Electronic mediums lend themselves to informality. When people forget that electronic messages are actual records of communication that can be used in court, this can lead to serious legal trouble. Whether it’s an email or a Facebook comment, electronic messages can be used in legal disputes in the same way that paper records have been used in court for decades. >
Electronic Messaging at the Office
It’s never a good idea to mix personal uses with company email systems or electronic message boards. Tracking whether an employee is using email for personal use instead of working is harder than, say, tracking whether he’s using the company phone for personal use. But using company electronic messaging systems for informal purposes can make employees careless. Gossiping via email can lead to libel and harassment issues that can escalate to serious legal disputes.
It’s important for employers to put in place a solid electronic messaging policy. Outlining the proper uses of company electronic messaging systems and drawing a clear line between work and personal uses will save companies a lot of trouble in the future. It’s important for both employees and employers to remember that just because you erase a sent email, it does not mean that that email cannot be retrieved. Any legal liability that can result from a written paper document can also result from an electronic message. Furthermore, third parties can seek legal action against an employer as a result of the electronic messaging activity of the company’s employees. These activities may include libeling a rival company or violating spam laws. Electronic messages can also be used as evidence in sexual harassment suits and cases involving workplace slander and discrimination.
In terms of copyright issues that can arise from improper use of electronic messages, it’s key to remember that just because you have a published document saved on your computer as a PDF file, it doesn’t mean that you own it. If you so much as forward a copy written document to a friend or co-worker, it can be a violation of copyright law. It’s important to get legal discovery help to find out whether you need special permission from the publisher before you copy or share any piece of intellectual property.