Employees and Personal Emails – Breaching Employer Intellectual Property?
Employers beware – employees and personal emails could be breaching your IP!
One question we often get asked is: whether it is a breach of copyright for employees to email copyrighted works from a work email address to a personal email address.
Employees and Personal Emails – What is the law?
The leading case in regards to employees and personal emails is Woolworths Limited v Mark Konrad Olson  NSWCA 372. In this case, an employee was held to have breached copyright because they emailed copyrighted works in digital form by email and thereby reproduced the works in a digital form of storage on the mail server from which they were capable of further reproduction by the act of downloading the works.
In the case above, the person sued was responsible for the management of a project, which contained confidential information to Woolworths. The employee decided to join Franklins, a competitor with Woolworths and Woolworths dismissed him for sending some confidential information to others which in breach of his duty of confidentiality and fiduciary. Therefore, the appellant sought to a restraint of trade on ex-employee which restraint him from working for any other competitors in Australia for a period of six months. The judge said that the restraint of trade was invalid since it covered too wide and went further than was necessary. However, the court of appeal granted an injunction so that the ex-employee could not work for competitors.
Is emailing yourself something ok then?
The short answer is when it comes to employees and personal emails you need to be careful what you email to yourself.
Therefore, if this happens to you then your exclusive right to reproduction was likely breached when the employee emails the copyright works to his or her personal email address, thereby reproducing copyrighted works. If this happens to you and you want assistance please call us on 03 9527 1334, visit our contact page, or book an appointment for a free 15-minute consultation below.
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