Codebreaker

What happens to your media when you die?

Marc Sanchez Aug 28, 2012

We’ve all watched that scene in a movie where a family gathers around a lawyer’s desk as he reads the last will and testimony of some pivotal character. (It’s a movie, so the lawyer is a “he.” Don’t get mad at me, send your hate mail to Hollywood.) Great Aunt Harriet left her entire fortune to her duck!!! And what now? We each get a month to take care of the duck, and whoever can get her to lay an egg gets the loot?!? Crazy? Sure. You bet I’m in.
But what if Aunt Harriet was a book collector? Better yet, what if all her books were on her Kindle, and she had terabytes of music all purchased from iTunes? Dividing up her digital detritus might be more of a headache than getting Quackers to produce an heir. When you buy a song from the iTunes store or an eBook from Amazon, you’re technically only buying a license – a non-transferrable license. Marketwatch spoke with estate planner Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss:

 

Most digital content exists in a legal black hole. “The law is light years away from catching up with the types of assets we have in the 21st Century,” says Wheatley-Liss. In recent years, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Indiana, Oklahoma and Idaho passed laws to allow executors and relatives access to email and social networking accounts of those who’ve died, but the regulations don’t cover digital files purchased.


The article goes on to profile DapTrust, lawyer-created software getting ready to come to market that will let users create a trust account for media files. Sure, this sounds like a solution, albeit a labor-intensive one.

 

… experts say there should be an easier solution, and a way such content can be transferred to another’s account or divided between several people.“We need to reform and update intellectual-property law,” says Dazza Greenwood, lecturer and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

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