Who Owns Your Digital Legacy When You Die?

What happens to your Digital Legacy when you die depends on the terms of the services you use.

Who Owns Your Digital Legacy When You Die?

Who owns your digital assets when you die is still a long way from being clear. Both lawyers and Internet companies are struggling with how to address this issue. Many of us do not make a Will, and even those that do have not caught up with the need to include something about disposal of our Digital Assets.

Your Digital Assets will undoubtedly include your digital photos, your videos, your emails, your e-books and a whole host of other digital stuff.

The problems

One of the issues is that many of these assets may not actually be yours to own or may not be legally transferable to your heirs. For example, if you check the terms of use for your Kindle books you will find that you don’t actually own the books themselves. You have merely bought a license to use them. So too with songs purchased through the iTunes store. As we move from owning our things to a subscription model this problem will only get worse.

Additionally, the terms of use for your online email accounts may specifically preclude transfer to another individual. Anything you put in your Will that bequeaths these type of assets may be difficult to carry out as some executors have discovered. Some have found it necessary to resort to legal action to attempt to gain access. Of course such steps should be unnecessary, but privacy is one of the concerns and without written consent these Internet companies will often rebuff such requests.

Companies trying to address the issues

Many companies, though, are now trying to tackle this problem and some have come up with schemes and processes to make it easier for your wishes to be carried out. Yahoo in Japan has recently announced one, Japan Ending Service, in which it will send loved ones your pre-prepared messages on your demise. On Facebook you can make a Memorialization buy adipex england Request on behalf of the deceased and Google has Inactive Account Manager.  Of course this is fraught with problems not least of which is that we don’t currently have a legal way of digitising or warranting death in a way that is fool proof.

The law has still to catch up

The law in the UK remains far from clear and may eventually require legislation to help address these issues. It is inevitable, though, that your Digital Assets will eventually be considered as part of your legacy, just like your physical assets. But until companies who own the services you have subscribed to address these problems, to carry our your wishes, your Executor may find it difficult to override the terms you originally signed up. Indeed with no request it is highly likely that content of accounts that become dormant, will eventually be deleted and lost forever.

It requires some clever planning on the part of lawyers to address these problems and may include putting things in Trust to circumnavigate the licensing issues. However, there is no guarantee that this will work given that a Trust would not actually be an individual.

Of course, for any of this to work, you will have to have made a comprehensive list of all your Digital Assets and how to access them. Not an insubstantial task for many of us. Find out here how to go about making an inventory.

But do you really care anyway?

On the other hand, you may simply not care enough about your collection of Kindle books or iTunes songs to want to pass them on. In the age of subscriptions, rather than ownership, you may put far less value on these assets than perhaps has in the past been placed on a physical collection of books or vinyl records.

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