Several times each week I get asked for guidance when it comes to forwarding emails written by others while on business time. “Because it is a business e-mail does that mean they no longer own it?” Because an e-mail is written on business time, does not negate copyright and common courtesy.
Should you copy the original sender and/or ask if it is O.K. before forwarding their e-mail? Cc’ing doesn’t negate asking for permission. E-mails are sent and written to the party for which they were intended, regardless of when or where they are written and are not to be sent to others without the sender’s permission first. Period — or risk the consequences.
Now, as we all know, there should be no expectation of privacy online. But that doesn’t mean anything goes or that business courtesy is thrown out the window!
You could be putting your company in legal jeopardy if you forward outside the company and you may be putting your reputation as a professional on the line by forwarding internally. In business, copyright issues are even more at play and every responsible company should have a policy on what can and should be forwarded and how via e-mail.
Common courtesy dictates you do not forward without the original sender’s knowledge. They may not appreciate the e-mail they wrote to you being sent to those they don’t know. Or they may not mind at all. So just ask!
Certainly it should go without saying that while on company time the forwarding of shall we just say anything questionable content-wise (NSF = Not Safe for Work) or not business related simply should not be forwarded at all. Save those e-mails for your personal account while on personal time.
For more, I have an article with some extra general forwarding tips that apply to business and personal e-mails alike that you might find helpful: 5 Rules for Forwarding. Why not also check out my Copyright Refresher while you are at it?