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What Will Happen to Your Digital After-Life?

Have you made a will yet? Have you considered what is to happen to your assets after you have left for good?

Well, even if you have, chances are you haven’t given too much thought to your ‘digital after-life’: your ebooks and downloaded music.

A celebrity story just emerging highlights the scale of the problem in today’s digital world. Bruce Willis is not only rich and famous as an actor, he has amassed a huge collection of downloaded music. He wants to leave it to his three daughters, which seems a reasonable desire, given that we all want to pass things on to the next generation and we can’t take it with us anyway.

Who Owns the Downloads?

However, Willis has found that in his agreement with iTunes, he has ‘borrowed’ the music, he does not own the collection. This is because to get the record companies to release tunes in the first place to the digital download companies, that had to be agreed.

Now it is beginning to bite. Willis is paying lawyers to set up a family trust to ‘hold’ his digital music for his family, but it’s far from certain that will get round the current law. Users are permitted under their terms and conditions neither to share downloads even with family nor transfer downloads onto other devices.

And it doesn’t stop at music. It seems, according to John Harlow and Robin Henry at the Sunday Times (2 September 2012) that Amazon has ended abruptly services to some Kindle users by electronic pulse, even of books that are no longer in copyright.

The war is just beginning. The wider issues include who actually owns music, books, apps and photos that you have acquired and posted when you are dead?

What About Your Blogs and Logons?

If you have ever posted blogs, to whom will they belong after your death? Is it the site where you published? What about intellectual copyright? A blog with followers has a tangible financial worth to potential advertisers, so who will gain? Your data certainly is a rich resource.

What about the rights of whoever you have left your assets to in your will to take possession? Who will enforce those rights?

When people die, their bank accounts and related sites can be a nightmare for descendants. Have others the right to access, even if they know the passwords? Privacy and data protection rules often prohibit sharing, even with close relatives. Money and assets can be tied up for years.

Harlow and Henry wrote about ‘intellitars’, intelligent avatars that can be created during your life to keep your digital life going, in theory until relatives can sort things out. In practice, what is stopping an avatar sounding like you going on virtually forever?

A Novel Approach

It’s an original idea, alive forever in a digital eternity! The stuff of film or novel nightmares. Which is a cue for mentioning the difficulty some novelists are apparently having in stopping themselves from ‘wasting hours on the internet.’

Award-winning novelists Zadie Smith and Nick Hornby apparently both use Freedom@ or SelfControl@, which are apps that restrict web access for set periods at a time, allowing the authors to work. Apparently, internet distraction/addiction is particularly strong among those who are creatives.

Internet blocking software is not confined to writers, of course, some parents are using it. Such externally imposed disciplines are helpful to those without the willpower to use the web in moderation to support their creative work.

Some other novelists are naturally, quite scathing. Will Self, another high profile novelist slammed the apps as ‘pathetic’, urging fellow authors to ‘get a grip, turn off the computer and write by hand!’

Addictions Affect Women More

It’s easy to dismiss digital addiction if you don’t have it. Dr Christian Montag of the University of Bonn (Aug 12) says internet addiction is not a figment of imagination. Problematic internet behaviour occurs more frequently in women he said, many of whom with previous nicotine addictions, were genetically disposed by their genes to be obsessed with social networks and online shopping.

If that is so and it’s in the genes, then such addiction is hereditary, passed down the generations. But not like downloads! Now there’s a good plot for a novel/film.

Life Is Stranger Than Fiction

Another author has appealed to Apple to fund research into the same cancer that claimed the life of founder Steve Jobs. Editor Dido Davies is suffering neuroendocrine tumours, and his writer Alexander Masters has asked Apple for £2 million to test a virus that eats the cancerous cells.

He said ‘Apple rakes in £2 million every seven minutes….’ As yet there is no response from the wealthiest company on the planet, but somebody may make a film about that one day. Perhaps when all the people are gone or are avatars of themselves.

Read On:

Old Rockers Don’t Die, They Keep On Rolling Forever

Vice Before Death; Virtual Life After Death

Intellectual Property Rights Are Web’s Grey Area

Avatars May Become Lifeform to Save Human Lives

Digital Addictions Hook More People

Steve Jobs: Always an Iconic and Controversial Figure

Image: Nikodem Nijaki