Is email correspondence copyright
And no, none of the email correspondence involved contained that privacy notice at the bottom that we all sometime see.
Our little hosting business is in California.
Over 7 years ago, we had a person sign-up for a hosting account that quite literally freaked out when her domain did not become active immediately (as in within the hour of registration) for her account. Also due to no fault of our own her name server addresses were wrong, needed correcting, etc. (We allow our members to register their domains with any server, then we send them the proper info so their domains are properly directed to one of our servers.)
She started calling us liars right-off-the-bad, and started directing other abuse and insults at us via email. This was indeed a shocking experience for us in that, it was coming pretty much out of nowhere. We sincerely XXXXX XXXXX help her for a full 36 hours, but in the end we had enough of her abuse and so we terminated her hosting account and immediately refunded 100% of her fees.
Okay, so without hesitation she posted in a usenet group and an on-line forum that we had called her a moron, and refused to give her a refund. The subject of her posts included the name of our business together with big caps "STAY AWAY". At first I tried to ignore this, but a search of our business at google brought up multiple STAY AWAY posts right at the top of the list, and we saw that this was starting to greatly diminish our account sign-ups.
So then in response I posted a full and complete detail of what had actually occurred in all the threads she had started under this topic. She of course replied something to the effect that we were the spawn of the devil, so to demonstrate how extraordinary the situation was, I posted a reply including excerpts from some of the correspondence which occurred during her 36 hour rant. However, I did not reveal any customer information nor email addresses, etc. but I did reveal her full first and last name. However, the vast majority of counter-argument posting was simply a statement of our position on this matter, i.e. not quoting any email messages that had been sent to us.
My argument here is that the letter of this policy covers account information which is submitted for the purposes of doing business for the hosted customer, and this does NOT cover such abusive correspondence which we reserve the right to use as part of our defense when our business is attacked in public. Indeed, I believe one should "expect" a business to defend itself in this way if maliciously attacked in a public forum. After all, our very livelihood was and is at stake.
By the way, I believe "they" are on the East Coast somewhere. And again, we are in California. Our TOS clearly states that the venue for any disputes would be here in our county in CA, but this person was only briefly our customer, so...
Thanks very much for any input.