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Delaware Enacts Law Allowing Heirs To Access Digital Assets of Deceased 82

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the facebook-after-death dept.
An anonymous reader writes Ars reports: "Delaware has become the first state in the U.S .to enact a law that ensures families' rights to access the digital assets of loved ones during incapacitation or after death." In other states, the social media accounts and email of people who die also die with them since the companies hosting those accounts are not obligated to transfer access even to the heirs of the deceased. In Delaware, however, this is no longer the case. The article notes that even if the deceased was a resident of another state, if his/her will is governed by Delaware law, his/her heirs will be allowed to avail of the new law and gain access to all digital assets of the deceased.
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Delaware Enacts Law Allowing Heirs To Access Digital Assets of Deceased

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  • While this well illustrates another evil of the cloud - the data was never really the living person's, so why would it follow normal law of being passed onto the deceased's estate? - it's nice to see that a responsible government is stepping in to regulate antisocial corporate behaviour.

    Unfortunately, in a world so stupid that it accepts a return to the dumb terminals and the mainframes of 40+ years ago, a little bit of foresight is a desalination plant in an ocean of piss.

  • by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @03:30AM (#47701431) Homepage Journal

    You could just give them your password.

    • Re:Or (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ruir (2709173) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @03:37AM (#47701449)
      There are too many implications. While I am trustworthy of my family, and my father could have robbed me blind and fuck up all my life, I know he would not do that. However, it is not the first and last case where some old people found a new love, and the family takes away all their assets. The ideal is to leave the password, or better yet, some means of changing it, in a sealed enveloped, together with your will. (better some means of changing it, because in the improbable case of foul play, you will know it). Nevertheless, the inheritance of accounts, specially of accounts that control movies or music go against the desire of the industry or selling, reselling and reselling again the same movies and musics to every citizen.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        industry can go suck a big fat dick. I paid for access to some files, what I do with sais access is nobodys business. If I give it as a gift to someone else it should be ok. If I die and that access goes to someone else it should be ok. Or did I actually just pay for some kind of personal use license? If I did so, please resend me the files I accidently deleted. I still have the license I paid for, right? Can I d/l the media from somewhere, or make back up copies of it?

        Pick a goddamn business model, tell us

        • Re: Or (Score:1, Interesting)

          How about you read the terms and conditions before paying for something? If you just paid for the access, you're basically renting it and they can revoke your access at any time. If you don't like this, then don't buy their services and they will either change their business model or go out of business. Simple as that.
          • How about you go learn about the First Sale doctrine and fuck off? There are a lot of products (not services) that shouldn't "magically" stop being products just because they're "on a computer!"

            • by Rakarra (112805)

              If I rent a disc from Blockbuster, ermm.... Redbox or whatever, I don't get to keep it and shout "First Sale" if they ask for it back. If you're SOLD something, you can keep it. If you're rented access, you don't get to keep it.

              Content industries have been trying to move from a sale model to a pay-per-view model for a number of years, and the "let's stream everything, why would I want a physical disc anymore??" crowd have been helping them along.

    • Re:Or (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @03:41AM (#47701457)

      ... and the keys to your house, car, number of your credit cards and access to the storage-box at your bank.

      Its not like you have anything to hide or that some heirs simply can't be trusted ...

    • Re:Or (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jiro (131519) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @03:56AM (#47701511)

      Some people have already replied that you might not be able to trust everyone with your password, but that's only one of the problems. The other problem is that although your heirs may be able to physically read the password from your sealed envelope and type it in, just typing in the password won't make your access authorized. Trying to download the deceased's ebooks, music, or apps would be piracy, and even just revealing that you accessed the account (by trying to use the information in it in a billing dispute, or to take it to the press if it is whistleblowing in nature, for instance) could subject you to a selectively prosecuted hacking charge in court to get you to shut up.

      And even if you don't actually get in legal trouble for accessing the account, companies could use the illegal nature of the access to refuse to do things that they would do upon request of the account owner, such as closing the account (if you want it closed), leaving the account open (if you want to keep paying for it), or restoring or sending you a backup.

      • It's Delaware. Give it a few years and there will probably be a form such as an electronic power of attorney, akin to a medical durable power of attorney, that will explain to the next of kin the rights and limitations of what can be passed on, and how to access the information. Probably other states will follow suit as soon as the wrinkles are worked out (and it is made clear what cloud-stored information is inheritable and what is not).
        • In addition, it would make sense for certain on-line accounts to provide options for access in case of death or incapacitation. Particularly those with backup data storage, and probably email as well.
  • by Camembert (2891457) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @03:53AM (#47701495)
    I don't care much for the social media accounts, but it is good that bought ebooks, music and movies should be accessible to next of kin, just like their physical counterparts are.
    • by ruir (2709173) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @04:03AM (#47701527)
      The problem is that unless you have physical possession of the files in a non-gardenwalled environment, you probably do not own them, but you are just renting them.
    • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:20AM (#47702021)
      Unfortunately, that's not the case. Bruce Willis raised a fuss a while ago about not being able to leave his iTunes music collection to his children. The Ts and Cs state that the license to listen to the music is strictly non-transferrable. (He should have just "pirated" it instead).
      • Unfortunately, that's not the case. Bruce Willis raised a fuss a while ago about not being able to leave his iTunes music collection to his children. The Ts and Cs state that the license to listen to the music is strictly non-transferrable. (He should have just "pirated" it instead).

        This is basically the reason I don't use ebooks - with a paper book, I can buy it and read it, then my wife can read it, I can lend it to friends/family, it can sit on book shelves for years and then my kids can read it, their kids can read it decades later, or I can sell it, etc. All this stuff is considered the "normal" way to use a book. Compare to an ebook: I buy it. Then my wife has to buy it(*). Them my friends/family have to buy it. Then my kids have to buy it. Their kids have to buy it. See t

        • I like the convenience of ebooks as I don't have to worry about carrying around a dead-tree book and can instead just use my phone (or kindle etc) which is generally lighter. I recommend using Calibre [calibre-ebook.com] to transfer e-books around if you don't mind breaking the Ts&Cs.
          • I like the convenience of ebooks as I don't have to worry about carrying around a dead-tree book and can instead just use my phone (or kindle etc) which is generally lighter. I recommend using Calibre [calibre-ebook.com] to transfer e-books around if you don't mind breaking the Ts&Cs.

            I'm aware that the DRM can be trivially removed, but if I'm going to have to break copyright law in order to actually use what I've purchased, I'm left wondering why I wouldn't just break copyright law *instead* of purchasing it in the first place?

            • Absolutely. I typically purchase e-books when I want to support the author (e.g. Warren Ellis, Charles Stross) or when it's easier than finding an illegitimate source. However, a lot of the books I read are by dead authors, so I don't feel much guilt in depriving their heirs of a few pennies.
        • by Wycliffe (116160)

          Compare to an ebook: I buy it. Then my wife has to buy it(*). Them my friends/family have to buy it. Then my kids have to buy it. Their kids have to buy it. See the problem?

          I might be ok with this for certain books if ebooks were substantially cheaper. Currently even for books I don't want to keep
          it's cheaper to buy the book, read it, and resell it on amazon. If a $20 paper book gives the author $7 of royalties then at
          a maximum an ebook should be priced at about $7.50 but because you can't turn around and resell that ebook it should
          probably be priced closer to $3 or less. If ebooks actually started being priced at a rental price then it would make alot more
          sense to buy eboo

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            I might be ok with this for certain books if ebooks were substantially cheaper. Currently even for books I don't want to keep
            it's cheaper to buy the book, read it, and resell it on amazon. If a $20 paper book gives the author $7 of royalties then at
            a maximum an ebook should be priced at about $7.50 but because you can't turn around and resell that ebook it should
            probably be priced closer to $3 or less. If ebooks actually started being priced at a rental price then it would make alot more
            sense to buy ebooks.

            • by Wycliffe (116160)

              In fact, the editing process is such that the cost of printing, shipping, warehousing, distribution is really only around 10% of the retail cost.

              If the printing and shipping (including the cost of amazon to ship it to me) is really only 10% then I will never be buying an ebook unless forced to
              because it's worth alot more than 10% to me to have the physical book plus the resale value of the book is almost always worth more than 10%.

              So what you're basically saying is that ebooks can't afford to compete with paper books on price which I find utter nonsense.
              Amazon might have to reduce their commission or they might have to rethink how they do it but it

        • by Rakarra (112805)

          This is basically the reason I don't use ebooks - with a paper book, I can buy it and read it, then my wife can read it, I can lend it to friends/family, it can sit on book shelves for years and then my kids can read it, their kids can read it decades later, or I can sell it, etc. All this stuff is considered the "normal" way to use a book. Compare to an ebook: I buy it. Then my wife has to buy it(*). Them my friends/family have to buy it. Then my kids have to buy it. Their kids have to buy it. See the problem?

          Oh, and people used to make fun of Stallman's The Right to Read [gnu.org] for being so far-fetched. Almost everything in there has already happened, and it only took 20 years, not 100.

      • by sherr (3751965)
        Except that contracts do not superced the law, so if it becomes law that your heirs get your digital property then that overrules anything in anyone's Ts and Cs.
        • I hope that'd be the case, but I worry that it's not considered "digital property", but just "digitally licensed to you".
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          so if it becomes law that your heirs get your digital property

          They do, now, in Delaware. But music that you've licensed doesn't belong to you. It was licensed. It will take a separate law to make music license purchases online into music purchases online.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      I don't care much for the social media accounts, but it is good that bought ebooks, music and movies should be accessible to next of kin, just like their physical counterparts are.

      Ebboks, movies, etc. are not personal property. They are simply licenses to view the copyrighted content. Physical books, on the other hand are tangible property and can be given, willed, etc. Until the license agreements change, it won't matter what Delaware's law says. You cannot inherit from the deceased what is not theirs in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @03:56AM (#47701513)

    Why would I want my porn collection going to my wife? I'd much rather give it to my girlfriend. After all, we bought most of it together.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Why would I want my porn collection going to my wife? I'd much rather give it to my girlfriend. After all, we bought most of it together.

      Starred in it too I hear.

    • by mrzaph0d (25646)

      several lies here.

      1) you have a wife. c'mon, this is slashdot.
      2) you have a girlfriend. see above.
      3) you bought porn. really?

    • by mjwx (966435)
      My will is going to come with a copy of DBAN with explicit instructions to format all of my hard drives.
  • Why death? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @04:39AM (#47701603)

    So transferring digital goods on death is now allowed.

    How about when I'm still alive?

  • So I read the article and I still don't get how this particularly helps in many, many situations.

    Let's assume for a second that a US citizen who ia a Delaware resident and has a will governed by Delaware law has died. How does this provide his/her heirs the ability to:

    for example, a) access an account on a database/web forum located solely on a computer in California;
    or b) access an account for an online store residing in let's say, Japan or Australia or Argentina?

    in example a, the account is located
    • by Hodr (219920)

      They will do it the same way they always do. If the company is "out of state" but does business in Deleware, they can be sued in Deleware. Same if they are out of Country.

      Now, how effectively can Deleware (or the US if it is out of country) claim the assets from the judgement, that is obviously case by case.

      An example would be someone sueing Google. Google doesn't recognize Deleware's authority, doesn't show up for trial. Summary judgement for claimant in $XXX. Claimant then sees a Google StreetView car pa

    • Did you try doing a password reset on your parent's webmail account? I was able to do that to my mother's Yahoo account after she died (since she had set up her security questions with truthful answers), and I was then able to do the same for her Facebook account, which was tied to that email.

      Granted, I had to actually ask one of my aunts for the answer to one of the questions, since it was about something we had never discussed, but overall it wasn't too difficult.

      It was actually kind of humorous, since my

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Did you earn that gold, or did your dad give it to you?" "Death to bourgeoisie Pandaren!"

  • My will reads (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Renozuken (3499899) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @06:10AM (#47701809)
    And to billy I leave my steam account which has a few good games and a couple hundred games I've never played...
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:35AM (#47702079)

    This has interesting implications for the entire industry. Mainly because they'll now need to restructure their systems to deal with moving an asset from one account to another as well as deal with when one user ends up with 2 of the same media. It may seem simple from the outside but if they've never prepared for these problems it could be a major headache for them now.

  • The relatives of the deceased have a wonderful opportunity to learn new things about their dearly departed relative. Things they never would have suspected, when that person was alive! What could possibly go wrong?
    • by Jiro (131519)

      If the deceased had things on paper, or on their computer at home, they would certainly be able to learn things about the deceased. How is this different?

      Do you want to prevent people from inheriting paper documents from the deceased so relatives can't find out about their gay love letters or whatever?

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Ok, you have a valid point, true. But your gay love letters don't have the immediacy of, say, a video of the recently departed wearing a diaper and being spanked with a riding crop by a woman wearing a leather corset and a Richard Nixon mask.
  • So if corporations are people, does this give creditors a legal right to digital assets of companies incorporated in Delaware after bankruptcy?

  • A "zero-knowledge" service provider (allegedly) has no access to most of the digital assets stored by their service (e.g. LastPass, SpiderOak, etc.). They store encrypted blobs of data on your behalf, and send you these encrypted blobs at your request. Your PC (and not their servers) then decrypts this data using your password (of which the service provider has no knowledge).

    I scanned through the bill, and it doesn't seem to acknowledge that such services exist. It doesn't even acknowledge that passwords th

    • by Jiro (131519)

      It says that the heir has the same rights as an authorized user. An authorized user who lost the password in this situation would not be able to get it by asking the company, so the heirs would not be able to ask the company either. On the other hand, if the heirs do get the password (maybe the deceased left it in a safety deposit box), it would stop the company terminating the account for TOS violation.

  • This would be the last thing on my mind.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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