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Staff Emails Are Not Owned By Firms, UK Judge Rules 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-about-their-thoughts dept.
Qedward writes "A high court judge has ruled that companies do not have a general claim of ownership of the content contained in staff emails. The decision creates a potential legal minefield for the terms of staff contracts and an administrative nightmare for IT teams running email servers, back up and storage. The judge ruled businesses do not have an 'enforceable proprietary claim' to staff email content unless that content can be considered to be confidential information belonging to a business, unless business copyright applies to the content, or unless the business has a contractual right of ownership over the content. Justice Edwards-Stuart added it was 'quite impractical and unrealistic' to determine that ownership of the content of emails either belongs exclusively to the creator or the recipient of an email."
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Staff Emails Are Not Owned By Firms, UK Judge Rules

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  • right decision (Score:4, Informative)

    by pantaril (1624521) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:10AM (#41931297)

    The decision creates a potential [...] administrative nightmare for IT teams running email servers, back up and storage.

    I wonder what nightmare could this decision create for IT admins... sounds like FUD to me.

    I for one welcome this decision, similar legislation is in place where i live (EU - Czech Republic).

    Personal correspondence belongs to the employee and employer should not be able to legaly read it without the emplyee's consent.

  • Re:Only in the UK (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:18AM (#41931377)

    Definately not. In the Netherlands employers are not even allowed to read such e-mail as employees are also (by law) allowed to use company resources (internet acess, e-mail, phone, printers, ...) for private purposes to a reasonable extent and hence their privacy cannot be violated this way. I may be wrong about this, but I thought this actually has a legal basis in the EU in which case this should also apply to all other EU countries.

  • Re:Only in the UK (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:22AM (#41931417)

    Source: http://translate.google.nl/translate?hl=nl&sl=nl&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.iusmentis.com%2F2012%2F08%2F20%2Famsterdam-mag-e-mail-personeel-niet-bekijken%2F (Dutch-language original: http://blog.iusmentis.com/2012/08/20/amsterdam-mag-e-mail-personeel-niet-bekijken/). This does not mention whether there is a EU basis though.

  • Re:Only in the UK (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:58AM (#41931727)

    Personal communications are protected by law in Finland as well. An infamous caveat, Lex Nokia [theregister.co.uk], was enacted a few years back. It allows the employer to monitor the email envelope information under some circumstances. Such monitoring must be reported to the Privacy Ombudsman by the company. No company has submitted such a report as yet. Some companies are doing it clandestinely, but that is a punishable crime in Finland.

  • by davecb (6526) <davec-b@rogers.com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:05AM (#41931807) Homepage Journal

    The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that employees have an "expectation of privacy" in emails and files on computers owned by their employers, meaning that private emails and files are

    • not the property of the company
    • cannot be snooped without a warrant
    • are not considered to be "in plain sight"

    There are limitations: material from a company computer obtained by a warrant issued based on evidence from the company, if the company acted properly.

    --dave

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