Digital legacies – what are they?

The term “digital legacy” has recently come to light following a well publicised battle by Hollywood actor Bruce Willis to include the alleged thousands of dollars’ worth of iTunes material he has collected, as part of his Will.
 
In the good old days, record collections – whether valuable or not, were often left to specific beneficiaries. However, we now of course tend not to have vinyl in our collection, but sound files which we download from sites including iTunes.
 
However, what many people still fail to appreciate is that although we have spent often a considerable amount of money on purchasing this music or these films online, the material still doesn’t belong to us. Apple in particular states that although we have paid our money, they are still “on loan” to us and therefore, we cannot pass the material on to our beneficiaries, in the event of our death.
 
This public battle is certain to encourage changes in probate law both in the UK and the US, as surely, these sites cannot continue to legitimately and deliberately confuse the term “purchase” with its actual meaning in context here: “pay to borrow”. This in turn may lead to the birth of the concept “digital legacy”.

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