Bruce Willis & iTunes Death Policy

I’ve blogged a number of times over the past couple of years about how physical death plays out digitally, in terms of how we handle the social media accounts of those who have died, and also about digital ownership rights.

It’s an area I’m really interested in and you can read other my other posts, for example, here  or here.

Interestingly, this question of digital rights post-death have been raised by Bruce Willis. How fitting that he’s known as the star of the movie “Die Hard”…sorry, that was a bad joke!

Apparently Willis was shocked to discover that his huge iTunes library wouldn’t be his to pass on to his relative after his death. As many of us are slowly discovering, Apple’s policy isn’t that the files belong to us. They are simply loaned to us.

The Sun reported that Willis is prepared to take Apple to court over this, and to champion a change in digital rights.

However, his wife Emma Heming-Willis tweeted that the news about Bruce threatening to sue Apple is not true – check that out here. 

Apparently to get around the Apple loopholes “Willis has asked advisers to set up a trust that holds his downloads to get around this rule”. The Sun article explaining this can be read here.

The Sunday Times claims that “”he’s also supporting legal moves in five American states that will give downloaders more rights over their music collections.” This sounds like a fantastic example of a Hollywood star engaging in meaningful activism. Only, that claim also seems unfounded in the light of his wife’s tweet. The Guardian has a good critique of the story here.

Regardless of the truth or fabrication of the Willis story, it’s interesting to see digital legacy back in the news. Many of us – me included – love the ease of buying music and books via digital downloads, but it is hard to swallow that we will never be able to pass these purchases down to our loved ones when we pass away.

I think if we pay for music or books – and they are not insubstantially priced – we should have the right to pass these on. It seems no different than leaving a loved one the keys to our house, if we own it. You simply pass on the details of your username and passwords, and the files then can be accessed by a relative.

But Apple apparently have the right to freeze an iTunes account if someone has died and they believe someone else is accessing their files.

It’s certainly making me re-think how I create my own library of music and books. Unfortunately as someone who travels much of the time, I can’t physically carry lots of heavy books or stacks of CDs with me. So digital is the route I have to take. But reflecting on Apple’s policies and what they actually say is crucial and we should definitely all be thinking this one through.