A poll of 2,000 adults found that 25% had more than £200 worth of films, video and music stored online, while almost a third considered the sum valuable enough to be passed on to loved ones of their estates. In fact, 11% of those taking part in the poll stated that they had already put internet passwords in their Wills.
Without the passwords being included in Wills, billions of pounds' worth of films, music and pictures stored in ‘cloud’ services such as Hotmail, Facebook, iCloud and Flickr, as well as any other of the myriad of similar websites, would be lost. In some cases, special images and video, priceless to their owners, only exist within an online storage facility, so practical solutions to ‘pass on’ these valuable assets and memories do need to be established.
Kiteleys Solicitors had recognised that the ‘passing on’ of valuable passwords and online stored materials is a major change to the traditional way Wills have been drawn up in the past and see online technologies as a permanent part of modern life, which needs to be considered from a legal perspective.
Kiteleys Head of Intellectual Property Matthew Schrader said: "As more online assets are purchased and stored online, such as e-books and music we have to consider the value of the asset in a much more tangible way and clearly identify what happens to these when people pass away."
"The big risk is that these files will simply be lost, should their owner pass away. However, other risks also exist, such as the estate still being liable for online memberships and subscriptions that have been funded via regular credit card transactions or via Paypal accounts. If passwords are not unknown, it can be extremely difficult to rescue assets or to prevent online subscriptions from continuing to draw funds. "
The risk of losing files stored within online data storage facilities is not only important when considering precious family photos or collections of video or music.
Online storage could contain literally anything, including commercially valuable assets, specifically Intellectual Property. It is conceivable that an individual may not have had the foresight before their death to store their Intellectual Property anywhere other than with an online data storage facility. Accordingly, should such an individual pass away without augmenting their Will to provide access to it, that individual's estate could find itself in a position whereby it would be unable to take commercial advantage of data which potentially could be of huge importance to beneficiaries.
Examples could include any type of unreleased media, literature, music or film, although the loss of other types of Intellectual Property would likely be significantly more commercially detrimental. Assets such as computer programs, designs, formulae, patent specifications or databases, all of which could have huge commercial ramifications in the event the data becomes inaccessible or its importance is not recognised, should be protected with Digital Inheritance wherever possible.
At Kiteleys Solicitors, a system of digital asset auditing can be engaged, so that online accounts, internet stored files and other important, valuable information contained within a digital format can be recorded and passwords kept for future use.
By 2020, a third of all music will be solely stored online, while the trend towards e-books and image purchase/storage online has already changed the way that we live. This is only set to grow into the future, so if like Kiteleys you recognise the value of leaving your loved ones with a ‘digital inheritance’
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