Bruce Willis to sue Apple over right to bequeath his iTunes music collection to his daughters

“Bruce Willis is preparing to take Apple to court over who owns his huge digital music collection after he dies,” Fran Wetzel reports for The Sun.

“The Die Hard actor, 57, wants to leave the haul to his daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah,” Wetzel reports. “But under iTunes’ current terms and conditions, customers essentially only ‘borrow’ tracks rather than owning them outright.”

Wetzel reports, “Chris Walton, an estate specialist at Irwin Mitchell, told a newspaper: ‘Lots of people will be surprised on learning all those tracks and books they have bought over the years don’t actually belong to them. It’s only natural you would want to pass them on to a loved one.'”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “David E.” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take:


  1. I’m planning on leaving all of my user names and passwords to someone in my will. After that they can go online, change the email address, etc. I can see why but also wonder why. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Bruce.

    I had no idea the music I own was leased and not owned.

    Makes me wonder if Apple was hiding the truth in plain sight. If I bought a CD from a store and they told me, “By the way, you don’t really own this,” that would get my attention. But put this into the terms and conditions, which maybe one percent of one percent reads, and that lets Apple say, “Told you.”

    Will follow this as the attorney for Bruce Willis works the case.

    1. Actually, when you buy a CD from a store, you DON’T really own the music, just the right to play it for personal use. Try playing that same CD as background music in your restaurant or as the “music on hold” for your business, and see how long it takes for ASCAP or BMI to show up and demand that you pay additional royalties for the public performance rights. Likewise, try playing a DVD you bought at the store to a paying audience and see how long before somebody shows up for that extra fee. What you bought at the store was the physical disk and the right to play it for your own enjoyment, not the right to distribute it to a wider audience.

      How many sequels to “Die Hard” do you figure would have been made if the first theatre to buy a print figured that they were free to make as many copies as they liked and distribute them without paying anything extra to the intellectual property owners? How many DVD’s would have been sold if everyone could just get a copy of the movie for free from a friend? You can’t criticize Samsung for stealing IP if you are willing to do it yourself.

  3. Case will be tossed on ore trial motions. Mr Willis does not have standing to bring the suit. Arguably, if such standing exists, he has yet to suffer any damages for which a court could fashion a remedy.

  4. Why are so many people here so dense? I think it is pretty obvious that both Bruce Willis, as well as his attorney (or agent, or publicist, or whoever will be pursuing this on his behalf) are well aware that iTunes music is DRM-free and can be freely copied / moved. That is not the point. He wants to put the music in his last will and testament, and legally, there is no way to do this.

    When you have a collection of books, vinyl records, CDs, VHS tapes, DVDs and other mechanically reproduced media containing copyrighted material, you could legally treat all that media as your physical property, for the purposes of inheritance. This was never up for any dispute in any court, with respect to the issues of copyright (i.e. what the original owner of those creative works would possibly claim as a result of transfer of ownership over physical media).

    The point is, even with the physical media, content owner was ALWAYS the author (or publisher), and NOT the end user. This was never much of an issue, since the physical media made it rather difficult to easily share and distribute the content contained therein. With the introduction of digital medium, it became simple to effortlessly shift medium with no change to the original content, and this brought up all those copyright violation law suits.

    As I said, courts treat physical media ownership as true ownership (for the purposes of inheritance), and content owners never bothered challenging this notion, as it made little common sense. If the original user is dead, there is no point in trying to obtain compensation from the subsequent user (the one who inherited original media). The most common interpretation was that the original user paid for the usage rights in perpetuity (forever), so his rights were transferred to the next media owner. Same interpretation has been applied by many used CD stores to sale of second-hand CDs, however, RIAA (and other content owners or representatives) have been complaining about this.

    The point is, the narrow definition of the law gives the purchaser of a book, CD, DVD and similar physical medium the right to use of content in perpetuity, but does NOT allow him to TRANSFER that right to a third party. In other words, you CANNOT legally sell (or bequeath) a CD, DVD or similar.

    Courts have allowed this before, though, with physical media, and it went unchallenged (so far), but this Bruce Willis case may open up a pretty big can of worms. Should this case escalate, it is quite possible that the courts may no longer allow for transfer of ownership of physical media (with the possible exception of death, where the original owner simply ceases to exist).

    The absurdity of this law (owning the media, but not rights to transfer content) may be brought to focus by this case.

  5. This is like buying a movie ticket and allow 10 people from the same family to watch the movie in theaters just because one of them purchased a ticket…nonsense, he’s going to loose this one.

  6. It would make sense if he were talking about movies purchased on iTunes. There is nothing stopping you from music you purchased on iTunes to anyone.

    Even if some of it was downloaded back when iTunes had copyright protected music, there is always the option to burn it to CD. This removed all DRM, and gives it a physical form to make it even easier to hand over to someone you know.

  7. I think some ppl have spent too much time in the sun this Labour Day weekend… First off, the Macbook Air already does not have a DVD/CD…

    Second – WTF – not wise for Bruce Willis not to do something(?). Who cares – he has to spend his money somehow – the IRS just announced you cannot pass money along now – its just a long term rental agreement or lease – they’ll tell ya when someone sues or reads the fine print…

    As for kids names some have had to be refused by the government those are the stupid ones… Who cares if a Hollywood kid whose rich has an odd name just change it… Besides ‘Moon Unit’ takes top prize in my estimation…

    Oh wait I was thinking of April Fools Day not Labour Day… Wonder why I got confused… Must be the sun… High UV index & all…

  8. Bruce Willis is right. This is a sham (and a shame)
    Apple’s contract on this subject (that they made with the music industry) is as wrong.
    There IS NO GRAY AREA on this!

    1. Let me get off of my high horse for a minute to clarify.
      If Bruce is right and he is legally not allowed to bequeath his songs then everything I said above stands.

      If it is just legal talk for not-buying-publication-writes, then that may be a different story.

      Music companies never liked the ability of people to re-sale CD’s and LP’s. Jpeg’s can be copied over and over, that’s not right. But you should be able to bequeath or even sale an Apple ID.

  9. Why are people so down on Bruce Willis on this. He has a great point. If you buy CDs, DVDs, and books, you can give them to other people. You should be able to leave your collection. Apple should have a mechanism to transfer the license in the event of your death. I hope he wins.

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