Who owns copyright on my emails?

This isn’t a tech question, but rather one of copyright.  When I send a private email message, who holds the copyright to that?  Do I? – in which case my permission needs to be sought before forwarding it.  Or does the recipient have the legal right to do anything he/she likes with whatever drops into his/her inbox? – Lesley

That’s a great question, Lesley and being a legal question it doesn’t have a straight answer. A strict reading of the various copyright statues indicate the original writer of a letter or email does have copyright protection. Although lawyers advise you should have a disclaimer asserting copyright at the end of your emails.

Of course this doesn’t prevent “fair use” of your email’s contents, so key parts of it still could be still distributed if the extracts meet the criteria that determines fair use.

Copyright law is a pretty blunt tool to use when it comes to email contents, it may well be there are various privacy laws, employment conditions or other legal restrictions depending on where you live and whether the emails relate to business or private matters.

Generally it’s good manners to ask permission before forwarding an email containing sensitive information, however given the ease of copying of distributing digital communications, you should be wary of sending anything electronically that could embarrass or damage you. Some ideas on email etiquette are available on the PC Rescue site.

Overall though, no-one has a “right” to do anything they like with emails they receive, there are both moral and legal issues with passing on any private information they come across, whether it’s by a letter, email or any other way.

Note this is not legal advice and it is essential to seek guidance from a professional legal practitioner on your specific circumstances.

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