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Ethics in Email

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Ethics in Email

While most people spend so much time planning their lives, they seldom spend any time planning for their death. Some my say that life insurance will cover my families loss and a will can cover my money, and monetary property. Well, the question can arise, what happens to everything else? What about your thoughts and mental images that you have left behind? This is just the case in the parents of late US marine Justin Ellsworth vs. Yahoo. In this case, Yahoo refused to give Justin's email password to his parents after his passing. The case was taken to court where Yahoo was then directed to provide access to Justin's Parents. Was this the right decision by the Judge? There are issues that have to be discussed in order to find the answer. First we will have to understand what category our thoughts fall under, and then we must understand what is contractual protection there should be and finally what is the utilitarian and ethical thing to do.

In the age of email and texting there will be many electronic thoughts left behind when you pass. Are these thoughts intellectual property or property of interest? Intellectual property can be considered your thoughts, ideas, and anything that belong to you. On the other hand the property of interest is just that, anything or item that a person places value on. So which one is it? We can consider these thoughts intellectual property as they belong to you, just as an idea that becomes an invention. These ideas should be protected from falling onto the hands of others. Is it proper to give these ideas and thoughts to another without your absolute permission, I think not.

Many people get into contracts without properly reading and understanding the so called fine print. These contracts may not spell out exactly what is done with your ideas or thoughts after they are recorded. You can sign away your ideas to the open market without your knowledge. A person should not leave themselves open to such things. You will have to put protections in place to prevent this theft or unwanted transfer.

In this particular case, the family of the fallen Marine wanted to hold on to every part of their son. They wanted to see his thoughts and how he expressed them to others he commutated with. They felt that to hold on to these objects or ideas would keep him close to them as time pasted on. They also felt strongly enough to realize their duty was to protect their son's emails. This duty propelled them to take the case to court to plead their argument. The truly utilitarian thing to do would be destroying the emails instead of requests them. In order to protect their son's intellectual property, his ideas, they should not want to see them but erase them.

The other party in the case, Yahoo, did the right thing by not readily accepting the request of the parents. Yahoo held up to their contract



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