September 6, 2012

What Happens to Our Digital Content When We Die?


BIGfish President David Gerzof Richard recently appeared on Fox 25 to discuss our rights to the music we download on iTunes. The topic came up after the Daily Mail reported that Bruce Willis was planning to sue Apple in order to pass on his iTunes collection to his children when he dies. Though the story ended up being false, it left us wondering–what happens to our digital content when we die? If we can’t legally pass our music on to others, where does it end up when we’re no longer around to enjoy it?
Though the thought is a bit morbid, it’s an interesting topic to consider. An article from NBC News’ Rock Center explored the issue in depth this past June, outlining the difficulties families face when dealing with death and simultaneously attempting to sort out the legal concerns of the digital assets belonging to the deceased.  According to the article, only five states currently have estate laws that include digital assets: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Indiana and Idaho. Adding to the confusion, what exactly qualifies as a “digital asset” varies amongst them; sometimes it refers to only email, while in other cases it refers to social networking and blogging as well. Overall, it’s still unclear who can claim ownership over digital assets when a person dies.

Social media profiles are a little easier to sort out. Deceased Account is a website dedicated to making it “easy for families to manage the accounts of their deceased loved ones.” The site lists information from various websites such as Facebook, Gmail, and PayPal on what options they offer for deceased users. Many sites provide information on how to close the account; Facebook offers a “Memorial Status” option.
Still, the question of what happens to your digital music library remains. Check out this GigaOM article that lists three ways to deal with digital content after you die. But most importantly, remember to enjoy your iTunes library, e-books, and whatever else floats your boat while you’re still around!

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