
   to get reasonably reliable transport through EBCDIC gateways is to
   also quote the US-ASCII characters


   according to rule #1.

   Because quoted-printable data is generally assumed to be line-
   oriented, it is to be expected that the representation of the breaks
   between the lines of quoted-printable data may be altered in
   transport, in the same manner that plain text mail has always been
   altered in Internet mail when passing between systems with differing
   newline conventions.  If such alterations are likely to constitute a

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   corruption of the data, it is probably more sensible to use the
   base64 encoding rather than the quoted-printable encoding.

   NOTE: Several kinds of substrings cannot be generated according to
   the encoding rules for the quoted-printable content-transfer-
   encoding, and hence are formally illegal if they appear in the output
   of a quoted-printable encoder. This note enumerates these cases and
   suggests ways to handle such illegal substrings if any are
   encountered in quoted-printable data that is to be decoded.

    (1)   An "=" followed by two hexadecimal digits, one or both
          of which are lowercase letters in "abcdef", is formally
          illegal. A robust implementation might choose to
          recognize them as the corresponding uppercase letters.

    (2)   An "=" followed by a character that is neither a
          hexadecimal digit (including "abcdef") nor the CR
          character of a CRLF pair is illegal.  This case can be
          the result of US-ASCII text having been included in a
          quoted-printable part of a message without itself
          having been subjected to quoted-printable encoding.  A
          reasonable approach by a robust implementation might be
          to include the "=" character and the following
          character in the decoded data without any
          transformation and, if possible, indicate to the user
          that proper decoding was not possible at this point in
          the data.

    (3)   An "=" cannot be the ultimate or penultimate character
          in an encoded object.  This could be handled as in case
          (2) above.

    (4)   Control characters other than TAB, or CR and LF as
          parts of CRLF pairs, must not appear. The same is true
          for octets with decimal values greater than 126.  If
          found in incoming quoted-printable data by a decoder, a
          robust implementation might exclude them from the
          decoded data and warn the user that illegal characters
          were discovered.

    (5)   Encoded lines must not be longer than 76 characters,
          not counting the trailing CRLF. If longer lines are
          found in incoming, encoded data, a robust
          implementation might nevertheless decode the lines, and
          might report the erroneous encoding to the user.

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   WARNING TO IMPLEMENTORS:  If binary data is encoded in quoted-
   printable, care must be taken to encode CR and LF characters as "=0D"
   and "=0A", respectively.  In particular, a CRLF sequence in binary
   data should be encoded as "=0D=0A".  Otherwise, if CRLF were
   represented as a hard line break, it might be incorrectly decoded on
   platforms with different line break conventions.

   For formalists, the syntax of quoted-printable data is described by
   the following grammar:

     quoted-printable := qp-line *(CRLF qp-line)

     qp-line := *(qp-segment transport-padding CRLF)
                qp-part transport-padding

     qp-part := qp-section
                ; Maximum length of 76 characters

     qp-segment := qp-section *(SPACE / TAB) "="
                   ; Maximum length of 76 characters

     qp-section := [*(ptext / SPACE / TAB) ptext]

     ptext := hex-octet / safe-char

     safe-char := 
                  ; Characters not listed as "mail-safe" in
                  ; RFC 2049 are also not recommended.

     hex-octet := "=" 2(DIGIT / "A" / "B" / "C" / "D" / "E" / "F")
                  ; Octet must be used for characters > 127, =,
                  ; SPACEs or TABs at the ends of lines, and is
                  ; recommended for any character not listed in
                  ; RFC 2049 as "mail-safe".

     transport-padding := *LWSP-char
                          ; Composers MUST NOT generate
                          ; non-zero length transport
                          ; padding, but receivers MUST
                          ; be able to handle padding
                          ; added by message transports.

   IMPORTANT:  The addition of LWSP between the elements shown in this
   BNF is NOT allowed since this BNF does not specify a structured
   header field.

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6.8.  Base64 Content-Transfer-Encoding

   The Base64 Content-Transfer-Encoding is designed to represent
   arbitrary sequences of octets in a form that need not be humanly
   readable.  The encoding and decoding algorithms are simple, but the
   encoded data are consistently only about 33 percent larger than the
   unencoded data.  This encoding is virtually identical to the one used
   in Privacy Enhanced Mail (PEM) applications, as defined in RFC 1421.

   A 65-character subset of US-ASCII is used, enabling 6 bits to be
   represented per printable character. (The extra 65th character, "=",
   is used to signify a special processing function.)

   NOTE:  This subset has the important property that it is represented
   identically in all versions of ISO 646, including US-ASCII, and all
   characters in the subset are also represented identically in all
   versions of EBCDIC. Other popular encodings, such as the encoding
   used by the uuencode utility, Macintosh binhex 4.0 [RFC-1741], and
   the base85 encoding specified as part of Level 2 PostScript, do not
   share these properties, and thus do not fulfill the portability
   requirements a binary transport encoding for mail must meet.

   The encoding process represents 24-bit groups of input bits as output
   strings of 4 encoded characters.  Proceeding from left to right, a
   24-bit input group is formed by concatenating 3 8bit input groups.
   These 24 bits are then treated as 4 concatenated 6-bit groups, each
   of which is translated into a single digit in the base64 alphabet.
   When encoding a bit stream via the base64 encoding, the bit stream
   must be presumed to be ordered with the most-significant-bit first.
   That is, the first bit in the stream will be the high-order bit in
   the first 8bit byte, and the eighth bit will be the low-order bit in
   the first 8bit byte, and so on.

   Each 6-bit group is used as an index into an array of 64 printable
   characters.  The character referenced by the index is placed in the
   output string.  These characters, identified in Table 1, below, are
   selected so as to be universally representable, and the set excludes
   characters with particular significance to SMTP (e.g., ".", CR, LF)
   and to the multipart boundary delimiters defined in RFC 2046 (e.g.,

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                    Table 1: The Base64 Alphabet

     Value Encoding  Value Encoding  Value Encoding  Value Encoding
         0 A            17 R            34 i            51 z
         1 B            18 S            35 j            52 0
         2 C            19 T            36 k            53 1
         3 D            20 U            37 l            54 2
         4 E            21 V            38 m            55 3
         5 F            22 W            39 n            56 4
         6 G            23 X            40 o            57 5
         7 H            24 Y            41 p            58 6
         8 I            25 Z            42 q            59 7
         9 J            26 a            43 r            60 8
        10 K            27 b            44 s            61 9
        11 L            28 c            45 t            62 +
        12 M            29 d            46 u            63 /
        13 N            30 e            47 v
        14 O            31 f            48 w         (pad) =
        15 P            32 g            49 x
        16 Q            33 h            50 y

   The encoded output stream must be represented in lines of no more
   than 76 characters each.  All line breaks or other characters not
   found in Table 1 must be ignored by decoding software.  In base64
   data, characters other than those in Table 1, line breaks, and other
   white space probably indicate a transmission error, about which a
   warning message or even a message rejection might be appropriate
   under some circumstances.

   Special processing is performed if fewer than 24 bits are available
   at the end of the data being encoded.  A full encoding quantum is
   always completed at the end of a body.  When fewer than 24 input bits
   are available in an input group, zero bits are added (on the right)
   to form an integral number of 6-bit groups.  Padding at the end of
   the data is performed using the "=" character.  Since all base64
   input is an integral number of octets, only the following cases can
   arise: (1) the final quantum of encoding input is an integral
   multiple of 24 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be
   an integral multiple of 4 characters with no "=" padding, (2) the
   final quantum of encoding input is exactly 8 bits; here, the final
   unit of encoded output will be two characters followed by two "="
   padding characters, or (3) the final quantum of encoding input is
   exactly 16 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be three
   characters followed by one "=" padding character.

   Because it is used only for padding at the end of the data, the
   occurrence of any "=" characters may be taken as evidence that the
   end of the data has been reached (without truncation in transit).  No

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   such assurance is possible, however, when the number of octets
   transmitted was a multiple of three and no "=" characters are

   Any characters outside of the base64 alphabet are to be ignored in
   base64-encoded data.

   Care must be taken to use the proper octets for line breaks if base64
   encoding is applied directly to text material that has not been
   converted to canonical form.  In particular, text line breaks must be
   converted into CRLF sequences prior to base64 encoding.  The
   important thing to note is that this may be done directly by the
   encoder rather than in a prior canonicalization step in some

   NOTE: There is no need to worry about quoting potential boundary
   delimiters within base64-encoded bodies within multipart entities
   because no hyphen characters are used in the base64 encoding.

7.  Content-ID Header Field

   In constructing a high-level user agent, it may be desirable to allow
   one body to make reference to another.  Accordingly, bodies may be
   labelled using the "Content-ID" header field, which is syntactically
   identical to the "Message-ID" header field:

     id := "Content-ID" ":" msg-id

   Like the Message-ID values, Content-ID values must be generated to be

   The Content-ID value may be used for uniquely identifying MIME
   entities in several contexts, particularly for caching data
   referenced by the message/external-body mechanism.  Although the
   Content-ID header is generally optional, its use is MANDATORY in
   implementations which generate data of the optional MIME media type
   "message/external-body".  That is, each message/external-body entity
   must have a Content-ID field to permit caching of such data.

   It is also worth noting that the Content-ID value has special
   semantics in the case of the multipart/alternative media type.  This
   is explained in the section of RFC 2046 dealing with

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8.  Content-Description Header Field

   The ability to associate some descriptive information with a given
   body is often desirable.  For example, it may be useful to mark an
   "image" body as "a picture of the Space Shuttle Endeavor."  Such text
   may be placed in the Content-Description header field.  This header
   field is always optional.

     description := "Content-Description" ":" *text

   The description is presumed to be given in the US-ASCII character
   set, although the mechanism specified in RFC 2047 may be used for
   non-US-ASCII Content-Description values.

9.  Additional MIME Header Fields

   Future documents may elect to define additional MIME header fields
   for various purposes.  Any new header field that further describes
   the content of a message should begin with the string "Content-" to
   allow such fields which appear in a message header to be
   distinguished from ordinary RFC 822 message header fields.

     MIME-extension-field := 

10.  Summary

   Using the MIME-Version, Content-Type, and Content-Transfer-Encoding
   header fields, it is possible to include, in a standardized way,
   arbitrary types of data with RFC 822 conformant mail messages.  No
   restrictions imposed by either RFC 821 or RFC 822 are violated, and
   care has been taken to avoid problems caused by additional
   restrictions imposed by the characteristics of some Internet mail
   transport mechanisms (see RFC 2049).

   The next document in this set, RFC 2046, specifies the initial set of
   media types that can be labelled and transported using these headers.

11.  Security Considerations

   Security issues are discussed in the second document in this set, RFC

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12.  Authors' Addresses

   For more information, the authors of this document are best contacted
   via Internet mail:

   Ned Freed
   Innosoft International, Inc.
   1050 East Garvey Avenue South
   West Covina, CA 91790

   Phone: +1 818 919 3600
   Fax:   +1 818 919 3614
   EMail: ned@innosoft.com

   Nathaniel S. Borenstein
   First Virtual Holdings
   25 Washington Avenue
   Morristown, NJ 07960

   Phone: +1 201 540 8967
   Fax:   +1 201 993 3032
   EMail: nsb@nsb.fv.com

   MIME is a result of the work of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   Working Group on RFC 822 Extensions.  The chairman of that group,
   Greg Vaudreuil, may be reached at:

   Gregory M. Vaudreuil
   Octel Network Services
   17080 Dallas Parkway
   Dallas, TX 75248-1905

   EMail: Greg.Vaudreuil@Octel.Com

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Appendix A -- Collected Grammar

   This appendix contains the complete BNF grammar for all the syntax
   specified by this document.

   By itself, however, this grammar is incomplete.  It refers by name to
   several syntax rules that are defined by RFC 822.  Rather than
   reproduce those definitions here, and risk unintentional differences
   between the two, this document simply refers the reader to RFC 822
   for the remaining definitions. Wherever a term is undefined, it
   refers to the RFC 822 definition.

  attribute := token
               ; Matching of attributes
               ; is ALWAYS case-insensitive.

  composite-type := "message" / "multipart" / extension-token

  content := "Content-Type" ":" type "/" subtype
             *(";" parameter)
             ; Matching of media type and subtype
             ; is ALWAYS case-insensitive.

  description := "Content-Description" ":" *text

  discrete-type := "text" / "image" / "audio" / "video" /
                   "application" / extension-token

  encoding := "Content-Transfer-Encoding" ":" mechanism

  entity-headers := [ content CRLF ]
                    [ encoding CRLF ]
                    [ id CRLF ]
                    [ description CRLF ]
                    *( MIME-extension-field CRLF )

  extension-token := ietf-token / x-token

  hex-octet := "=" 2(DIGIT / "A" / "B" / "C" / "D" / "E" / "F")
               ; Octet must be used for characters > 127, =,
               ; SPACEs or TABs at the ends of lines, and is
               ; recommended for any character not listed in
               ; RFC 2049 as "mail-safe".

  iana-token := 

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  ietf-token := 

  id := "Content-ID" ":" msg-id

  mechanism := "7bit" / "8bit" / "binary" /
               "quoted-printable" / "base64" /
               ietf-token / x-token

  MIME-extension-field := 

  MIME-message-headers := entity-headers
                          version CRLF
                          ; The ordering of the header
                          ; fields implied by this BNF
                          ; definition should be ignored.

  MIME-part-headers := entity-headers
                       ; Any field not beginning with
                       ; "content-" can have no defined
                       ; meaning and may be ignored.
                       ; The ordering of the header
                       ; fields implied by this BNF
                       ; definition should be ignored.

  parameter := attribute "=" value

  ptext := hex-octet / safe-char

  qp-line := *(qp-segment transport-padding CRLF)
             qp-part transport-padding

  qp-part := qp-section
             ; Maximum length of 76 characters

  qp-section := [*(ptext / SPACE / TAB) ptext]

  qp-segment := qp-section *(SPACE / TAB) "="
                ; Maximum length of 76 characters

  quoted-printable := qp-line *(CRLF qp-line)

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  safe-char := 
               ; Characters not listed as "mail-safe" in
               ; RFC 2049 are also not recommended.

  subtype := extension-token / iana-token

  token := 1*

  transport-padding := *LWSP-char
                       ; Composers MUST NOT generate
                       ; non-zero length transport
                       ; padding, but receivers MUST
                       ; be able to handle padding
                       ; added by message transports.

  tspecials :=  "(" / ")" / "<" / ">" / "@" /
                "," / ";" / ":" / "\" / <">
                "/" / "[" / "]" / "?" / "="
                ; Must be in quoted-string,
                ; to use within parameter values

  type := discrete-type / composite-type

  value := token / quoted-string

  version := "MIME-Version" ":" 1*DIGIT "." 1*DIGIT

  x-token := 

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