back to article Bang! You're dead. Who gets your email, iTunes and Facebook?

Two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Amazon and other international corporations have found ways* around the latter, but no one can avoid the former. In the age of Facebook and Google accounts, and with the existence of services such as iTunes where people invest considerable sums in entirely virtual goods, the …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

    The best advice regarding this kind of thing I've heard is that you should document your logins / passwords / secret questions & answers etc everything needed to get into an account into a hardbacked notebook.

    Write up your Will and have the notebook attached as part of the Will left with your lawyers. upon your death, no need for any tech company to know you are dead, your relatives will have full access to everything via that nice lil book enclosed with your Will.

    Assuming you can trust your lawyers, the Will isnt destroyed by accident along the way or lost/misplaced etc etc etc but so far lawyers and the law seems to still have some respect for Wills & the contents therof and most tend to survive from creation to the reading of them.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

      "so far lawyers and the law seems to still have some respect for Wills & the contents therof"

      That's not surprising given that they make money from them.

      OTOH they are likely to point out that there is good reason for the company to be told about the death; the deceased would have been one party to whatever contracts were in place so the other party would, I've thought, have reasonable expectations of being informed as part of the executors' duties.

      But surely the executors should have access to the account in order to clear up the deceased's affairs. Whilst the T&Cs may make it clear that music "bought" on iTunes is only leased other files such as those originated by the deceased and correspondence received are part of the estate. They may possibly of value as IP in themselves but they may also contain information which the executors need to finalize the deceased's estate.

    2. NogginTheNog

      Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

      In a world where passwords need to be updated relatively frequently though, how feasible is this??

      A better option might be to use KeePass or similar, and to document the Master Passphrase for that in/with the will.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

        A better option might be to use KeePass or similar, and to document the Master Passphrase for that in/with the will.

        Which is exactly what I have done - in a sealed envelope with my will. And just to avoid any possibility of fraud, you also need a Yubikey to get into the password safe account, which I always carry with me,

        1. Jonathan Richards 1

          Yubikey

          There'd better be a copy of that Yubikey; there are lots of ways of dying that don't preserve your pocket contents. :-(

          Just sayin'

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

          Attaching a paper file to the will mean updating on a weekly basis for many people and that is both expensive and unrealistic.

          I have a encrypted file on my computer which all those who need to (wife, brothers and sisters and brothers in law) get as an email copy of every time it is updated.

          They know the encryption key and that every password has three errors - and how to correct them so even if someone broke the key they still will not be able to use the passwords

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

      Yes, don't "die". Make sure your executor or someone will get a notebook with every online detail. They then can be you for as long as needed ...

      Use your real identity* only when absolutely legally required to**. Note T&C claiming you have to use a real name etc may not be legally enforceable, esp. in UK where you can effectively legally change your name to anything as long as fraud isn't involved.

      Any email relies on an ISP account or Hosting etc, the accounts should be arranged to be paid for by someone as long as needed.

      (* Not to be confused with ability to have an online visible name different from signup name)

      (**Possibly only if the online Account needs a Credit Card.)

      1. HOW many?

        Re: Attach account details to your Will in dead tree format

        Stuff the Ts&Cs. The Human Rights act states we have a right to privacy (well OK a private life) and as that has the effect of statute any Ts&Cs which seek to negate that are an unlawful contract and automatically unenforcable.

        Mind you, I suppose they can still close your account, but then, they can do that anyway.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Apple's view

    Purchase is a bad term, however Apple thinks you are purchasing the rights to use that file, not the file itself. Fucking lawyers anyway... Glad I have never purchased any music from iTunes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple's view

      That's always been the case. You buy a copy of it with a licence to use it. You are not the copyright owner.

      1. DN4

        Re: Apple's view

        > You are not the copyright owner.

        What the hell does any of this to do with the copyright owner?

        When I buy a dead-tree book I own it. No problem including it in my Will. We only want the same for the non-dead-tree stuff.

        1. NogginTheNog
          Thumb Down

          Re: Apple's view

          When I buy a dead-tree book I own it.

          You own the physical book, but not the copyright on the content within it. You can read it, you can let others read it, but you can't copy it or republish it in any way. You can play a CD for personal use, but you can't copy it for your mates or broadcast it in public.

          Since electronic content doesn't really have any physical form then when you think about it the rights you get are actually not that dissimilar to the ones for content on physical media.

          1. NumptyScrub

            Re: Apple's view

            You own the physical book, but not the copyright on the content within it. You can read it, you can let others read it, but you can't copy it or republish it in any way. You can play a CD for personal use, but you can't copy it for your mates or broadcast it in public.

            You also have the right, in the UK and US at least, to reassign your rights to the content to another person, aka reselling or gifting the book or CD, even as part of an estate upon death.

            If I can bequeath my stack of CDs to a loved one upon death, which were only ever my right to listen to the content therein, then how does that differ from bequeathing my iTunes account (and the rights to listen to the media therein)?

            1. Thorne
              Pirate

              Re: Apple's view

              "If I can bequeath my stack of CDs to a loved one upon death, which were only ever my right to listen to the content therein, then how does that differ from bequeathing my iTunes account (and the rights to listen to the media therein)?"

              I can't bequeath my iTunes accounts and songs to my next of kin but I can bequeath my NAS drive full of pirated music and movies to them.

              Damn lucky I don't have an iTunes account then isn't it?

          2. dan1980

            Re: Apple's view

            "Since electronic content doesn't really have any physical form then when you think about it the rights you get are actually not that dissimilar to the ones for content on physical media."

            It's amazing - the right to exploit a copyrighted work can be passed down through generations when someone is making money off a fucking cartoon mouse but - surprise - the 'right' we purchased to watch a video of that mouse can't be passed on to our next of kin.

            Fucking hypocrites.

            1. Daniel B.
              Boffin

              Re: Apple's view

              It's amazing - the right to exploit a copyrighted work can be passed down through generations when someone is making money off a fucking cartoon mouse but - surprise - the 'right' we purchased to watch a video of that mouse can't be passed on to our next of kin.

              Even more amazing that copyright is, by definition of the U.S. Constitution at least, a limited term thing that for some reason is now "lifetime + X years". Lifetime is for all intents and purposes "unlimited" as far as the original author goes, and should be declared unconstitutional in the US at the very least.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Joke

              Re: Apple's view

              It's amazing - the right to exploit a copyrighted work can be passed down through generations when someone is making money off a fucking cartoon mouse but - surprise - the 'right' we purchased to watch a video of that mouse can't be passed on to our next of kin.

              Hey, if cartoon pornography floats your boat that's your personal choice.

              1. Thorne
                Joke

                Re: Apple's view

                "Hey, if cartoon pornography floats your boat that's your personal choice."

                Personally I don't want to pass on my cartoon porn collection to my next of kin. Hopefully they won't ever open that Pandora's box........

        2. Handy Plough
          Windows

          Re: Apple's view

          You own the paper it's printed on, or in simpler terms, the delivery mechanism. I see what you are trying to say; digital formats are ephemeral, dead tree isn't. Well, you just keep your books away from moisture and/or fire, m'kay...

          1. Anonymous Blowhard
            Flame

            Re: Apple's view

            "digital formats are ephemeral, dead tree isn't"

            See icon >

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Happy

              Re: Apple's view

              it burns well though

      2. Don Dumb
        Facepalm

        Re: Apple's view

        And by the logic of the copyright holders, the companies themselves are STEALING from the consumer, it's copyright theft!

        As they have effectively taken* the license from the legal owner of the license (the inheritor of the estate) from using or taking possession of the license.

        In fact, this is more stealing than copyright infringement as the owner actually has lost access to the item of value.

        * - Disclaimer - this is the logic of the MPAA, RIAA, etc; Not neccessarily mine.

  3. Valeyard

    reminds me

    of the bruce willis itunes court case where he wanted to leave his itunes account to his kids when he dies, and they said he only had a "license" on the files and didn't own them or something so the account would be deleted

    so there in precedent-following USA that's their policy apparently

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: reminds me

      It's true. Buy a car and you own it, but you don't own the designs to the car.

      You're buying a copy of an item, not the rights to make it, copy it etc.

      1. Velv

        Re: reminds me

        @AC

        Nobody is suggesting you own the copyright or the design. If you buy a physical CD you buy a license to listen to the music and the physical media. Part of the license permits you to transfer the media and content license to someone else in its entirety. i.e. Second hand CDs have value.

        Why should it be any different for online content you've paid for? Let's face it, most of it costs the same either on physical media or in digital format, so the music industry cannot argue they are losing out. Digital presents a challenge in preventing illegal copying, but the principle still stands on ownership of an asset. Or are we suggesting that music should self destruct on CDs when the original purchaser dies?

        1. dan1980

          Re: reminds me

          "Digital presents a challenge in preventing illegal copying, but the principle still stands on ownership of an asset. Or are we suggesting that music should self destruct on CDs when the original purchaser dies?"

          The problem is that the massive influence that 'big content' has over our politicians has led to them believing that protecting against 'copyright theft' is more important than protecting consumer/user rights.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: reminds me

        >You're buying a copy of an item, not the rights to make it, copy it etc.

        So you can't leave your house to your kids because the architect owns the copyright to the design ?

      3. Don Dumb
        Facepalm

        Re: reminds me

        @AC - "It's true. Buy a car and you own it, but you don't own the designs to the car. You're buying a copy of an item, not the rights to make it, copy it etc."

        Yes of course dumbass, because when I die, Ford take my car away. Right?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: reminds me

          NO, but I bet they would like to destroy it

        2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: reminds me

          You can certainly bequeath your car to your children - but not your driving licence!

    2. Mike Bell
      Unhappy

      Re: reminds me

      @Valeyard

      Except it isn't true.

      Much though I wish it were.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Tech companies need to grow up

    Only lately have they thought about doing family accounts, probably coinciding about the same time as the majority of their employees have started families themselves. His Jobsness is no longer with us so it doesn't seem like they've got much excuse for not having procedures when their account holders shuffle off this mortal coil.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Tech companies need to grow up

      They have procedures, all the stuff you bought goes back to them and your kids can buy it all again.

      1. Don Dumb
        Terminator

        Re: Tech companies need to grow up

        @Yet Another Anonymous Coward - "They have procedures, all the stuff you bought goes back to them and your kids can buy it all again."

        I've said it elsewhere but that is stealing, far worse than the copyright infringement they keep preaching to us about.

  5. Amorous Cowherder
    Pint

    I couldn't care less to be quite blunt, others in my immediate family will no doubt beg to differ. I have a will to ensure anything of any value is passed on but once I'm gone, I'm worm food and none of this stuff I've done or saved will mean anything to me and probably not to anyone else. I have to date 2,500 landscape photos I've shot, some have won international competitions, some are earning me license fees as I write, it would be a shame to lose all that hard work but that's my family's problem once I'm gone. I have asked my family what they want to do with me and my stuff, they're welcome to do whatever the wish with my physical remains and my "digital remains", they've yet to decide. Sure it would be shame to just vanish in the puff of an "rm" command but that's life, or death! I was brought up to accept that death is as natural as birth, simply a natural part of life. I have to go some day to make room for others.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But what if the cloud software platform you used to edit/store your photos made that decision for you and deleted them all?

    2. Don Dumb
      Terminator

      How confident are you about that will?

      @Amorous Cowherder - "I have a will to ensure anything of any value is passed on"

      Except, that's the point. If some of that value is in cloud or third party hosting, you haven't ensured that the things of value are being passed on because it would seem so far that the will is not effective at forcing the hosting company to release the things to your intended recipients. Even worse, if you have an electronic device of value like an iPad or iPhone, it would seem that Apple is happy to render these useless if you can't remove the deceased's iCloud account that secures it (as the story reflects)

      Although this is only so far at least, I can't help thinking that this hasn't really been properly tested in UK or EU courts. While the US may have set some precedence that favours the business over the individual, I would like to think that the ownership rights of the individual will be protected better this side of the Atlantic.

      In my opinion, if one owns something (a phone or a license to a music track) then the value of that thing shouldn't be eroded by a third party simply because the owner dies. Especially if the deceased has explicitly transferred ownership of the thing, on their death, to someone in a legally binding document (such as a will), it shouldn't be legally possible for Apple or Microsoft to change the value of those things.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: How confident are you about that will?

        With respect to your last paragraph, that might be a way of heading apple off legally in the UK at least. Refusing to hand over information allowing the device to be used normally could constitute criminal damage to the device

        1. Don Dumb
          Childcatcher

          Re: How confident are you about that will?

          @Martin-73 - "Refusing to hand over information allowing the device to be used normally could constitute criminal damage to the device"

          Agreed. That is why I don't think this has been properly tested in the courts. My hope is that my opinion about what should be possible for a company can do in the event of death of someone who owns that company's product is broadly reflected in law but just hasn't been enforced yet.

          In truth the number of elderly tech owners is probably low, owver the next decade the number of people dying who do have significant tech assets will increase to the point that this gets a proper fight.

          Basically it just needs a Tory to die - they don't like missing out on inheritances.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Nice subtitle.

  7. Nick Kew Bronze badge

    FWIW, a startup recently ran a crowdfunding campaign to address precisely the problem of the "digital legacy" of an individual. I forget the name, and I don't even recollect whether they were successful, but someone out there is working on it.

  8. Buzzword

    Recycling user names?

    Maybe you're the original JSmith@yahoo.com or a J.Doe@gmail.com or your Twitter account is just @1. How long do the companies wait before recycling those names? Do their heirs get the right to sell them, like personalised number plates?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solve this the same way companies do

    You register the parent iTunes account (which contains the purchases) under a body corporate - a company, partnership or similar legal entity which lives on and shifts control through the family and inheritance. Each person uses their own iCloud account for personal data but the purchases go through the parent.

    It is the same way that companies like apple manage their affairs - it seems only reassonable to implement from our side.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Solve this the same way companies do

      A non-profit Trust or Foundation...

      I must investigate ...

      Of course if the Foundation decides to keep your blogs running, and their designated writer really feels a connection to you it brings a new dimension to a Ghost Writer producing content for a Blog.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Solve this the same way companies do

        "it brings a new dimension to a Ghost Writer producing content for a Blog."

        Or do it yourself using GhostBSD.

        Mine's the shroud.

    2. frank ly

      Re: Solve this the same way companies do

      A nice idea but Apple, etc. probably have T&Cs which block that, or soon will do. As has been suggested, just pass on the account details in your will, or even before you die if you want to make sure your favourite heir gets access to your digital remains.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Solve this the same way companies do

        >A nice idea but Apple, etc. probably have T&Cs which block that,

        I wonder if that's possible? Doesn't a corporation "have all the rights of a natural person"?

        Copy the MP3's off disk (you're not using just a hobbled phone are you?) or better, buy the CD.

  10. NoOneSpecific
    Boffin

    Bang! You're dead.

    Bang! You're dead.

    ... and suddenly I don't care any more.

  11. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Passing comment...

    What's with this "when a user passes" and "proof of passing" spiritualese?

    When you're dead, you may be "past" but you've not "passed" anywhere. Except, perhaps, once, horizontally through an incinerator. Or maybe twice if your relatives want to make absolutely sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Passing comment...

      Passing as changing the state of being alive (twitching and all that) to the non-state of non-being. Changing format, so to speak, from the 1 to 0.

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