I did not delete the post below because I was in violation of some copyright law. Whether you want to debate my ethics about posting it or not is your business, but I was fully within my legal rights to do so. However, this blog is meant to be informative and amusing, not make people angry. Unless those people are stupid.
There are two main reasons why I had every right to post material handed out in a classroom:
(1) I was handed a piece of paper with some writing on it. It was no different (in legal terms) from finding a piece of paper on the street with some terrible writing on it, which I don't think anyone here would have objected to. I think I fulfilled my moral obligations by not naming the professor OR the student. I also did not post the story in full. Whether a writer holds copyright on their work from the first word they type is irrelevant. The only way this would come up in court would be if I were to publish it and attempt to make money off of it by claiming it was mine or claiming it was someone else's and not giving any procedes to the author. Even then, the author, who in this case we are assuming is lacking a form from the US copyright office, would have to prove that they wrote the work first and I stole it. This is actually fairly difficult to do in a courtroom. If there was NO monetary gain at stake (i.e. I had not tried to sell the work), the case would simply not go to trial because there are no losses. It might go to civil court for emotional damage, but only if the original author had good grounds for it. (If I posted her work and her name on a billboard at Times Square, for example)
(2) Basically everything written on the internet falls into the "fair use" category, as the California Supreme Court recently ruled. (And it's irrelevant, because you could easily make a post on a server that was based in another country if you really wanted to) I give the example of Something Awful, which people have attempted to sue many times for "libel and slander." None of these cases have ever gone to court, and the threatening emails to the site administrator were even posted in whole, without alteration or permission.
Freedom of speech on the internet is a two-way street, people. I'm very aware of that; material I've written on this blog or in email as The Rejecter has been reposted on other websites without my permission, and the material has been altered without my permission, and I can't do a thing about it. Most people back down from an email threat from someone else to sue pretty quickly, but they actually don't have to.
As for the other complaint, which is that I keep a folder of the worst query letters I've received for my own personal amusement, it is totally legal and I've never viewed it as immoral. When you send a letter to someone through the postal service, the letter becomes their property. They can do whatever they like with it. They can make paper airplanes out of it, they can refuse the back of the paper as scrap, they can toss it in the trash (which is what happens to most query letters that aren't sent back). Now if I attempted to make some kind of a profit by reprinting the letters on a pay site or in book form, I might run into some legal trouble with the authors if I didn't bother to change or remove their names, but I would never do that for both legal and moral reasons. I don't keep the query letters so to mock the author. (I often don't even look at the author's name when reading a query letter, except to check that it's the same name on the SASE so nothing gets screwed up in the mail) The only illegal thing that ever happens in the agency is the act of opening the envelope. (It is a crime to open an envelope sent through the US Postal Service that is not addressed to you, and the letters are always addressed to my boss, not me) Once the envelope is opened, the paper and whatever's written on it is fair game.