We Need Digital Inheritance Laws to Protect Our Digital Properties; Video Games, Music and More

By   /   Jan 4, 2017
digital inheritance laws

Last year I did an article to answer a very interesting question, what will happen to your Steam library if you die? Ever since I did the story I tried to follow up on any changes or developments in our laws. However, sad to say nothing much as changed.

The problem stems from the community itself and a limited number of people affected. Community pressure is what we need right now in order to make the Govts generate a proper law, a general law that applies everywhere.

For now, every company, be it Apple, Sony, Steam, Samsung, Microsoft, Ubisoft, EA etc has its own policy in this matter. Meanwhile, official Govt laws have failed to catch up to technology and changing times.

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Delaware is the first state to enact a law that allows inheritors to inherit digital assets the same way they would inherit physical ones. Delaware’s law classifies texts, emails, pictures, videos, software, social media posts, and even health insurance records as digital inheritance.

The account holder or software owner has complete control over what happens to his/her digital property upon death. In other states where there is no law governing the matter, you still have some form of control over your digital inheritance. However, that completely depends on the company’s policy.

In case of Steam, here’s what we know based on the EULA:

  • You can not transfer your Steam account to another person
  • In case of passing, your account is destined to rot in the digital graveyard
  • If someone in your family contacts Steam about the situation, Valve will “permanently deactivate your account”
  • If you have kids, your gaming library will not be transferred as inheritance because those games aren’t technically your property (“Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Software for your personal use in accordance with this Agreement, including the Subscription Terms. The Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software”). In short, you’re not the owner, rather, you just have a limited licence for your personal use.
  • Deactivation of said account will not result in refund, and Valve won’t reactivate said account in the future.

Meanwhile, Facebook allows its users to designate a contact to manage certain parts of their account upon death. Instagram memorialize an account, it is visible but not accessible by anyone. Google notifies 10 designated users when a certain account is inactive for some time. Microsoft has a next of kin procedure that allows inheritors access to the data.

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Yahoo does not allow any access whatsoever.

What we need are digital inheritance laws that define how digital inheritance transfer is going to work. It is easy to leave passwords and login information for others but losing this information or in case of hacking, you will have no right to ask companies for access since you are not a legitimate user yourself.

Proper digital inheritance laws are a necessity in this day and age.