How to protect your contacts book

The court in the case between journalist Junior Isles and his former emplyer PennWell Publishing recognised an important distinction between personal journalistic contacts that are updated and kept separately from those that are used in the course of employment.

The disputed contact list had not been exclusively provided to Isles at the start of his employment.

It was effectively a hybrid of contacts which he had gathered and maintained himself from material brought with him when he had started his new job and other contacts which were built up during the course of, and for the purposes of, his employment with Pennwell.

In this case the contact details included telephone numbers and email addresses that had been stored on a company email system.

The judge did not accept that the contact list was something that could be thought of as personal to sles, such as a private address book, which had been selectively added to, and maintained for ,the purposes of his career rather than as part of his job.

The judge recommended that employers should generally ensure that a clear email policy regarding ownership of contact information should be provided to employees. This would ensure that journalists understand what information will remain the property of the employer after their employment has ended.

However, the judge did acknowledge that had the disputed contact list been kept separately, in the form of a personal address list, to which journalistic contacts had been added for career purposes rather than employment purposes, he would have concluded that Isles was entitled to develop and maintain such a list.

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