Another Twist On the Copyright Law?

Interesting discussion from the Fox Rothschild Employment Group last week concerning employer searching of employee after-hour pager messages.  The alert highlights a recent Supreme Court decision concerning an employer's right to search such materials.

Privacy and fourth amendment issues aside, employers should consider taking steps to avoid copyright issues when performing such searches.  In many instances, the employee author might own the copyright in such writings.  If the employer copies or displays the message without employee authorization, wouldn't that be an infringement?  Couple that thought with last week's Ninth Circuit decision that delivery of a completed copyright application to the Copyright Office satisfies the pre-suit registration requirement (the subject of my next post), and this begins to look a little more real world.

A court might imply a permission to display or copy an electronic message by virtue of the fact that the employee created and stored the work on the employer's systems, but employers might be on safer footing if at a minimum they addressed copyright issues in their electronic communication policies.