You have the complete works of the Beatles on your iPod...and Fifty Shades of Grey on your Kindle.
And in the years between now and when you join the "Big Cloud in the Sky"...you'll likely collect a lot more music and books...even movies on your electronic devices.
Can you will and bequeath those digital files to your kids or grandkids after you die? Technically...no, you can't.
When you buy songs/albums...books and movies from places like iTunes or Amazon, you are actually buying a license to download and use those items. You don't actually own them.
Most digital content exists in a legal black hole. â??The law is light years away from catching up with the types of assets we have in the 21st Century,â?? Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss, an estate planning attorney told Marketwatch.com.
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 whoâ??ve died, but the regulations donâ??t cover digital files purchased.
And at least one lawyer has a plan to capitalize on filling that digital black hole.
David Goldman, a lawyer in Jacksonville, says he will next month launch software, DapTrust, to help estate planners create a legal trust for their clientsâ?? online accounts that hold music, e-books and movies. â??With traditional estate planning and wills, thereâ??s no way to give the right to someone to access this kind of information after youâ??re gone,â?? he told Marketwatch.com.
Goldman will sell his software for $150 directly to estate planners to store and manage digital accounts and passwords. And, while there are other online safe-deposit boxes like AssetLock and ExecutorSource that already do that, Goldman says his software contains instructions to create a legal trust for accounts. â??Having access to digital content and having the legal right to use it are two totally different things,â?? he says.
Technology pros say the need for such reform is only going to become more pressing. â??A significant portion of our assets is now digital,â?? Evan Carroll, co-author of â??Your Digital Afterlife", told Marketwatch.com.
U.S. consumers spend nearly $30 on e-books and MP3 files every month, or $360 a year, according to e-commerce company Bango. Apple alone has sold 300 million iPods and 84 million iPads since their launches. Amazon doesnâ??t release sales figures for the Kindle Fire, but analysts estimate it has nearly a quarter of the U.S. tablet market.
You spend $$$ on music, books and movies...so should you be able to, legally, will your digital files, (iTunes, e-books, movies), to someone in your family when you die? Should Congress make "digital licenses" inheritable assets?