My girlfriend has written a lengthy magazine article that includes excerpts from real emails. She is not planning on getting permission to use these emails (for a slew of reasons). She has gone through and blacked out all personal information (including names, addresses, phone numbers, and anything else that would identify the author).
She asked me to research the legality of this for her. Everything I've found has stated that emails, much like a conversation in a public place, are not the property of anyone and can be reproduced. Am I correct in assuming that she is in the legal right?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Publishing Emails
There are more problems with this than you or she either one can imagine. First, the authors of the emails may have copyrights in the emails, and her use of them may not be fair use. Second, if the authors or persons can be deduced from the contents or the context, you might run afoul of the law that says that you can't invade another person's privacy. An email sent from A to B, and copied by B to C, is still a private correspondence if A believed that B would treat it confidentially and A still has a reasonable expectation of privacy in that email.
Before she finishes or submits this article I would urge her to get an opinion from qualified legal counsel that what she is doing and the steps she has taken are sufficient to protect her from any tort claim in the future.
Also, a sure way to get fired at a magazine is to get them sued.