17
votes

My organization automatically attaches an email signature for all employees' outgoing messages. The signature contains onerous warnings and disclaimers that sound very official and imply all kinds of legal standing.

Is there any point to this? It makes email replies hard to follow and is can be contradictory with a tools like public mailing lists. If there's no point, how can I convince whoever set the policy of this?

2
  • 5
    One thing I've never understood about e-mail disclaimers is why they are at the end of e-mails and then contain things like "... you should not read this e-mail...". That helps a lot. May 3 '09 at 10:40
  • Too localised, as laws and regulations differ from place to place. e.g. In Australia their legal validity has already been tested in court, with the result that they disclaimers on documents transmitted as clear text in any public medium have absolutely no legal value. Oct 19 '12 at 10:21
14
votes

http://goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/ says it all, really.

12
votes

Apparently, there is a web site for everything: http://www.emaildisclaimers.com.

Quoted from the referenced site:

The disclaimers added to the end of emails are not legally binding, but it's always good practice to try and disclaim liability'. Michael Chissick, Head of Internet law at Field Fisher Waterhouse (March 2000 Internet Magazine, 'All work and no play')

Disclaimer: No suitability of this answer is expressed or implied for any question asked on ServerFault.com. The opinions expressed in this answer do not reflect those of the answer's employer, spouse, or the family cat.

5
  • 1
    Out of curiosity, what is the family cat's opinion?
    – mmyers
    May 3 '09 at 4:08
  • 2
    I've just interviewed the cat. His official answer was "meooooow" (said in a very official tone of "voice") :D
    – vmarquez
    May 3 '09 at 6:23
  • I think that's already been trademarked by a different cat
    – Mikeage
    May 3 '09 at 6:25
  • 1
    @mmyers -- the family cat's opinion on just about everything, except tuna, is disdain.
    – tvanfosson
    May 3 '09 at 13:22
  • @tvanfosson lol true :D Jul 29 '11 at 5:02
7
votes

I would suggest that sysadmins with UK interests read this...

"Companies in the UK must include certain regulatory information on their websites and in their email footers before 1 January 2007 or they will breach the Companies Act and risk a fine."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/12/21/new_web_email_regulation/

1
  • Yes, good point. Actually similar rules apply in many countries (at least in the EU). Note however that these are not disclaimers, they are merely the official, registered company information (to help the recipient know who they are dealing with). Also, this mostly only extends existing rules for snail-mail letters to email.
    – sleske
    Oct 12 '09 at 8:58
6
votes

I work for a global company who have stated that they do not put legal disclaimers on emails as they are not legally binding. They also argue, and i think rightly, that such disclaimers leave people with a false sense of security.

4
votes

I don't know what the correct legal answer is, but I got so sick of reading "Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Thank you." that I now append my own footer:

If you plan to save this email, please consider the environment, and print this message to save electricity by leaving your PC off or in standby. Thank you!

3
votes

As always, consult a legal expert in your area if you want to really know for sure. However, it's generally difficult to force a person to agree to terms simply to appending them to an EMail that the person receives. I doubt it would constitute a "contract."

Consider this: If the "contract" at the end of the EMail were legally binding, you could just append the disclaimer, "Anyone reading this must pay me $2 per word of my EMail." Do you think that would hold up in court?

3
votes

In short, no, there is no point. No one reads the disclaimers, let alone acts on them. Plus, nothing makes a mess of a quick one-liner message like an essay of a disclaimer.

3
votes

My lawyer puts them on the his emails...

I asked him about it and he said that notices of confidentiality and IP ownership prevent a recipient claiming they didn't know. Beyond that he shrugged his shoulders - might help, might not.

2
  • If legal council does this, that's one thing, but when messages from administrative assistants about charity fundraising are stamped with confidentiality clauses, it mocks the whole idea.
    – jldugger
    May 3 '09 at 18:12
  • 2
    Agreed. Actually I think the worst ones go like this "The views expressed in this message are those of the individual sender and may not necessarily reflect the views of..." = my employer doesn't trust me, so there's no point in talking to me.
    – John McC
    May 3 '09 at 19:37

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