Your Email Disclaimer Sucks

12 Apr in Internet, Law Enforcement
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You know the drill.  Some automaton from the corporate matrix decides that all outgoing emails must contain a disclaimer that reading this email is both illegal and immoral, will cause your eyeballs to char and your sperm to mutate and you will go to jail jail jail.  And lest you forget, this is repeated on each and every reply so, after four or five emails, you have enough digital ink to choke a Southern Dwarf Siren who, as everyone knows, have surprisingly small mouths.

Turns out, these are not only annoying, but completely lacking in any legal force.  From the Economist (via Lifehacker):

[Email disclaimers] are assumed to be a wise precaution. But they are mostly, legally speaking, pointless. Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries.

Many disclaimers are, in effect, seeking to impose a contractual obligation unilaterally, and thus are probably unenforceable. This is clear in Europe, where a directive from the European Commission tells the courts to strike out any unreasonable contractual obligation on a consumer if he has not freely negotiated it. And a footer stating that nothing in the e-mail should be used to break the law would be of no protection to a lawyer or financial adviser sending a message that did suggest something illegal.

They go on to explain that these disclaimers are probably so prevalent because companies see other companies using them, and then decide they should too. If you're using these in your business emails, you can probably get rid of them—you'll make all your contacts a whole lot happier, without making yourself any less protected by the law.

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