Tuesday, July 03, 2012

What should happen with content when a blogger passes away or is "out of reach"?

One topic starting to be noticed is the maintenance or removal of digital property after someone’s passing.  The issues for email, social media accounts, blogs, and ordinary sites are all a little different, depending on the expectation of privacy and the service provider’s TOS policies. Providers regard blogs and social media as less private.  In many cases, estates have trouble accessing accounts. 

An article in Lawvibe does recommends setting up a digital executor, and most elderlaw attorneys now routinely put digital rights provisions in wills.  Another issue to consider is copyright and possibly trademark protections for the content if it has business value.

Another possibility is that a blog or site owner is incapacitated, as in a hospital, or out of reach because of prolonged overseas travel  (someday, maybe space travel), or even sequestered, as with some jury service or obviously military service.  I have not found any provisions that owners are expected to notify service providers or set up alternate contact points (which would mean finding third parties who agree to do so).  

Possibly a main reason is the considerable protections against downstream liability afforded by Section 230 and by DMCA Safe Harbor.  If these protections were to be weakened by future legislation or court action, such requirements could surface, and service provider estate policies might well become much more specific.
Although few Internet users realize it, most TOS or AUP policies say that the user will hold the provider harmless and indemnity the provider against unusual loss.  The indemnification clauses are very rarely used in practice; the main examples have occurred with deliberate, provable generation of spam or malware.

My own will does have digital rights clause and appointment of digital executor.

There is a coordinate post on the IT Job Market blog July 2. 

The Lawvibe reference is here.

Another newer source is “Digital Passing”, here.

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