Who owns an email message?

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and I did not consult an attorney about this blog post, so this is not legal advice. I may even be wrong, in which case you should leave a comment with your opinion.

I read an interesting article about whether or not you can publish the interview questions yourself if you are interviewed via email and I started wondering. If you have a conversation via email, can you publish that conversation in a public place? Turns out, you probably can't publish it without the other person's permission. The other person holds the copyright to the pieces they wrote and you need their permission to publish it. Or forward it on.

(Note that you can quote small pieces of their email. How much is up for debate.)

You can't even publish emails you found on public forums without permission. From NetM@nners:

e-mail that is posted to a group of people, on a mailing list
or Newsgroup does not make the e-mail available for reposting, copying,
or any other use – not without the express and written consent of the
author.

So be careful how you use someone's email and words. It's about more than just attributing it correctly.

Also be careful what you write in email. Even though they aren't supposed to publish your mail, it's obviously really easy to publish and forward emails!

What do you think? Do you think email and copyright law will be an issue? Will people continue to ignore copyright law when it comes to email? Will copyright law change? Or will a few public cases of misappropriate email usages make everyone aware of copyright law?