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I've seen a few similar questions asked before, however would posting a screenshot of an email onto social media be legal under the following circumstances:

  • The poster on social media is the recipient of such email
  • The recipient uses Gmail, which ties the email address of the Sender to the a LinkedIn profile if they have one, displaying it to the right of the email and including the Name of the Sender, Photo of the Sender, and current job of the Sender, which were otherwise not stated in the email.
  • The screenshot of the email includes all of this information: it displays not only the sender's email address and the original email, but also the information of the Sender's LinkedIn account (name, current job, photo) that the recipient's Gmail account linked to

I'm curious to see how others would interpret these facts. The question here is not so much the content of the email but rather the inclusion of the other identifiable information (Name, email address, photo, current job)

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Copyright

The first legal impediment is that you don’t own the copyright in the email so copying it without permission is prima facie copyright violation.

You may have a fair use defence but that is not clear. You don’t have a fair dealing defence. You may be able to argue that you have an implicit licence to make copies of correspondence but I doubt that would extend to posting it on social media.

Privacy

Basically unanswerable without a lot more detail about who an where the sender and receiver are.

Are they in Europe? The USA? Australia? Brazil? Different jurisdictions have different laws.

Are they acting in a private capacity or a business one? If a business, is it their business or are they an employee? How large is the business?

Confidentiality

In many civil law jurisdictions, communications are private and cannot be disclosed without the permission of the sender and the recipient.

In common law jurisdictions this is not the case but there are circumstances where the recipient owes a duty of confidentiality to the sender (e.g. a lawyer receiving legal info, a doctor receiving health info etc.) and disclosure can be a tort and/or a breach of professional ethics.

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  • You have missed another important point: Laws on mail secrecy. In germany for example, making an email public without consent of both sender and receiver is illegal under §206 of the criminal code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB). A lot of jurisdictions have similar provisions. – Polygnome Jun 24 at 22:56
  • @Polygnome good point – Dale M Jun 24 at 23:13
  • @Polygnome : does this mean someone can send a death threat in an email (or an admission of guilt in a crime while mocking the victim), and the victim can't use that email as proof because of copyright reasons? – vsz Jun 25 at 4:26
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    @vsz No. First of all, copyright has nothing to do with it. Mail confidentiality is a basic human right in many civil law jurisdictions. It is recognized in §7 of the EU charter (the small word "communications") and in §10 Basic law (GG) in germany. §206 StGb talks about "unauthorized" (unbefugt) disclosure of the email. Publishing it on social media would be unauthorized disclosure, sharing it with police or your lawyer (and them with the court) because you have a reasonable cause is authorized disclosure and thus allowed. – Polygnome Jun 25 at 8:18
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    @vzs This follows the law principle that the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin. The rights of the sender end when the recipient has a legitimate interest to share death threats and admissions of guilt with the authorities, which is when the rights of the sender end. – Polygnome Jun 25 at 8:19

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