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Can you bequeath your digital music files?

The Law Office of Jeffrey L. Weinstein

At the dawn of the digital world, something happened that most didn’t notice. Computer software that you paid money for was no longer yours. You didn’t own it, you only licensed it from the company and they had limitations as to what you could do with it. Now that concept has spread to all aspects of the digital world. We no longer own what we buy.

In your will, you can bequeath your hardcover book collection and your vinyl records, but your digital music and books are a different matter. The big difference is a rights issue. In this new digital economy, most companies don’t grant you ownership, but rather simply a license to use the product.

It’s not like buying a physical book which you own outright and most people don’t read the “Terms of Use” on their digital purchases.

For example, Amazon and Apple grant non-transferable right right which means you can bequeath any bought music in your iTunes library or Kindle. Amazon’s Terms of Use says, “You do not acquire any ownership rights in the software or music content.”

So, it looks like your e-music and books die with you? Maybe yes. Maybe no. One easy legal way around this conundrum might be to continue to listen/read the digital content on the deceased’s devices. As long as you have the passwords and login info, no harm, no foul. Another way is to pay and get an online safe deposit box that stores digital information like passwords and login information.

Until the law catches up with the digital culture, people will need to come up with various ways to own what they paid money for.

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