Prison Email Service Demands Intellectual Property Rights to all Communications to and from Prisoners

Thursday, May 07, 2015
Ryan Shapiro, CEO of JPay

A firm providing email, money transfers and other services to prisoners in 19 states not only is making money off these deals—it also is claiming the intellectual property rights to all electronic communications that pass between prisoners and the outside world.


JPay says in its terms of service contract that users “acknowledge that JPay owns all of the content, including any text, data, information, images, or other material, that you transmit through the Service.” In other words, Dave Maass wrote at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “JPay is leveraging its exclusive access to prisoner communications to claim rights over anything they or their friends and family transmit.”


These rights could include, for example, poems sent on Mother’s Day, a drawing made by a child for his incarcerated parent, and even recordings made by a reporter for a podcast, Maass wrote.


And these terms are no boilerplate to be ignored by users. An Indiana prisoner, Leon Benson, recorded a 30-second video in August 2014 thanking supporters for working to have his murder conviction overturned. Benson’s sister posted the video to Facebook, and prison officials subsequently sent the inmate to solitary confinement, canceled out his “good time” days and suspended his email privileges. The prison claimed it was merely enforcing JPay’s terms of service.


And if an inmate objects to JPay’s claims to his or her intellectual property, they can’t take the company to court. Instead, they’d have to challenge the matter through arbitration in Florida, where JPay is based.


Last month, JPay was acquired by Securus Technologies of Dallas.



-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

The Hidden Cost of JPay’s Prison Email Service (by Dave Maass, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Prison Bankers Cash in on Captive Customers (by Daniel Wagner, Center for Public Integrity)

Prisons Increase Profits by Replacing In-Person Family Visits with Video Screens (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Two Companies Rake in Big Profits from Billion-Dollar Prisoner Phone Call Industry (by Ken Broder, AllGov)


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