E-mail disclaimers

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A nice article over at The Economist covers email disclaimers.

The long and short of it? No case anyone can remember ever hinged on them being there. And in Europe at least, such unilateral contracts are completely unenforceable. They're useless.

In my time in the computer industry, or heck anyone who does email professionally, I've seen some doozies. One memorable disclaimer had six paragraphs and lined out in detail the exact constraints placed on how that email shall be handled, the relationship established between me and the company, and expectations set by receiving such. All for an email that said, "I won't be there tonight. Maybe next month."

Clearly the person sending the email had never read their own disclaimer, since this was on a mailing list for non-work activity and that was clearly excluded by the disclaimer.

Which just goes to show, no one reads the damned things.

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One of the unfortunate things in some cases is caused when the people sending the emails have no control over the disclaimers. Sometimes they are automatically applied by the mail system. I'd imagine it's a pretty lucrative business setup by legal types "hey, buy our software, we put automatic disclaimers on your email". This causes issues on mailing lists obviously.

One mailing list I was on had strict rules against it (as well as out of office messages) that the moderator setup a "relay" email address for those that were forced to include it (or had it forced upon them), and the relay address stripped out the pointless stuff.