are company emails protected by copyright?

Background: After Sony was hacked and a bunch of corporate email messages (among other things) were dumped to the internet, some guy in the UK decided to repost some of the more interesting messages on twitter. Sony’s UK branch demanded twitter take down the posts, claiming copyright violations. Twitter took down a few posts that contained* snippets from screenplays/scripts. They refused to take down the rest.

Question: Are a company’s internal communications actually subject to copyright protection? Or is this just a long shot by Sony?

Initial thoughts: I know** a creative work is protected by copyright from it’s completion (whether or not it’s registered with the copyright office). But are business emails really a “creative work”? Does the law (in the UK or US) actually limit copyright to creative/artistic works, or something similar?

For sake of accuracy, Sony’s attorney (David Boies, no legal lightweight) is not technically raising a copyright issue per se. From the letter:

A creative work is anything you put into tangible form that contains original expression. That includes emails. And every post made here.

Reprinting them without permission is a violation of copyright, so Sony can ask sites to take down copyrighted communications. Those sites could make the claim that printing them is fair use. What’s fair use? Anything a court says it is. As this won’t go to court, nobody can say.

Everybody’s in the right here, except where everybody is in the wrong.

I should add that UK law is not the same as U.S. law. The above pertains to U.S. law only.

Too late to edit, but my post should have said that Boies is not technically raising a copyright issue alone per se.

Good point, Dofe. I haven’t read the actual letter, so wasn’t aware he’d raised any other issues.

I forgot to mention in my original post, but my understanding is of US copyright law which may vary from the UK’s, where the complaint (and the posts to twitter) are from.

IANAL, and don’t know about copyright laws, but those emails are stolen communications and probably proprietary too, so I can’t see how it’s legal to distribute them.

The tweeter is reposting information that has already been published online, and is (afaik) still readily available to any member of the general public.