A [email protected] visitor asked:
Is it against email etiquette rules to copy and paste a section of a IM (Instant Message) conversation you have with a friend we’ll call A to your best friend B? Is this not the same, or at least very similar to explaining the scenario to B?
My first reaction is sharing another person’s written words without their knowledge is not what friends do. Explaining a conversation you had with another to someone else could be considered gossiping, right? I guess you could say it depends on your motives.
If your motives are pure; then just ask the other person if you could share their IM and let them who you will be sharing it with. If you are afraid to ask — then your motives are questionable.
Same goes if you are forwarding another person’s email comments without their knowledge. That email/IM/text was sent to you, and unless otherwise stated is for your eyes only.
It’s About Trust
It would be one thing if you asked A if you could share with B and they approved but quite another to intentionally share without their knowledge. Put yourself in that situation, how would you feel if an IM you sent to one person was sent to another without your knowledge? Yes, content and context matters but that is not for you to decide.
Forwarding of any content without the original author/creator/emailer/IMer’s explicit permission is not proper, nor is it legal. If the conversation was with A, you should ask their permission to share their IMs. Did you ask A and did they say it was okay? Does A know exactly who you will be forwarding and what portion of their comments? Only forwarding portions opens up the door to misunderstandings or comments being taken out of context.
What kind of friend are you?
Without the other person’s permission (meaning you asked them specifically and told them exactly what you would be doing), you should not forward privately or publicly anything they have written in whole or in part whether it be an email, instant message, text or Blog post. Besides the ethics and integrity, or lack thereof, behind your decision, Copyright law comes into play.
I have an entire article that covers Online Copyright issues that every onliner should make themselves familiar with: Online Copyright Myths and Considerations.
Be the kind of friend you would expect your friends to be!