[Python-Dev] Bug? http.client assumes iso-8859-1 encoding of HTTP headers

Chris Angelico rosuav at gmail.com
Sat Jan 4 17:24:43 CET 2014

On Sun, Jan 5, 2014 at 2:36 AM, Hugo G. Fierro <hugo at gfierro.com> wrote:
> I am trying to download an HTML document. I get an HTTP 301 (Moved
> Permanently) with a UTF-8 encoded Location header and http.client decodes it
> as iso-8859-1. When there's a non-ASCII character in the redirect URL then I
> can't download the document.
> In client.py def parse_headers() I see the call to decode('iso-8859-1'). My
> personal  hack is to use whatever charset is defined in the Content-Type
> HTTP header (utf8) or fall back into iso-8859-1.
> At this point I am not sure where/how a fix should occur  so I thought I'd
> run it by you in case I should file a bug. Note that I don't use http.client
> directly, but through the python-requests library.

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe non-ASCII characters are outright
forbidden in a Location: header. It's possible that an RFC2047 tag
might be used, but my reading of RFC2616 is that that's only for text
fields, not for Location. These non-ASCII characters ought to be
percent-encoded, and anything doing otherwise is buggy.

Confirming what you're seeing with a plain socket:

>>> s=socket.socket()
>>> s.connect(("www.starbucks.com",80))
>>> s.send(b'GET /store/158/AT/Karntnerstrasse/K%c3%a4rntnerstrasse-49-Vienna-9-1010 HTTP/1.1\r\nHost: www.starbucks.com\r\nAccept-Encoding: identity\r\n\r\n')
>>> s.recv(1024)
b'HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently\r\nContent-Type: text/html;

I'm pretty sure that server is in violation of the spec, so all bets
are off as to what any other server will do. If you know you're
dealing with this one server, you can probably hack around this, but I
don't think it belongs in core code. Unless, of course, I'm completely
wrong about the spec, or if there's a de facto spec that lots of
servers follow, in which case maybe it would be worth doing.


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