Digital Legacy In Spotlight As Bruce Willis Considers Apple Challenge

Die Hard Actor ‘Planning Legal Action Over iTunes Library’

04.09.2012

Reports that Hollywood star Bruce Willis is considering legal action against Apple so that he can leave his vast iTunes music library to his children when he dies show that more and more people need to think about their digital assets as they plan for the future.

The actor, best known for action roles in films including the Die Hard series, is said to be thinking about launching a challenge over iTunes rules which technically mean that he does not own the songs that he has downloaded from the service.

Apple’s terms and conditions for the music service state that users are borrowing tracks under licence and do not have the right to pass on the music they have purchased to others, which means Willis is unable to leave his collection to daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallaluh.

It is reported that Willis is considering whether he can create family trusts which will allow his daughters to gain legal access to the collection, while he could also choose to support legal action in five US states aimed at improving the rights that people who download music have.

The story is one of the latest in recent months to shine a light on the issue of digital legacies and how people are slowing realising that they need to consider their online assets when writing a Will or putting plans in place for the future.

Chris Walton, a specialist solicitor in Irwin Mitchell’s Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team, said: “In terms of this issue, lots of people will be surprised to learn that all of those tracks from iTunes – as well as eBooks bought from Amazon for use on Kindles  - do not actually belong to them. It is only natural that you would want to pass them on to a loved one.

“The law will catch up, but ideally Apple and the like will update their policies and work out the best solution for their customers.”

“However, this story also points to a wider issue. People are increasing living their lives online, yet many still fail to recognise the need for them to consider how they would like their various internet accounts and interests to be looked after following their death.

“The grand majority of people have social media accounts on sites like Twitter and Facebook, while others may also have accounts with gambling and gaming sites which could in fact have significant monetary value.

“These assets should not be forgotten about and we would urge anyone preparing for the future to ensure that they consider leaving log-in details and clear instructions on how they would like such accounts to be handled upon their death in their Will or a Letter of Wishes.”

Chris added that it is very likely that online assets will become a bigger part of estate disputes between friends and loved ones in the future if such steps are not taken.

He outlined: “We see a number of cases arise as a result of a person failing to leave clear and comprehensive instructions about a range of matters to their loved ones about their estate, which often means that families face long and emotionally draining legal battles as a result.

“It is vital that people do not allow online accounts to become a new battleground for friends and families.

“By taking simple steps to address the issue of digital legacy in a valid Will created with the help of expert solicitors, people could save those who mean the most to them a lot of heartache in the future.”