Estate Planning In The Digital Age

What happens to all of our downloaded music, books, and other media when we die? JDSupra weighed in, and the answer currently seems to be that the information dies with us.

"Estate-planning is surely far from the minds of the majority of us when we log into iTunes to buy a copy of the latest catchy song from the radio. While we accumulate ever-larger collections of digital media (books, movies, TV shows and music), most of us have never bothered to consider what happens to our electronic treasures once we’re gone. The answer, sadly, is that most of it will expire with us."

It comes down to the rights that you agree to when you download the digital content. "[T]he rights you have over digital content are not the same as the rights you have over physical copies of the same material. Each time you click 'Buy' you’re actually only purchasing a license to use the digital file. The problem is that two of the electronic giants, Apple and Amazon, only grant 'nontransferable' rights to use this content. This means it cannot be passed along to others."

As JDSupra points out, "[t]he issue isn’t a minor one as ... the U.S. spend nearly $30 each month (so $360 per year) on electronic books, movies and music files. This number is set to continue a stratospheric rise as Apple alone has sold upwards of 300 million iPods and more than 84 million iPads."

Like most laws dealing with emerging technology, "[t]he troubles with such digital content have yet to make their way through the courts. Experts agree that the law is woefully out of date when it comes to such novel problems and it will take years to catch up with the assets people own today."

The "simple" answer may be to reform and update existing intellectual property law.


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