Motherboard concisely outlines the situation with regard to your right of ownership of e-books — it doesn’t exist. You are simply buying a license to access the electronic file when you “buy” an e-book. Obviously this means that when you die, your e-books die with you. Naturally lots of people think this isn’t exactly as it should be, though I’d bet that any change will focus on extending the license beyond the life of the purchaser, rather than allowing outright ownership of your Kindle file.

The same situation exists with regard to your digital music collection. Here’s a 2012 story from Market Watch which addresses the music situation. Though insofar as some of your digital music collection consists not of purchases from iTunes but of CDs which you have bought and duplicated onto your computer, the situation is perhaps not so clear-cut as with e-books. While it is possible to own some e-books — I have a few files in my iBooks library which I got from my previous employer (though who really knows what the legal position of these files is) and you can get scans made of the print books you own (ditto as to legal position) — this is a less common situation than with music. Of course I am sure you can find someone out there who will argue that while you may be allowed to make a single copy of a CD for your own use, passing this on to someone else in your will would represent copyright infringement which might interfere with its heritability. Doubtless the same argument might be made of book scans you had had done for you.

Photo: Emma Lee/Newsworks

Photo: Emma Lee/Newsworks

NPR’s All Tech Considered recently had a story about the surprisingly large numbers of options (other than just passing on your passwords and having your heirs pretend to be you) in this area. This picture shows someone affixing a QR code to a tombstone, so that visitors can access the deceased’s website! NPR also has a piece about Facebook’s facing up to this challenge, and making arrangements for Facebook pages to be transferred to heirs. This link will take you to PC Magazine‘s account of the situation.

Here is a lawyer’s take on the whole area. This subject will no doubt be legislated all over in the next few years. I guess it’s not just the Secretary of State’s e-mails that need to be archived.  What a pain this is all going to be, though maybe some software developer will come up with an app that’ll painlessly take care of it all for us.

I wonder if WordPress would be able to distinguish between my growing lazy about posting to this blog, and my no longer being there to do so, and whether they’d care either way.