Preserving your digital legacy: What happens to your MP3s when you die?

With digital download sales booming, Caroline Donnelly finds out how to go about passing on these assets post-death

"You can't take it with you when you die," the old adage says. But, when it comes to leaving our digital assets to our nearest and dearest, it seems you can't pass them on either. Depending on who consumers buy their e-books, MP3s and movie downloads from, the right to use these digital assets often expires when the person who buys them dies. Therefore, it's often legally impossible to pass them on.

As far as I understand it, these are license agreements, not purchase agreements. And, as a result...that license terminates on death. 

"The long and the short of it is you're borrowing the music or books you buy from iTunes or on a Kindle," Keith Etherington, a solicitor from family law specialists Slater & Gordon, tells IT Pro.   

Digital legacy preservation: First steps

Before you can start taking steps to preserve your digital legacy, you need to take stock of what accounts you have and their contents, advises Emma Myers, head of wills, probate and lifetime planning at Saga Legal.

"[We] recommend creating a directory of all online accounts (excluding passwords for reasons of security), which is stored with your will," she explains. "This means next of kin will find it much easier to locate all your accounts."

For on-premise assets, locked up in laptops or stored on tablets, Simon Lewey, a partner at family law firm Cripps Law, says there are organisations who will store device passwords until someone dies and then disclose them to select parties afterwards.

Alternatively, people could store these details with their wills and leave them in the care of their solicitor instead, he suggests. "I've got one client who has given me, to keep physically with his will, a piece of paper in a sealed envelope, with the passwords to his PC," Lewey reveals. "He feels that's a good way of ensuring I can get to that [data], and unlock it."

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IT Pro

told the


Since news of this story first came to light, Apple has responded to the family's request to access the device and restored the factory settings. 

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