'What Happens to My Facebook Profile When I Die?' : Legal Issues Around Transmission of Digital Assets on Death

22 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2013  

Lilian Edwards

University of Strathclyde Law School

Edina Harbinja

University of Strathclyde Law School; University of Hertfordshire

Date Written: February 21, 2013

Abstract

This chapter aims to explore some of the major legal issues pertaining to transmission of digital assets on death. “Digital assets” within this chapter are defined widely and not exclusively to include a huge range of intangible information goods associated with the online or digital world: including social network profiles e.g. on Facebook, Twitter, Google or Linked In; emails, tweets, databases etc; in-game virtual assets (e.g., as bought, found or built in worlds such as Second Life, World of Warcraft, Lineage, etc); digitised text, image, music or sound, such as video, film and e-book files; passwords to various accounts associated with provisions of digital goods and services, either as buyer, user or trader (e.g. to eBay, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube etc); domain names; 2D or 3D personality-related images or icons such as user icons on LiveJournal or avatars in Second Life; and not excluding the myriad types of digital assets emergent as commodities capable of being assigned worth (e.g. “zero day exploits” or bugs in software which antagonists can exploit ).

The chapter explores (a) how far the new digital assets fall into existing paradigms of property (b) the interactions between property, succession, privacy and contract in this domain, especially in the context of assets generated on intermediary sites such as social networks (c) whether we need a notion of "post mortem privacy" and (d) briefly , some solutions to some of the isues thrown up by previous sections, including emerging legislation , and the new breed of "life after death" technology assistants such as Legacy Locker.

Keywords: digital assets, death, digital property, facebook, social media profiles, privacy, post mortem privacy, yahoo, email ownership, virtual property

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Lilian and Harbinja, Edina, 'What Happens to My Facebook Profile When I Die?' : Legal Issues Around Transmission of Digital Assets on Death (February 21, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2222163 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2222163

Lilian Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Strathclyde Law School ( email )

16 Richmond Street
Glasgow 1XQ, Scotland
United Kingdom

Edina Harbinja

University of Strathclyde Law School ( email )

Graham Hills Building
50 George Street
Glasgow, G1 1QE
United Kingdom

University of Hertfordshire ( email )

United Kingdom

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