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Taking Care of Business
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 01:10 PM   #1
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Are emails intellectual property?

Does anyone know if emails are intellectual property? Or where I might find out. I believe they are public domain. I have an interest in using email exchanges in a film and was curious if I might need releases.

Sorry bout the odd question, but maybe this is a start in the right direction.

sincerely,
elmer
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 03:41 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Elmer Lang
Does anyone know if emails are intellectual property? Or where I might find out. I believe they are public domain. I have an interest in using email exchanges in a film and was curious if I might need releases.

Sorry bout the odd question, but maybe this is a start in the right direction.

sincerely,
elmer
I am not a lawyer ...

I'd guess that it depends on the circumstances of the emails. They're personal communications, not public domain literary works, and like telephone conversations would be governed by an individual's privacy rights. An email you write and send through your home computer is your personal property and/or the recipient's property. Generally emails you write at work and send using your employer's network are your employer's property. But AFAIK, they are in no way public property and certainly not public domain. I'd venture to say using someone's email without their permission would be tantamount to using a converation recorded through a wiretap placed on their telephone without their permission.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 08:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Steve House
I am not a lawyer ...

I'd guess that it depends on the circumstances of the emails. They're personal communications, not public domain literary works, and like telephone conversations would be governed by an individual's privacy rights. An email you write and send through your home computer is your personal property and/or the recipient's property. Generally emails you write at work and send using your employer's network are your employer's property. But AFAIK, they are in no way public property and certainly not public domain. I'd venture to say using someone's email without their permission would be tantamount to using a converation recorded through a wiretap placed on their telephone without their permission.
All of this is true, but I'm almost certain that if the email is created by someone in your employement on your system then you own it. It falls under work for hire. This is why companies can monitor their employees company email accounts.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 10:12 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Matt Champagne
All of this is true, but I'm almost certain that if the email is created by someone in your employement on your system then you own it. It falls under work for hire. This is why companies can monitor their employees company email accounts.
AFAIK that does not make it work for hire - it's that employees do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy or work related communications in the workplace. Work for hire deals with ownership of copyright which is a whole dirrent issue. Copyright materials are creative expressions that intended for to be published publically. But emails, phones calls, etc are not public creative works but rather private personal communications. It's the same justification for the fact that telemarketing offices and call centres can monitor and record their employee's phone calls.
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