Those irritating disclaimers that companies tag on the bottom of email messages have little or no legal validity, or so I hear from people who've studied the area - and if you know differently, please let me know below.

Even worse is the tendency now to quote an entire message when replying, footers and all, and then add your own footers too. Most of us have probably received messages somewhere along a conversation, where four or five lines of real content are obscured by 100 of pointless disclaimers.

That made it even more annoying to hear from eSoft's Patrick Walsh that law firms are one of the biggest groups of customers requesting the ability to add them automatically at the mailserver.

These people really ought to know better. Email disclaimers are a classic example of FUD - the tactic of competing or selling by spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. And many are downright stupid.

My fellow writer Wendy Grossman's response was to come up with an anti-disclaimer:

"IMPORTANT - ANTI-DISCLAIMER - This email is not and cannot, by its nature, be confidential. En route from me to you, it will pass across the public Internet, easily readable by any number of system administrators along the way. If you have received this message by mistake, it would be ridiculous for me to tell you not to read it or copy to anyone else, because, let’s face it, if it’s a message revealing confidential information or that could embarrass me intensely, that’s precisely what you’ll do. Who wouldn’t? Likewise, it is superfluous for me to claim copyright in the contents, because I own that anyway, even if you print out a hard copy or disseminate this message all over the known universe. I don’t know why so many corporate mail servers feel impelled to attach a disclaimer to the bottom of every email message saying otherwise. If you don’t know either, why not email your corporate lawyers and system administrators and ask them why they insist on contributing so much to the waste of bandwidth?"

The sad thing is that "your corporate lawyers" are probably the legal-illiterates responsible for the disclaimers in the first place.