I quite like writing letters.

I write:

  • Letters to editor in newspapers.
  • Compliant and compliment letters to companies.
  • Website feedback.
  • I plan to write to several successful individuals who I find inspiring this year.

What I'd quite like to do is publish the responses I get on my blog.

However, that puts me in a little bit of a awkward position re: asking for permission.

As far as I see I have a few options:

  • Just publish the response without asking permission or telling them.
  • Publish the response without asking, but blur out the names. (Not very practical for some letters).
  • Ask for permission in the original letter.
  • Ask for permission after they've responded.

Now clearly - for letters the newspapers for example, any responses published the paper are already public record, so publishing them is going to be ok.

Similarly - responses from companies is probably ok. But should I ask anyway as a matter of courtesy?

I'm not really asking about the legality here. If I was wanting to be a really antagonistic content creator (like emails from an asshole), I'd probably hide behind hidden anonymous email addresses in order to find my responses.

It's more about courtesy such that people enjoy their interactions with me.

  • 1
    Am I correct that your question is asking if you should ask for permission as a matter of courtesy? That's not a question about writing or even a legal question, it's a question about manners. I don't think this is on-topic here. Jul 2 '15 at 5:20
  • Your understanding is correct. It's a question about producing content and publishing other people's correspondence though. Is publishing not on topic?
    – dwjohnston
    Jul 2 '15 at 5:22

Legally, you need permission to publish private communication. There is a lot on this on the web, you'll easily find it through Google.

A response by a company to your inquiry is nevertheless addressed to you and private. You must at least anonymize it so that it is impossible to deduce which company you were writing to.

If the letters have any kind of literary merit at all -- which I assume they might have, if you think they would be interesting to read beyond their informational value -- the letters are also protected by copyright and you are infringing on the copyright of the author if you publish it without permission.

Finally, no one will ever write to you again once it has become known that you publish letters without permission. In my opinion common courtesy requires that you announce in your first letter that you plan to publish the reply. Keeping that plan hidden means that you expect the recipient not to agree to this and that you are trying to trick them. That is a valid method for investigative journalism that uncovers illegal practices, but simply disrespectful if you actually admire your correspondence partners.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.