Guest Blog by Luke English from Laceys
What happens to my Tweets when I die?
In the world of Social media with liking, tweeting and re-posting, sites such as Twitter and Facebook and Instagram are no longer just for young people but all ages from 13 to 113.
More and more people of all ages are sharing moments of their lives with others online, but what happens to all that personal content after a person is no longer with us?
The term “Digital Assets” refers to comments made and photos shared on Facebook, ‘tweets’ on Twitter, blogs or articles published on website, videos put on YouTube, music on Soundcloud and even a CV on LinkedIn.
At the moment, there is no specific law in the UK, to deal with Digital Assets upon death of the owner of those Digital Assets and so we have to rely on existing copyright UK law.
The difficulty is when there is a clash between a family wanting to enjoy old pictures and memories on Facebook (for example), (effectively keeping the person ‘alive online’) and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) which owns the server on which Digital Assets are stored. All ISPs have privacy policies and term and conditions to protect an individual’s privacy and the confidentiality of their Digital Assets after their death.
Assuming that the Digital Assets on the Facebook page (for example) are original works (i.e. you took your own “selfie”), there is no doubt that the individual owns the copyright to them. This automatic right continues for seventy years after a person’s death. Then the right’s pass to the deceased’s personal representatives, usually beneficiaries named in a Will.
Whilst beneficiaries may have their benefactor’s logins and passwords, accessing an online account without specific authority (and because the person is dead they cannot grant it) could be an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. In addition, terms and conditions of the ISPs often prohibit account holders from recording and passing on the details of logins and passwords to reduce the risk of hacking and fraud.
A few ISPs do allow users to nominate someone else to have access to their Digital Assets following your death, but only a few.
The default position of the ISPs is to delete a profile that has been inactive for a certain period of time. Therefore, you and your family will lose the digital legacy you chose to leave for them including photos, music and written content.
Until the law and ISPs catch up, the best advice is to put some thought into planning ahead in a Will or make effort to decide what you want to This can mean leaving the accounts “live” online, deleting the accounts or passing on information as appropriate before death.
If you want to write a Will or update your Will to cover your Digital Assets please contact Kate Mansfield (Head of Private Client department at Laceys) on email K.email@example.com
Or if you want someone to review the social media websites you use and know what you can or cannot do please contact Luke English (Senior Solicitor in IP and Technology) on email L.firstname.lastname@example.org
This post was written by Luke English from Laceys Solicitors.