TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Who Gets to See the E-mail of the Deceased?

Re: Who Gets to See the E-mail of the Deceased?

Justin Time (
6 May 2005 05:24:04 -0700

Lisa Hancock stated:

> e-mail should be treated no differently than any other personal
> belongings and they revert to the next of kin or recipients specified
> in a will.

> This really should be a no-brainer, and the parents should not have
> had to go court to get what was rightfully theirs. "

The underlying question behind this is who owns the email. Both
private companies and governments have been at issues with their
employees over this since email became the prevalent means of
communication. Courts have ruled that if you are using equipment
provided by your employer, then the messages that are composed, reside
and travel through those systems is the property of the company or
government. Witness the FOIA or Freedom of Information Act requests
governments respond to daily.

The issue that needs to be resolved is if the ownership of the data,
residing on the company's (in this particular case - Yahoo!) belongs to
the sender or is it the property of the equipment provider?

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Ignoring for a minute those situations
where the computer belongs to the company and the worker _should be_
attending to the business of his employer. In those cases I do agree
the computer's output should belong to the employer. I am thinking
now instead of those cases where one has an account with an ISP such
as Yahoo for example: If I am _renting_ the use of the computer then
the computers output should belong to me. Another example might be
I live on a farm and rent or lease a machine to plant my crops. Now
my crops grow and are harvested. Do the crops belong to you since I
rented the machinery from you to do my work? If I am employed on the
farm and work with your tools, then I suppose the crops are yours
also. But not if the machinery, etc is under my exclusive control for
some period of time. PAT]

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