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BBC World Service

Do our digital accounts expire when we do?

Romi Levine Sep 5, 2012
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BBC World Service

Do our digital accounts expire when we do?

Romi Levine Sep 5, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

It was reported this week that actor Bruce Willis intends to sue Apple to guarantee his iTunes music collection can be passed on to his daughters when he dies.

Turns out, that story isn’t true. But it does raise an interesting question: Do our digital accounts expire when we expire?

Many of our most private and sentimental possessions are stored on laptops and smartphones. But do we truly own the music we buy online, or the photos on our Facebook account?

“When you sign up to the terms and conditions, you are just getting a personal right to use the online social media,” says Nick Rhodes with the law firm Blacks Solicitors. “You are not being entitled to pass it on to your loved ones.”

When it comes to Amazon.com’s Kindle, content on the device is limited to one user’s account and can’t be easily shared. Facebook is slightly more liberal with its ownership rights. If a person is granted written consent from the social networking site, they are able to transfer their account to another person.

Right now, the law favors technology. But Nick Rhodes says if people start leaving their digital assets in wills, the executors have no choice but to honor the request. “What we really need is a big test case to see how some new law would fit with the terms and conditions people sign up to.”

But you won’t get to see Bruce Willis take on this particular battle.

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