Post-marked envelopes - legal proof??

Can anyone tell me if a post-marked envelope that I kept a copy of before mailing, is legal proof that I sent something? Would it hold up in court? US Postal does not seem to have this on their site, cannot find anything on the net…help!

I seriously doubt it. The fact you have a copy is no proof that you mailed the original, regardless of the postmark (after all, if you were able to withhold the copy after it had been marked, there’s no guarantee you didn’t also withhold the original).

If you want proof, I think that it would be better to send something by registered mail, return receipt requested. It only costs a few bucks. I am not a lawyer, though.

I doubt it. As mattk pointed out, just because you happen to have a copy of the postmarked piece of mail doesn’t mean you actually mailed the original. Also, how would you be able to prove that the postmark wasn’t tampered with or edited in some fashion? I could fire up a graphics editor application, scan in a postmarked piece of mail, modify the date to whatever I please, and print it out on a new envelope along with any address and return address I wished.

At least with certified mail, the post office keeps records of delivery for a few years, so those records can be used to demonstrate that something was actually sent. Even then, I doubt it would be admissible as evidence in a court of law. You could probably use certified mail records to demonstrate that something was delivered to so-and-so on a particular day, but there’s no way to verify that you were in fact the sender. But I’m not a lawyer either; this is just my WAG.

Um, I’m a little confused. You cannot postmark an envelope; only the post office can. You can stamp it, or meter it, but that’s no proof you sent it. The postmark is only seen by the recipient, not the sender, since it’s put on during the process of mailing. (So we’re clear, the “postmark” is the red or blue circle cancelling out the stamp, and it says right on it “USPS.”)

If you say you sent it, then a court will presume you did send it, but that isn’t proof. And the recipient can always say he or she never recieved it, after tossing it merrily in the trash.

If you want to prove you sent it and, more than that, prove that it was received, send it registered mail, return receipt requested (as LYNN suggested). That way you will not only have proof that you sent it, you will have proof it was received when you get the receipt back. Even if it is not picked up (and some people – often people with legal problems – will not pick up registered or certified mail), you will be able to prove you sent it.

A stamp is no proof of mailing.

Oh, and parenthetically, a USPS postmark is presumptive proof of mailing. I suppose it could be falsified, and you could certainly try that it had been, but generally it will be assumed that if you have the postmarked envelope a piece of mail came in, it was sent on the day indicated by the postmark. This comes up more often than you would think – regarding payments received late but alleged to have been sent on time, for example.

The signature on a receipt for certified or registered mail is presumptive proof that the letter was sent – or how could it have been recieved? The identity of the sender is established simply by reference to the return address or, in the case of registered mail, by the receipt, since the receipt will be returned to the sender.

Hi Jodi, quick question on this one point. Do you really see it that often? As someone in the banking industry, I don’t really care what day it was mailed (and therefore postmarked). All of our contracts clearly say that the payment must be received at one of our locations by a certain date, no matter when it was mailed.

When a customer says to me “I sent it on [such and such day prior to due date and/or end of grace period],” I usually respond with, “Well, I didn’t recieve it until [date after due date and/or end of grace period], and I can’t control the USPS. There are many ways to make sure we get the payment either the same day or the following day.”

Do you see a lot of contracts that say the payment must be mailed on or before a certain date as opposed to received? Seems odd to me.

(I once had an attorney bring up the Mail-box Rule in making this argument, you should have heard him stutter when I advised him that the rule applies to contract formation, not completion of contract terms. :D)

Here in the no-budget (or no-talent, depending on how you think about it) music business, a good rule of thumb for performers who decide to mail out demos of their material to the industry goons is to send a copy of your stuff to yourself, on the off chance that somebody decides to steal your songs. The postmark is supposed to serve as a small modicum of protection. Definitely not as good as a real copyright, but better than nothing for the poor schlub who can’t afford to register everything.

Let me also mention that even certified mail is not really proof of delivery. It proves that you sent an envelope, and it was received. It doesn’t prove what was IN the envelope. The person who signed for it can claim that it was empty, or contained blank paper, or what ever.

This is splitting hairs, however.

Certain things have to be accepted on faith. For example, I just mailed out my monthly car payment certified, with return receipt requested. Sure, the credit union can claim that the enclosed money order wasn’t in the envelope, and that the letter was a blank sheet of paper. However, it defeats the purpose of certified or registered mail if the envelope is empty or if the contents are not as described, since all I’d have to do is claim that I did mail it, but it must have gotten lost or something. The green card I get back from the USPS says that the article was mailed, delivered to this address, signed for by this person, and if you still don’t have the money order, it’s your problem, since I have this green card which says you got it.

OTOH, my ex did process service for a while, and one of his favorite techniques was to mail a letter to an address certified, and see who signed for it. The only thing in the envelope would be a blank sheet of paper.


Sorry, but any good lawyer could cast doubt on that. e.g., “You merely sent an empty envelope to yourself and put the tape in later.” You’d have to go to the same effort to prove you created the work whether you sent the envelope or not.

And, by creating the work, you DO have copyright protection. Further, if the work is truly stolen, you can sue on that basis.

We once had a customer who claimed he sent us some legal papers on a case in a certified envelope which I signed for. What he sent was certified mail, an envelope with no return address and flyers for a department store in it. I checked the address on the return receipt, and opened the envelope in front of witnesses.

We won the case! This proves there’s ways around everything.

Wow, thanks for all the insight so I guess I’m SOL. But let me just say that, if I meter an envelope (which is what I did at work), what on earth would make me not mail it once it’s paid for! All I have to is drop it in the mailbox out side the door. This letter was a 30 day notice to the apartment complex giving my notice. Now they are trying to tie me into paying another month while I’m not even living there.

This comes up even more frequently in my line of work than in Jodi’s, since the Patent and Trademark Office accepts most types of correspondence as timely if they are placed in first-class mail on the due date, with a Certificate of Mailing (more on this in a moment). Other types must be filed by Express Mail in order to receive credit for the date of deposit, instead of the date of arrival in the Office.

Now, on the issue of copyright and proving that you actually had produced the music by a certain date. The postmark is better than nothing, but a far more reliable method is to give a copy to a disinterested third party (better yet, two), and have him/them sign it as having been received from you on a certain date. Then, if it really comes to that, the affidavit of the disinterested third party backed up by the physical evidence is pretty convincing.

If the issue is showing that you sent mail by a certain date, you can use registered mail, or Express mail, or any type of mail that gives you a receipt. Or you can produce an affidavit that you actually sent it, which will be evaluated for credibility by the jury with the other evidence. This is effectively what the Certificate of Mailing is that is routinely used on patent correspondence. The sender places a statement on the face of the document that he is placing the document in first-class mail on a certain date, signs it, and photocopies it before mailing. This can all be faked afterwards, but only at the cost of committing perjury. And if the document is still available (i.e., the argument is about whether it was late, not whether it ever existed), the only copy has the statement on it.

Of course, all this verbiage really adds up to “what Jodi said.” :wink:

Did anyone see the movie “Quiz Show” about quiz show scandal in the 50’s? Apparently, the way it was finally proved that the quiz show was rigged was that one of the contestants sent via registered mail the answers to the show dated the day before the show was taped.

What would stop Paulette70 that honest and true person isn’t the question. What would be the problem are the whole host of other folks not nearly so honest as you who would backdate the check ( :eek: ), take it in to their office ( :eek: ) and turn the date on the postal meterback to make it appear as if they’d mailed it by the correct date. ( :eek: )

Not that I personally would do such a thing. really. honest.

Nothing probably would stop me from turning back the meter, BUT…guess what? You cannot back date a year…and after January 1, 2001…there would be no way I could have back-dated to December 29th, 2000. Sad but true!:smiley:

I read some documentation by SOCAN (The Canadian music royalty place - for lack of a better description :slight_smile:

It said that you should do this. Just ensure that the package is securely sealed and tamperproof. Then have the person at the post office stamp the date all along possible entry points so if it is tampered with, you can tell.
This is what they are SUPPOSED to do when you send a registered letter.

I can’t see any lawyer arguing with a package sealed tightly like that.

{b]I** can. :smiley: (or at least I could on my old Pitney Bowes, don’t know about the newer ones).

BTW - as an aside - I once was suspicious about the postal meter on a piece of mail I’d recieved (it was a resume, and I suspected that the person had mailed it from his current employer’s machine). I called Pitney Bowes and was able to find out where he’d mailed it from (yes, it was his current employer).

Do you think that he was wrong in doing this? I mean, mailing his res from his current employer? I think by looking into this, you felt that this was morally or ethically wrong? Did you hire him or 86 that res?:smiley: