Do Not Hesitate to Forward This

A post in the blog summarizes a theory put forth by Ned Snow, assistant professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law, who found a 250-year-old common law tradition granting copyright protection to authors of personal correspondence and now claims that forwarding an e-mail is a violation of copyright law… Here is the paper: A Copyright Conundrum: Protecting Email Privacy.

I am of the opinion that, if no means are taken to protect the copyrights, it is not an infringement to forward the email. In fact, unless the sender uses IRM (Information Rights Management), that is readily and freely available, I think he waives any such rights.

What about canadian common law?

Do not hesitate to forward this piece!


  1. I thought it was commonplace (maybe among common lawyers) that personal correspondence was copyright in the author – so the recipient of a letter can’t publish it without permission. That is pretty obvious when it is a question of a commercial publication.

    Why would it be any different for e-mails? I would not expect the Slaw postings to be published in a collection for sale without permission of the contributors – of course these postings are not e-mails, but again… I don’t waive copyright by posting (or is there a condition somewhere in the Slaw articles that I didn’t notice?)

    Given how easy it is to forward e-mails or copy postings, I would think that there would arguably be a non-commercial licence – like the Creative Commons attribution/no commercial condition.

    Is it any different for e-mails that say (even at the bottom of the letter) that they are intended only for the addressee? That’s generally not a copyright notice but a confidentiality notice, in my reading. Maybe that notice could be argued to be more generally applicable, i.e. to support a claim of copyright (“I said the addressee was not supposed to send it in i.e. publish it”) as well as breach of confidence.