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Email laws and guidelines – what can you really use in court?

Tags: email guidelines · email law · email lawsuit · emails in court · spam laws

If you’re working in a corporate environment, then you must already be all-too familiar with some of the email laws and legal guidelines, disclaimers and so forth associated with any activity. Since there are a lot of myths regarding the use of an email in the courtroom and general email law, I will try to explain here what can and can’t be done with an email in the unfortunate case of a lawsuit.

Email law regarding disclaimers is sketchy

In one of our past articles, I have talked about the oh-so-common email disclaimer – Why should you use email disclaimers? – but does it really count? The idea behind them is mostly to prevent unwanted occurrences, but if you find yourself in a court of law it could help your case…

Companies usually rely on legal disclaimers or specific confidentiality agreements, but it’s really up to the person handing out the sentence to make the final decision. So, you can’t base a case on it or call someone to court because of it, since email law doesn’t actually specify how disclaimers should be composed, treated and used. The email disclaimer should be part of a company’s email policy, so even if it doesn’t cover all eventualities it will make the balance lean towards that company’s favor. Since it’s a part of a bigger and more comprehensive book of guidelines, its use will make the company seem more responsible. On the other hand, while the company will decrease its liability, the individual(s) involved will not be able to fall back on email “legal” disclaimers and so, will be charged to the full extent of the law.

Email laws regarding SPAM messages

This has also been discussed in a previous article – Anti spam acts from around the world. As opposed to the topic above, spam email laws exist for quite some time and there are many precedents where someone was sued because of spam. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2004 may not be perfect, but in one way or the other it exists in almost every country (the US, the E.U., Australia and South America all have specific email laws and guidelines regarding spam). The spam email laws usually treat problems such as: what is and isn’t spam, how to combat it and of course, the different rulings the judge can hand out. In the end, it’s also up to the person(s) dealing out the sentence, since there can be many variables – from what I know, these types of lawsuits usually end with hefty fines for the party charged with sending spam.

So, when dealing with spam and spammers, current email law lets you sue people or businesses and make them responsible for their actions, if they are doing them knowingly (in most cases though, viruses send out emails from infected computers and the users don’t even have a clue). If you’re worried, you can take a look at the above article article which gives you some email law guidelines. Also, take care to include unsubscribe options and not send out emails to people who haven’t given their consent, and always have an antivirus running in the background so that your PC isn’t used for unlawful purposes.

Email laws and guidelines regarding delivery/read notifications

Delivery and read notifications are like the Holy Grail of email marketers, businesses and users alike – we all would like to know when and who read what because knowledge, in the end, means power and control. With this in mind, there have been many-a-number of services boasting about their fail-proof method of delivering that control straight to your fingertips but, as we stated in a previous article (Why forcing a receipt on your emails doesn’t really work) none actually are able to make it happen. I agree, some can inform you with 99% accuracy of your recipient’s doings, but none are perfect.

Why, you ask? Because delivery/read notifications aren’t standardized – there is no default set of rules that all emails, servers and clients have to comply with, which leads to fragmentation, which in turn leads to unpredictable results. Because of this, notifications such as these cannot be used as evidence – even if both parties were sending through the same server, using the same email client. Email laws have nothing regarding deliveries or if the messages are read or not, so you shouldn’t take into account what Outlook says.

As a general guideline, think about delivery and read notifications like an added bonus for your peace of mind, not as a means to prove you’re right (both in a court of law and in an issue where emails are involved).

Emails and courts of law

Generally speaking, emails and the laws surrounding them are a tricky business. It’s actually pretty complicated to bring someone to court because of them, since usually claims regarding emails have to be backed up by server logs, by huge archives of messages that take forever to sift through, by correlated data between internet providers and server locations and many, many more. So, you shouldn’t worry too much – a little common sense will usually go a long way. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be informed, so please take a little time and read up – there are many interesting and well-documented articles regarding email laws and guidelines right here, on our blog!


Thank you for reading and please contact us if you have any questions, tips or ideas regarding emails, either in the comments section or at We also have some very cool products that will help you in your daily email dealings, so why not go here and give them a try? We’re sure that you’ll like them! 🙂


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