Wednesday, June 02, 2004

What's your legal e-mail disclaimer really worth?

Interesting article on Slate that details an attorney's review of the legal disclaimer that Time, Inc. has its employees attach to the bottom of their outgoing e-mail.

From the article, here's the disclaimer:

This message is the property of Time Inc. or its affiliates. It may be legally privileged and/or confidential and is intended only for the use of the addressee(s). No addressee should forward, print, copy, or otherwise reproduce this message in any manner that would allow it to be viewed by any individual not originally listed as a recipient. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized disclosure, dissemination, distribution, copying or the taking of any action in reliance on the information herein is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please immediately notify the sender and delete this message.

Thank you.

Here is a synopsis some of the attorney's responses/comments about the disclaimer:

  • The e-mail may technically by property of Time, Inc., but by sending the e-mail out, there are some implied rights conferred to whomever receives it such as the ability to print and share it.  Someone may possibly be able to sue you for copyright infringement.
  • ". . . may be legally privileged . . ."  Might be, might not be; who knows?
  • "No addressee should forward, print, copy . . ."  The key word is "should"; denoting simply a suggestion rather than binding contractually.
  • "If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient . . . distribution . . . is prohibited."  Maybe is a trade secret was transmitted there might be a case, but Time would have to defend why information of that type was sent via insecure e-mail.
  • " . . . please immediately notify sender and delete this message."  The key word is "please," denoting a request, once again.

You should see the article for a more complete explanation.

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