21st century problem: “Who inherits your iTunes library?”

If you have made a will, don’t forget to include your digital music and ebooks:

Someone who owned 10,000 hardcover books and the same number of vinyl records could bequeath them to descendants, but legal experts say passing on iTunes and Kindle libraries would be much more complicated.

And one’s heirs stand to lose huge sums of money. “I find it hard to imagine a situation where a family would be OK with losing a collection of 10,000 books and songs,” says Evan Carroll, co-author of “Your Digital Afterlife.” “Legally dividing one account among several heirs would also be extremely difficult.”

Part of the problem is that with digital content, one doesn’t have the same rights as with print books and CDs. Customers own a license to use the digital files—but they don’t actually own them…

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.

Another reason to buy the physical version if you really like the music or book.

Thinking more broadly, this extends to a whole host of digital content. What happens to your Facebook information if you die? Your Dropbox account? Accessing your email? Stories about these circumstances tend to stress the lack of formal legal or corporate agreement of what should be done. How about a “dead digital user bill or rights”?

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