Is the confidentiality notice on some e-mails binding?

I often get e-mails at work with the following, or something similar:

The information contained in this email/fax is confidential; it is intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are notified that any dissemination, distribution, or use of this information is strictly prohibited.

Let’s say I got one such e-mail that I shouldn’t have, and disseminated the info- could I be in trouble? Would it depend on the info, and who I shared it with?

Not a lawyer. I’m pretty sure that emails are still qualified as being copyrighted by the author, so you may run into trouble in publishing the email – on the other hand, what are the damages caused by such, which would be your liability.

Other than that, anything that’s a fact is a fact, and if you haven’t performed tortuous interference in an existing contract, you can use facts all you want. Touch crap if they spilled it to you.

Those notices are about HIPAA regulations - disseminating private information about a person’s health and/or other personal information (address, social security number, etc.) - they have nothing to do with copyright.

They are pretty much standard boilerplate, and are there to cover a company’s ass. Techinically, yes - you could get in trouble if you were to take protected information from an email and use it in a fraudulent manner. Or even just spread it around without a person’s permission.

E-mails should not contain such protected information, as they are not considered a safe mode of transmission.

Faxes are considered safe, but in large corporations where you can’t be sure who’s seeing the fax before it get to the intended recipient, or in the case of a mis-dialed number, that’s why the waiver also appears on fax cover sheets.

That being said, feel free to disseminate the email you get from your friend with cute puppies pictures that tell you you’re special.

Yes. But the notice would only be tangentially involved in the determination. It could also depend on who you were in relation to the sender or intended recipient.

Here’s a thread from last month on the topic.

Jeff Goldmark has a whole webpage listing why email disclaimers are stupid. For example:

And also:

Among other reasons.

Jeff Goldmark’s List of Stupid Email Disclaimers. There are some real good ones here. For example, try this one on for size:

Especially clever is when an email joke made its way around a bunch of law firms, picking up a disclaimer at each hop.