Disclaimers in Electronic Correspondence

Subject: Disclaimers in Electronic Correspondence
From: "Jacobson, Avi (PBD)" <Avi -dot- Jacobson -at- PBDIR -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 16:45:56 -0700

Like many who post to Usenet and to mailing lists from their work
accounts, I have a disclaimer as part of my signature file (see below)
indicating that the opinions I express are my own, and that they belong
neither to my employer nor to the organization to whom my employer is a
contractor, and through whose server I post.

In my email correspondence with coworkers and others, I use the same
disclaimer. This is because I often find myself expressing opinions
(e.g., about a particular documentation tool) which on the one hand fall
squarely within my responsibility as a Technical Writer (I believe my
professional opinions in issues of documentation are of value to my
colleagues) but on the other hand should not be viewed as having been
endorsed by my employer.

A colleague pointed out to me that there is no justification for using
such disclaimers in business correspondence. If I am communicating
within the company - so he believes - and I have been hired by the
company to handle documentation issues, then my opinions actually -ARE-
to be construed as representing my employer, and should be protected as
such. I posed the extreme (albeit theoretical) example of a Tech Writer
standing up at a conference and saying: "I have been a Technical Writer
for Axxxxx, Inc. for four years and I have conducted intensive testing
on Microslop's Worm 97 for Windows as part of the Awful 97 suite, and
let me tell you it stinks." My colleague seemed to feel that no
disclaimer would be required here, and that if Microslop sued Axxxxx, my
statement would "bind and represent [insert employer's name here] all
the way to court."

My colleague wrote: "My take is that anything you publish over
employer-/customer-owned media, which is directly associated with your
assigned capacity, binds and represents the owner... A statement that
can be substantiated would not be considered "irresponsible", and if it
is made in a professional fashion based on facts, then it would not be
malign. In this context the employer should not have a problem with your
representation."

I would be interested in hearing the opinions of other Tech Writers on
this mailing list as to their use of disclaimers to qualify the personal
opinions they express:

- in internal correspondence
- in correspondence with company clients,
- or to which they are privy (as CC, for example)
in public or semi-public online forums

--
Avi Jacobson, email: Avi -dot- Jacobson -at- pbdir -dot- com | When an idea is
or: AviJ -at- amdocs -dot- com | wanting, a word
| can always be found
Opinions are those of the poster, =NOT= of | to take its place.
Amdocs, Inc. or Pacific Bell Directory. | -- Goethe

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