Who owns your iTunes library after you die?

“The fate of your online life after death is a sensitive topic, and one both the law and technology companies have struggled with how to handle,” Ariel Bogle writes for Slate. “Last week, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell took one step toward a possible solution, signing into law first-of-its-kind legislation that will grant Delawarean families the right to the digital assets of loved ones who are incapacitated or deceased, the way they would be given access to physical documents. But our Twitter, Facebook, or Gmail accounts are not our only online assets.”

“The Delaware law raises the complexities of how to deal with the accounts that house our e-book collections, music and video libraries, or even game purchases, and whether they can be transferred to friends and family after death,” Bogle writes. “The bill broadly states that digital assets include not only emails and social media content, but also “data … audio, video, images, sounds … computer source codes, computer programs, software, software licenses.” However, the law says that these digital assets are controllable by the deceased’s trustees only to the extent allowed by the original service’s end user license agreement, or EULA.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Of course, if you read those TOS/EULA, many of them do not permit transfer of ownership to another person, which means when you die, the license to the content dies with you.

  2. When account merging is possible, then asset transfer is possible.

    In the mean time, don’t “will” your digital library as a set of books or movies. Will it as an account and password, and possibly the associated email account as well. Make a nice tight package that when the information is transferred, there is no technological way the new “owner” can’t get in.

    When you die, it’s not like Apple deletes these assets. They still exist, possibly forever, inaccessible.

    Since you can change most if not all the details of the account, you make it yours. Or keep it your relatives, in memory of them.

    You will simply have more than one iTunes account.

    With that said, I have several iTunes accounts, with various assets, for different purposes. Not all my eggs are in one basket.

  3. Just one reason among many why I still buy CDs and LPs.

    Plus, used CDs are cheaper than album downloads on iTunes, with liner notes and uncompressed tracks that typically sound better than the downloads. Being able to resell the physical discs or pass them down to someone else is just another side benefit.

    1. Ethnically and technically, if you buy physical CDs and rip them, you no longer have a legal license to those ripped MP3s if/when you sell the physical CD. Legally, you should delete those MP3s the minute you sell the physical disc because your “license” to listen to them was sold along with the physical disc.

      Not expecting you to like that answer, but it’s the legal reality.

      1. Maybe that’s why he said “resell… or pass them down”.

        Passing them down to your family along with the MP3s (which he didn’t even actually mention at all) would be perfectly fine. Ethically (no “n”) and technically.

        Nothing wrong with your answer, as long as you actually read and understood the post to which you replied.

  4. Like others, I still prefer physical media movies and music. Like others have said, my preference is usually towards obtaining a physical copy. A CD is easy enough to copy into iTunes and one can select a higher bit rate (or lossless) than purchasing the music on iTunes. A lot of new movies now come with a digital copy so I still prefer getting the Blu-ray disc. (However, I’m on the digital bandwagon when it comes to books and renting movies from Apple. I LOVE the built in dictionary in iBooks and being able to change the font, size, color, etc. for my older eyes.)

  5. iTunes accounts are tied to a credit card. It is therefore possible to change the credit card # and hence the holder name. The account will be the same but the owner will effectively changed.

  6. Should I die, I want my nieces to be able to access my DLC. Of course, they’ll likely be on to some newfangled games by then and won’t care for the quaint FPS/RPG lode lovingly preserved for them by Aunt Hannah.

    1. You are saying this as if you have no plan on having your own children. You may have none now, but surely by the time you’re to kick the bucket, you will have a few of them to leave behind?

        1. I guess not, and hannahjs explains that below. I have a tendency to think the mainstream way, and sometimes that excludes valid alternate choices. I hope nobody was offended here.

      1. No, I’m divorced and I’ll soon be 49. There is age-related risk involved, as you may know. And call me old fashioned, but I never wanted to bring a child into this world without two loving parents who were married & in love with each other, and with life. Two out of three might be good enough for some things, but not for a new life. Thank you for caring about such things, Predrag.

        1. At the risk of the discussion veering into the personal direction a bit too much, I’d like to say (from my own experience with two daughters), that chil(dren) will give you the most unique sense of purpose, unmatched by any other goal one may have in life.

          I suppose it is somewhat old fashioned to condition offspring on the prerequisite loving family setup, but there is probably enough of a track record for the single parent setup to show that not all such setups produce socially at-risk children. I have several long-time friends of my age (a few years ahead of you) who succumbed to their biological clocks and made the choice to raise child(ren) alone. While these children are still rather small, they seem to be developing well, with a loving father (and a degree of presence of a father), not to mention the degree of transformation they caused in those mothers. Let us not forget that a good 50% of urban children (especially in the developed world) end up growing up with divorced parents. We would have a severe urban population crisis if all those parents were old-fashioned… All I’m saying is, if that is the only reason, it may be worth re-considering. On the other hand, being a beloved aunt is a delightful role: one gets almost all the privileges of parenting (endless innocent love of a child, joy of their little milestones and successes), without the responsibilities (constantly keeping them on the proper path). Almost like grandparenting…

          1. I should re-read before I post… For those who care to re-read after corrections, there is a sentence in the middle that should read “While these children are still rather small, they seem to be developing well, with a loving mother (and a degree of presence of a father)…”

            I’m hoping the reader figured this out without the correction, but here one is for those who didn’t and would need one.

            As many have already said, an edit feature would be nice…

          2. I do not disapprove of non-nuclear families, please don’t think that. I dreamed of a traditional nuclear family but it didn’t materialise. And now that I have relocated closer to my nieces, I have a little more joy in my life. As to the future — I have been known to change my mind, so… 🙂

  7. well, that’s obvious question. how about this? before you will die, you have to leave testament on inheriting entire itunes account, library to somebody. at least it will be solved. actually, it is not the first time that people think about it. then how about email, social blog? these are all the same question.

  8. Before you die, and before CD burners and players become extinct, you can burn your iTunes purchases to CD-R so that you have a copy. Who’s to say what someone else might do with that CD-R after you pass.

    Me …. I’m going to be cremated with all my CD-R music and DVD-R movies, so my heirs do not get arrested by the entertainment police.

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