It seems like people these days can't walk four feet without typing their thoughts out on a cell phone. But who owns all your text messages?
The natural inclination is to assume that you do, after all, you wrote it. But as we all know, the law can be full of absurdities that can sometimes lead to odd conclusions.
And in the case of text messages, the result is no different.
For instance, one would assume that typing out any text message would automatically give the writer copyright protection over it. Technically, your message would probably qualify as a literary work, regardless of its inanity.
The reality is that the answer might not lie in copyright law, but rather in your user agreement with your cell phone provider.
Nowadays, while most carriers' terms of service don't reserve the right for companies to keep transcripts of all your messages, there have been reports that some still do.
Furthermore, many Internet messaging service providers sometimes have provisions in their user agreements that allow them to keep records of your conversations.
To complicate matters even more, some federal privacy laws, such as the Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2006, state that users who send text messages can't obtain transcripts of them from their carriers.
It might sound weird, but the reason is because your messages are received by another person. And that person also has privacy rights to the conversation. Short of a court order, getting a hold of them on your own can be near impossible.
Bottom line is that if you want to know who owns your text messages, you should read your contract with your carrier first. But you guys are used that, right?
- Keeping Close Track of Chats, Word for Word (The Wall Street Journal)
- Miami Strip Club Sent Patrons Hundreds of Spam Text Messages: Lawsuit (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- Copyright Basics (FindLaw)