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February 22, 2008 - Bill Ackerbauer
It always amuses me when someone asks us to put an announcement in the paper and the request is accompanied by a legal disclaimer that says they will sue our pants off if we disclose the information.
Many companies, public agencies and organizations use a standard warning statement that appears at the bottom of their e-mail and FAX messages. For example, today we received a request to print an announcement about an upcoming program of public interest. It listed the who-what-where-and-when details of the event, followed by this injuction:
This communication, together with any attachments hereto or links contained herein, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain information that is confidential, privileged, or legally protected, and as such is not a public document. You may not directly or indirectly reuse or redisclose this information unless authorized by the sender. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any review, disclosure, copying, dissemination, distribution or use of this communication is strictly prohibited.
The folks who send such messages must assume we will ignore the disclaimer and act on what they mean rather than what their lawyers make them say. But for many people -- newspaper editors, say, or other people who are obsessive about precision in communication and have memorized sections of "The Elements of Style" or "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" -- it's difficult to ignore any use of language, even legalese.
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