…can you hand down your digit assets?

It is very important to understand how you own your digital assets. Even if it does not seem to affect you on a day to day basis, whether you own something or not, and the rights that flow from that, do affect your use of your songs and videos.

The most frustrating thing when you are purchasing music, videos or games online is that you can not (or at least should not) transfer the files around as you would like. Apple is the the epitome these sorts of restrictions. Whilst this may be frustrating on a day to day basis, imagine how frustrating it is when your lawyer tells you it is unlikely you can leave your digital possessions to your family or friends in your will.

This is not a major topic yet, but it should be. The average age of online shoppers must be increasing every month, as more and more buyers are using online sources and the young are growing up with this source at their finger tips, rather than from a shop in town. Within the next ten years, the interest in whether you can pass on your ‘digital goods’ will have considerably increased.

As we discussed in the article on ownership, the licence for use of songs etc is personal to each person. You do not ‘own’ the music and films, you are entitled to watch them, and the contracts with Apple, Zune or whomever you buy the digital goods from do not generally allow you to leave the online purchases to someone else.

In practice…

Whilst you may not be allowed to pass on some assets purchased in your lifetime, like music and videos, we may start to find that family members take a more practical approach, even if not a legal one.

As people become more and more technologically aware, the chances of copies being made of even the most strongly protected software, music and films, will increase.

Whilst this may not be the most proper way of distributing assets, we may start to find digital assets being ‘taken’ without authority or right.

…but be careful

Not only will the usual copyright laws and laws protecting digital rights generally be enforced more and more stringently, but the individual contracts you enter into with the music etc suppliers may well bind you and your estate after death.

Clauses in some contracts prevent you allowing another person to access your profile, and damages may be claimed if you allow that to happen. Obviously there is some mountain for the providers of music etc to successfully claim you breached that contractual duty when you have died, but it is likely to become more of a problem as more copying it undertaken.

At the moment, suppliers are not aware this is a concern

Apple, Facebook, Amazon and other major suppliers will need to be made aware of the potential issues having digital assets may produce when someone passes away.

It is not a problem we think of, but will be a difficulty in the future, and the suppliers will not be seen as large providers of entertainment but may be seen as taking rights away from purchasers who expect, when they buy a song, that they will own that digital asset.

Apple etc will need to be asked about their view and whether they want to do anything about it, particularly if they consider that ‘licences’ have been provided, rather than ownership.

Recently, Apple changed their policy toward your music library in their iTunes service. Now, effectively, you are renting the digital version of the music and are authorised to use it within certain limits. However, when the service came out, they advertised it as a way of transferring your music from other media to iTunes. Now this has changed, the law is uncertain on this point until it is tested.