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Do you own all your digital content?

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Gone are the days when photos filled up shoeboxes and albums, bookshelves groaned under the weight of book collections and CD’s were everywhere. When a person died all these precious memories were shared out amongst their friends and family. Technology has moved on and the way we store these things is very different.

“A traditional Will can cover your physical property such as cars, houses and jewellery. However, it does not cover your online possessions. If you thought you owned all of your downloaded music, photos stored ‘in the cloud’ and virtual books on your tablet, you may be surprised to learn that this is not the case”, says Wills & Tax Solicitor Julie Partington. In effect we are all just leasing the content of music and films and being sold a ‘licence’ to use them. We are not being sold the actual item. The device that the music etc has been downloaded to may be left to someone but you cannot leave directions to divide up your iTunes account. It is the same for downloaded books – Amazon informs Kindle users that the ‘purchase and download of digital content from Amazon including content from the Kindle Store is associated with the Amazon account used to make the original purchase. As a result, Kindle content cannot be shared like a physical book.’ The terms and conditions from Apple about your iCloud account is quite clear. They state that ‘your account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or content within your account terminate upon your death.’

If you are an overly-dependent Facebook user then your loved ones would probably appreciate the option of being able to access your online account if something were to happen to you.

At present, a verified immediate family member may request the removal of someone’s account from Facebook.  They can also memorialise the Facebook account of a deceased person.  However, executors are not able to directly access your account and monitor its content.   In the US Facebook users are able to pick one person who can access their account by clicking on a new Facebook setting called ‘Legacy Contact’.  Hopefully it will be reaching the UK soon and will therefore be one thing you can do to take control of your online content.

However, English law rules that the copyright of emails and other content stored online forms part of someone’s estate and should pass to the executors of the Will. In reality internet service providers rarely allow access. It is therefore important to check site terms and conditions for details of how your content will be used after your death.

We have offices in the Christchurch, New Milton and the New Forest. Our Wills & Tax team also cover Bournemouth and Poole. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and a member of the team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have

“A traditional Will can cover your physical property such as cars, houses and jewellery. However, it does not cover your online possessions. If you thought you owned all of your downloaded music, photos stored ‘in the cloud’ and virtual books on your tablet, you may be surprised to learn that this is not the case”, says Wills & Tax Solicitor Julie Partington. In effect we are all just leasing the content of music and films and being sold a ‘licence’ to use them. We are not being sold the actual item. The device that the music etc has been downloaded to may be left to someone but you cannot leave directions to divide up your iTunes account. It is the same for downloaded books – Amazon informs Kindle users that the ‘purchase and download of digital content from Amazon including content from the Kindle Store is associated with the Amazon account used to make the original purchase. As a result, Kindle content cannot be shared like a physical book.’ The terms and conditions from Apple about your iCloud account is quite clear. They state that ‘your account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or content within your account terminate upon your death.’

However, English law rules that the copyright of emails and other content stored online forms part of someone’s estate and should pass to the executors of the Will. In reality internet service providers rarely allow access. It is therefore important to check site terms and conditions for details of how your content will be used after your death.

We have offices in the Christchurch, New Milton and the New Forest. Our Wills & Tax team also cover Bournemouth and Poole. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and a member of the team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have

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