Kith and Kindle

05 Sep 2012

One day soon, when Backbytes has worked out a way to fix the Euromillions lottery, he’ll buy a massive house with a library. And in that library will be all the finest books ever published in the whole history of civilisation – as well as some crap ones.

When Backbytes perishes, though, he’ll want that fine collection to be passed on to his progeny.

But what if the paperback and the hardback are rendered extinct by the e-book before those plans come to fruition? Not only will a markedly smaller library be required, but the collection will be electronically extinguished when the owner shuffles off this mortal coil, according to lawyers.

“I find it hard to imagine a situation where a family would be OK with losing a collection of 10,000 books and songs,” Evan Carroll, co-author of Your Digital Afterlife, told Marketwatch. “Legally dividing one account among several heirs would also be extremely difficult.”

The problem is that with digital downloads, an owner only ever acquires the (non-transferable) right to use them. “You do not acquire any ownership rights in the software or music content,” states Amazon’s Ts and Cs, while Apple limits the use of digital files to Apple devices belonging to the account holder only.

Our cunning plans may need to be brought forward...

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