“Disclaimers in Email Signatures are Not Just Annoying, But Legally Meaningless”

I recently saw this, and having seen several of these disclaimers in the last decade or so, thought it would make a good blog topic.

When I first started communicating with BigCo, they had a policy that required an eleven-line legal disclaimer at the end of all e-mails. I know bits are cheap, but these add up, especially in an e-mail culture where every quoted line is sacred and untouchable. Some messages had literally dozens of these things cluttering them up. It looked ridiculous. I’m no lawyer, and never had any reason or desire to forward any of their messages to a third party, but even the first time I saw one I was fairly certain it couldn’t be enforced.

(I was amused, a few years ago, to see that some people were putting deliberately ridiculous disclaimers on their own e-mails. The Register apparently even collected some of the worst offenders in a number of different categories — the “best spoof” one is priceless.)

Somewhere in the last six years, BigCo’s legal department apparently suffered a rare bout of sanity, because the disclaimer disappeared. I’d gotten so used to ignoring it that I didn’t actually notice it was gone until I started writing this post and went to look for it. Now there’s only a line asking that you consider the environment before printing the message, which is actually a pretty good idea.

Progress marches on, even in corporate legal departments. Who’d’ve thunk? 😉