General Question

shared3's avatar

Can I post the email correspondence between a company and me without any legal consequences?

Asked by shared3 (921points) August 31st, 2009

A company has frozen an account of mine citing suspicious activity (more specifically, that I downloaded a copyrighted file). I’ve been talking to the company on email. Am I legally allowed to post the email correspondence on say, my blog? They are not suing me, but they have drafted a legal letter for me to sign (I have no idea what’s on it yet). I’m just really mad at being treated so badly and I want to blog about what happened…I’ve seen sites like Verizon Math, for example, and would probably do something like that (though maybe not as funny).

I know that I should probably consult a lawyer, but I don’t think it’s come to that point yet and would love to save the hassle and $$$.

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19 Answers

Darwin's avatar

We aren’t lawyers either, so take anything we say with a grain of salt. It would seem to me that any letter you wrote came be republished with no problem, as it was created by you, However, you may have to examine the return emails to you from the company to see if there are any disclaimers. If there are any that refer to republication of the emails and you violate them, the company could indeed file suit over a reasonable expectation of privacy or violating creation rights.

I suppose the real question here is did you download a file copyrighted by some one else? If you did, then the company has a right to object. Whether you did or didn’t, then you should have a right to examine the evidence against you.

shared3's avatar

@Darwin: Well, whether i have “a right to examine the evidence against you” translates to publishing it on a public blog is unclear.

cwilbur's avatar

Legally, you own the copyright in the letters you wrote and the company owns the copyright in the letters it wrote. Republishing them on a blog most likely does not fall under fair use, and they’re already prepared to unleash lawyers on you. What positive outcome do you foresee, if any?

Darwin's avatar

@shared3 – Having the right to examine the evidence does not equate to having the right to publish the emails.

shared3's avatar

@cwilbur: I see your point in that I stand little to gain and a lot to lose. How sure are you though that I can’t publish their letters though? How did Verizon Math and others get away with it? I would also think that I’m allowed to comment on my life. So I actually don’t think this is a copyright issue but a privacy issue (whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in that the letters will not be posted on the internet).

YARNLADY's avatar

If it was me, I would keep a copy of all the correspondence in a file. I do not see anything to be gained by publishing it publicly.

cwilbur's avatar

@shared3: Verizon Math gets away with it because, while Verizon could sue over it, it wouldn’t help them—they have a lot to lose and very little to gain.

Again, what do you hope to gain from this?

Darwin's avatar

If you really want to publish the emails and discuss your business and this company’s business on a public blog, then be pre-emptive and hire a lawyer before you do it.

The question still remains, did you do what the company said?

shared3's avatar

@Darwin: Of course not. They’ve been having this problem and seem to want to make an example out of me.

shared3's avatar

@Darwin: And I also fully expect them to stop annoying me soon. It might not be as clear cut as the Verizon Math thing, but it’s pretty clear that…well, I’m in the clear.

galileogirl's avatar

I would say it is a public document and they may even like it if whoever wrote you the emails didn’t say something obscene or libelous. If you actually did download the document and are going to use it on your blog or have misused it in any way, this will be free publicity showing the rest of the world that someone who doesn’t follow the rules can get squashed like a bug.

The document coming to you may be an statement that that you did wrong, you’re sorry and will never do it again. If you don’t sign it THWAP. Their staff of lawyers vs your lack of lawyers may end up in court. And you end up in the papers as one of those guys being sued for $1 mil

If you do sign it they have you by the short hairs for the rest of your life. You will never be able to plead ignorance in an illegal downloading case again.

Why do people who have done the wrong thing think that all they have to do is sway public opinion. Remember, the giant got that big by swallowing lots of little people whole-with the law on his side.

shared3's avatar

I see the wisdom in everyone’s opinion in keeping their responses off the blog. At least I can describe what happened, right? They’ve been doing some really underhanded stuff…

Also, @galileogirl, the thing is that I DIDN’T do this stuff and AFAIK, if they were to sue, it would be setting a precedent in US law b/c even if I downloaded the file, they are not claiming that I shared it with anyone. I don’t think anyone’s ever been sued (successfully at least) for doing such a thing. Anyway, like I said, I don’t have definitive proof I didn’t do it, but their evidence is laughably weak and contradictory. In fact, I have some proof that directly contradicts a lot of their claims. This wasn’t like downloading a mp3 or dvdrip.

galileogirl's avatar

So they just picked you out of thin air?? If that is true tell them to beat sand, but not publicly. They are still big enough to eat you alive. Some people might tell you to fight to the death, but that is your death, not theirs. I am yet to be convinced you are as pure as the driven snow. I’ve seen way to many people with chocolate all over their faces saying “What candy?”

tinyfaery's avatar

If the email correspondence says it’s priviledged info, then no, you cannot repost. If not. Post away. If there is no legal disclaimer, those emails are yours to do with as you wish.

shared3's avatar

@galileogirl : I realize that I can’t exactly prove to the those on Fluther of my case (heck, I can’t even prove it to the company!), but either way, I didn’t do anything wrong. I haven’t been singled out so sorry if it came across that way. They suspect like almost everyone with access to those files of having downloaded them (like prob at least 20% b/c they base their “evidence” on logins from different IP addresses and “high” activity). They are sending a legal letter to all those they suspect (and maybe even just regular account holders).

I’m just so angry at their sleazy underhanded tactics (I can’t go into them without losing confidentiality, but trust me…I can leave you a private comment if you wish). I will probably just post a description of what happened and not include any of the emails (it wouldn’t make much sense if I only included my own).

Thanks for all the help guys!

PerryDolia's avatar

You can play it safe by being general and citing “fair use.” Fair use means you can use excerpts of any written material without violating any law.

For example, instead of publishing two paragraphs word for word, which might run you into problems (although I doubt it), you could write it like this:

I received an email from John Jones saying that he apologized for the inconvenience but went on to say the problem “did not seem to be caused by manufacturing or component problems” and that the problem was “probably caused by the operator.”

In this way you can be just as factual without risking a suit for publishing the whole thing verbatim.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@shared3: Write up the whole thing—what you did and what they did including samples of writing, but not whole letters—and send it to the Consumerist. Honestly, the best thing that could happen for you is that they publish it. You could also try asking them about the weird letter the company is drafting for you.

rottenit's avatar

Also not a lawyer, you should consult one, but with whatever contract you signed with the other party ( if you signed one) it may have specific provisions to forbid you from disclosing any comminucation between you and the company. I have seen this kind of think tucked in all of the fine print.

Strauss's avatar

Also, check to see if you may have inadvertently violated the terms of use. Also, some companies have a standard template on their email with a explanation of their privacy policy.

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