From March 2021, sending an email or posting a tweet using @ is going to cost you. That’s the conclusion we’ve reached since it was revealed by 257news that the licence that entitles everyone to use the “@” symbol in electronic communications is due to expire in five years’ time.

The original licence, drawn up in 1971 between Bolt, Beranek and Newman, the employers of Ray Tomlinson, the man who sent the first email, and Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation, the owners of the @ symbol, will expire in 2021.

Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation, or AM International as it became in 1979, filed for bankruptcy in 1982, so it is unclear who now owns the rights to the @ symbol. The major email providers, including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, are yet to comment, but the cost of licensing the use of @ from 2021 onwards is likely to be immense, and it is almost inevitable that they will pass the charge on.