Friday, May 8, 2009

How Sensible are Email Message Disclaimers?

Have you ever sent an email to the wrong addressee? Or a letter? A parcel? No, well neither have I.

Of late I've been taking a note of the legal disclaimer mumbo-jumbo that appears at the foot of an increasing number of emails. Like this one:

"The information contained in this message and any attachments may be confidential information and may be subject to legal privilege, public interest or legal profession privilege. If you are not the intended recipient, any use, disclosure or copying of this message or any attachments is unauthorised. If you have received this document in error, please advise the sender. No representation or warranty is given that attached files are free from viruses or other defects. The recipient assumes all responsibility for any loss or damage resulting directly or indirectly from the use of any attached files."

On a couple of occasions I've received three line emails with 10 line disclaimers and I must admit that I have a good chuckle. When was the last time ... or for that matter, the first time, you heard of someone being sued over reading a confidential email, or loss of damage because they downloaded a file?

If we don't put this type of disclaimer on every letter, parcel or anything else we distribute, why does it have to go on email? I understand the difference when people are giving professional advice eg, relating to the share market, or medical advice, but general communication between people ... give me a break!

I never send email to the wrong person. I send business email to people whom I wish to communicate with and people who wish to communicate with me. It's that simple. If anything, everything I write is Copyright and that law relates to copying and distribution of my email as well as any other intellectual work. If the person to whom it is addressed receives it and chooses to do something else with it, it's hardly my fault and they may well have breached the Copyright Act.

If I send something so confidential that I don't want it to be read by someone other than the sender, I encrypt it and send it as a secured message that can only be decrypted and accessed by the recipient. However, it's only rarely that I have to take these types of precautions.

Rather than post this type of disclaimer on your emails, isn't it better to take care to send them to the right recipient?


PS: I use
Group Mail Personal for mass email distribution. You can download a free demo copy here.

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