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    I'm interested in views about a practice at Royal Holloway that troubles me greatly. I discovered that a lecturer in the English department had secretly copied some emails I had written him containing my literary views and sent them to other members of staff, one of whom I'd never met. He sent them in order to complain about my literary opinions which he disagreed with. When I asked him to tell me which emails he refused to tell me! When I complained about this breach of my rights to privacy in my correspondence (you must always ask before copying correspondence to another person to whom it is not addressed) the dean of the college - Professor Katie Normington - said that she supported the secret dissemination of correspondence and supported the failure to inform or ask permission. This is highly unusual behaviour for an institution to admit to and I wondered if anybody else had any experience of this very strange and furtive behaviour by Royal Holloway? The usual procedure would be simply to ask the writer of the email for permission but Katie Normington and her staff - for reasons which remain mysterious - refuse to ask permission. It's such aggressively unpleasant behaviour - anybody else had their civil liberties breached by Royal Holloway staff? The problem is, you probably wouldn't know about it - I found out by pushing for information. I have never encountered an attitude like it.
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    (Original post by LBCMA)
    you must always ask before copying correspondence to another person to whom it is not addressed
    Source? I don't believe that's true...
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    Hi there. Yes it is true. Emails are treated in exactly the same way as letters in terms of copyright law and permission is needed from the author before forwarding, copying, or publishing. It is also contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights article 8. (I've checked and the Royal Holloway campus in Egham is definitely in Europe).

    I think since the Snowdon revelations it's easy to forget we have any rights at all when it comes to our email correspondence, knowing as we do that it's all potentially open to monitoring by the state, but that right doesn't extend to universities. Copyright law also applies to our correspondence. (It's also just good manners to ask the author before circulating their letter or email to anybody else). It's a strange thing to want to act secretly like this.

    It is very surprising if Royal Holloway is against the provisions of the human rights act in any case. What's so hard about asking the author's permission? It's quite a strange thing to be opposed to.
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    To be honest it sounds like you're making a huge deal over nothing. I do think it's rude not to say which emails they sent though. You obviously care a lot about this so I think it's bad that they're not being 100% transparent, but I doubt there was any malign intentions in copying the email.

    The lecturer is allowed to disagree with you, I'd be glad that they take your views so seriously that they discuss them in the department. A university is a place to learn and debate, I really don't think they've done anything wrong and the law is a bit of a grey area. If it bothers you that much, maybe put a disclaimer in the footer of your emails?
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    Fair enough. I might be laid back if somebody pinched your bike and not lose any sleep over it but I wouldn't argue that you were making a big deal out of it by reporting it stolen. It's not really relevant that you wouldn't mind. I do. I insist on being asked. It isn't asking the moon to insist that permission is sought and it isn't a grey area (what makes you think it is)? It's absolutely against copyright law and ECHR Article 8. What makes you think it's grey area? Can you substantiate that or are you just guessing? I have it on the authority of a QC and I'm 100% sure that she's right.

    And as for the lecturer disagreeing with me - he complained about my opinion, not the other way round. He regrets that now, I'm sure, but he did try to complain about it. Made a bit of a fool of himself actually but that isn't really the problem here. It's the lawbreaking and, as you agree, the rudeness of it. I am unused to such openly aggressive and unpleasant behaviour. I have many friends in academia, a few lecturers and professors on both sides of the Atlantic, and they have been very shocked by the attitude of Royal Holloway. I don't think it's typical of Academic life. Some departments are just very badly run and an unpleasant ethos can develop if the head of department lacks respect for the students. They have a very big life lesson coming if they don't pull themselves together and get with the programme. It's called civil liberties and the tories are about to try to reduce them. I'm guessing I won't see you on the inevitable march... Thanks for taking the time to reply though.
 
 
 
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