July 4, 2023

Those of you who have spent a lot of time and money building up an extensive music or video collection may feel you would like to leave what you have paid for in your Will for a loved one to enjoy.

Sorry to disappoint, but the iTunes current terms of use state that a licence to use those services is not transferrable. Apple clearly limits the digital file rights to the account holder. The right to use other collections, such as on Amazon, will similarly be governed by the terms of use under which they operate.

As to the broader issue of who inherits your intellectual property rights – such as copyright to books or songs, patents or trademarks, photos, etc. – this will depend on the terms of your Will. You can specifically leave the rights to that blockbuster film script you have written (published or unpublished) to a specific person, failing which those rights will pass to the people you have named residual beneficiaries in your Will.

If you have not left a valid Will, then your estate may pass in accordance with the law of intestacy which sets out a cascading list of potential beneficiaries – for example, partner, children, siblings, parents, uncles and aunts and eventually, if there are none, to the government!

Social media afterlife

Many people have started to think about what happens to their Facebook account when they die. In response to this, Facebook now allows you to name a “legacy contact” who can post a final message or memorial service details and carry out certain functions such as amending your profile photo and archiving your posts but cannot read your private messages, post posthumous messages on your behalf or delete your most embarrassing images. Otherwise, your account can be memorialised (i.e. frozen) or deleted upon provision of proof of death. Memorialising stops further updates and the deceased cropping up as a suggested friend.

Google now allows an account holder to name an “account trustee” and to nominate the length of account inactivity (ranging from three to 18 months) after which that trustee will be contacted. Other services such as Instagram, Snapchat and iPhoto have varying policies for archiving or deleting accounts that can be checked with the individual provider.

On the other hand, there are many reports of family and friends finding the continued posting and reading of messages on the Facebook page of a deceased loved one comforting – rather like still being able to talk to them – and so avoid de-activating the account.

You can now also pre-write posthumous messages that you would like to send to your nearest and dearest. A new group of start-ups have been offering to send pre-written e-mails and posts to Facebook or Twitter once a person passes, either publicly or as private messages to specific people, such as on a loved one’s birthday or anniversary.

This is a fast-changing area and the law cannot evolve quickly enough to keep up with the changes, so, if you are going to have a profile on social medial, you need to keep abreast of such issues as whether you want what you’ve posted to survive for eternity and whether you want to speak or receive messages from beyond the grave.

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This information and information published on our website and social media sites is general in nature and for information and entertainment purposes only.  This information does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  If you require legal advice which takes into account your personal circumstances, please contact us for an appointment.