At some point or another, just about everybody sits down and starts thinking about a will. If you were suddenly hit by a falling asteroid, who would get your really precious things? You know, those numbered and collectable hand-painted plates your mother sent you every Christmas. Your pristine run of Golden Age X-Men comic books, all packaged properly in acid-free Polypropylene bags. That million dollars you’ve hidden away in a Cayman Islands account … (Editorial note: scratch that last one). Anyway, a will can cover all those things quite well.
What about your digital assets, though? What happens to your online possessions—your Facebook page, your Twitter account, blogs, games and movie library, or gasp, that vast iTunes account? Well, up until now, that stuff was all destined to either fade into the ether or sit dormant somewhere on the Internet collecting spammy digital comments like weeds on an empty dirt lot. It’s a violation of Facebook’s terms of service, for instance, for anybody to log into an account that isn’t their own. But a new law from the state of Delaware may signal that all that is changing.
The Delaware law essentially says that your legal heirs can treat all that stuff—everything from emails to social media content to computer software—the same as they would if they discovered that box of gold coins you’ve kept hidden away in the attic … (uh, scratch that one too).
Now, there are some limitations to the law as it sits now. Digital assets can be controlled only to the extent allowed by the original service’s end user license agreement. You’d better check those agreements, guys. The license agreement of a Kindle e-book account, for example, licenses the books you buy for “personal use only.” So you don’t actually own a digital or physical copy of the novels you’ve purchased that you can pass on to friends and family.
On the other hand, all the stuff you’ve stored away in your social media accounts can be retrieved, preserved and treasured. If, by the time you’re hit by a speeding llama, this idea spreads to the rest of the country (as many are saying it will) all of your online embarrassing photos, late-night rants and spur-of-the-moment blistering tweets can be poured over and enjoyed by the very loved ones you’ve kept blocked from your accounts all this time.
For that matter, who can even imagine all the wonderful things your sweet old aunt Mary will want to post posthumously to your account in your absence? Just makes you want to live forever, doesn’t it?