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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Way To Preserve a "Digital Inheritance"?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-children? dept.

Data Storage 191

First time accepted submitter ron-l-j writes "The last few months a digital inheritance idea has been floating around in my head, and I am sure the thought has crossed your mind as well. With Google talking about the inactive account program it made me wonder, how do I make sure my children get my iTunes, and amazon movies? I have plenty of mp4 movies on my server that will just set itself to admin with no password after I do not log in within a 6 month time frame. But what about the huge amount spent on digital content every year? What's the best way to make sure your "digital inheritance" gets passed down?"

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191 comments

Make a list (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43452653)

I keep all my media files on a shared server. Everyone in my family knows the password.

For all my accounts, I use passwords with the same 6 character prefix, and varying suffixes. The suffixes are listed on an appendix to my will. They are also on an XD card that I keep in this keychain fob [amazon.com] in my pocket.

But I only record the suffixes because both my wife and daughter (age 14) know the prefix. So if the prefix were 7xU32w, then the list might say "correct horse battery staple", but the real password would be "7xU32wcorrect horse battery staple". If anyone outside my family saw the password list, it would be worthless to them because they don't know the prefix, nor do they even know that there is a prefix.

Re:Make a list (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452783)

This sounds good but indeed if someone knows about this system, you can easily brute-force it, since you THEN only have a six-character password. So key is to keep your mouth shut about it. This includes giving other people advice. And yes, an attacker would also set up dictionary rules to try Postfix and "mid-fix" (correct horse7xU32w battery staple)

Re:Make a list (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452953)

Yeah, as long as you don't post about it on the internet you should be fine. Especially on sites that millions of viewers with the simple technical background required to brute force a 6 character password.

Re:Make a list (4, Funny)

smitty97 (995791) | about a year ago | (#43453441)

Posting here should be fine. The total intelligence on Slashdot has been constant. However, the population is increasing.

Re:Make a list (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#43453197)

This sounds good but indeed if someone knows about this system, you can easily brute-force it, since you THEN only have a six-character password. So key is to keep your mouth shut about it. This includes giving other people advice. And yes, an attacker would also set up dictionary rules to try Postfix and "mid-fix" (correct horse7xU32w battery staple)

They have to know about the system, PLUS have access to the list of site-specific suffixes. Until they have access to the list, they are stuck doing a brute force of the full length, or perhaps (since the example suggests english words are used as a suffix) a brute force of the first 6 chars (7*10^11 rounds), plus a brute of dictionary combos for 1-4 words (at 250,000 words in the english language this is 3.9*10^21 rounds just for the 4 word combo) makes the total number of rounds north of 3 * 10^33. This is a decent bar to set, as far as brute forcing is concerned.

Re:Make a list (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#43453205)

you THEN only have a six-character password. ... an attacker would also set up dictionary rules to try Postfix and "mid-fix" (correct horse7xU32w battery staple)

I'm not going to pretend that "correct horse battery staple" has as many bits of entropy as characters, but unless the attacker has a copy of his will, he's going to still have an attack surface that will shut off the account first in nearly every website in existence.

There's already an app for that... (5, Interesting)

ZeroPly (881915) | about a year ago | (#43453077)

... in a manner of speaking. This is a well known problem in crypto.

My way: all of my passwords and secret documents are in an encrypted folder which I update along with my will. Included are final farewells, secrets, where the bodies are buried, and so on. The key is split (look up PKI key splitting) into 5 parts. My girlfriend, father, buddy at work, and two of my friends each have a part. For security reasons, those are just examples. Four of those parts together are required to unlock. At my death each one turns in their part to the executor of my will who already has instructions on how to get it put together.

It is not a good idea to naively split a 10 char password into two 5 char pieces, and assume that brute force will be necessary to guess one of those parts. That is a very dangerous assumption if you are not an expert with the particular algorithms used.

Re:Make a list (3, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#43453183)

I took a somewhat different approach. I keep all my passwords in an encrypted database (I like Password Gorilla [github.com] ). I wrote the password to this database, and the login password to my home PC, on a slip of paper and put it in a safe deposit box at my bank.

The safe deposit box uses two-factor authentication: you have to possess the key, and you need a photo ID identifying you as an authorized user of the box.

I prefer this approach because it is not reliant on human memory. I am not carrying a list of passwords around with me to be found by a stranger if I ever lose my keychain. It is also robust in the event I forget my "master" password, which could happen if I were disabled and went without using it for a few months. I can change who has access to the passwords through my will: currently my wife has access, but it could just as easily be the executor of my estate.

You don't own (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452667)

Any of it.

Re:You don't own (5, Informative)

captaindomon (870655) | about a year ago | (#43453383)

I agree completely with parent. There is a difference between passing an inheritance to your children and providing access. I can leave the keys to my house to my children, but that doesn't mean the legal possession of the house will pass to them. Very different concepts.

Re:You don't own (5, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year ago | (#43453413)

Exactly, if you want to insure your children get your digital collection, fight for more sane copyright term lengths.

Children don't like their parents music (5, Insightful)

grewil (2108618) | about a year ago | (#43452671)

Few would care for their parents music collection.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452743)

Well for my generation my parent's music collection is vinyl. It has some value beyond musical. (yet for my generation it is digital, I guess we skipped over a few generations of technology there)

Re:Children don't like their parents music (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452801)

Most of the vinyl they have will be worthless shit no one will ever want.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43453089)

You sure? I own the '68 Polydor Bee Gees Golden Album and it's selling at 61.20 USD currently (http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=560357). That's just one example I quickly searched for. There are vinyl records selling for 10K+ USD; some are acetate indeed but hey, feel free to browse your momma's collection and who knows, you might get rich.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453163)

most != all? derp.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43453281)

Yes-yes. That doesn't mean you shouldn't check them out. Some of what others call worthless shit might have great value to others (not in terms of money).

Re:Children don't like their parents music (3, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43453079)

Well for my generation my parent's music collection is vinyl. It has some value beyond musical.

I'd check out the prices of vinyl on eBay before making that judgement...

Warning: You may be disappointed.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452771)

Train them right from the beginning. I have the iPod dock playing music for my son every morning. I make it a point to only have "good" music on there, and we goofy dance to every up-beat song we can. Hopefully he'll have a nice smile on his face, and fondly remembers to good times he had with dad, whenever he hears these songs.

Make a memory, not an old man ranting point about today's music.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

grewil (2108618) | about a year ago | (#43452859)

Well this old man won't be a belieber any day soon, doggarned kids and their music

Re:Children don't like their parents music (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#43453335)

I see your kids aren't grown. It pisses my daughter off that all her friends like Zeppelin and Floyd, she was burned out on it when she was a kid.

The reason my generation didn't like our parents' music is because it wasn't really all that good. Nobody in their twenties in the seventies listened to music from the thirties, but music from the late sixties to the early 2000s seems to be timeless; go into any bar with a cover band and it will be full of twentysomethings yelling "FREE BIRD!" as the band plays some Nugent or Sabbath.

Also, at least in my case, my tastes in music have expanded greatly. These days I'll listen to about anything except hiphop, opera, or bubblegum pop (Beiber, the Archies, every generation has that dreck). When she was a teen my daughter turned me onto ska. My ex always hated punk, so it never got played. One evening when she was at the store I put on a punk cassette. Daughter's eyes got big and she said "Dead Kennedies? You like the Dead Kennedies?" Turns out that the music I loved that she never heard, she also loved.

As to the submitter's question: Physical media, baby. Records, tapes, CDs, DVDs you can sample and rip to your hard drive. I know you guys in a dorm room or tiny apartment say "But I don't have the room!" Don't worry, you will. Just store the physical media at your parents house. You'll have room soon enough.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43452811)

Says you.
I would be happy to have my dad's music collection. I rather not get it that way though.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (2)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#43452917)

Says you. I would be happy to have my dad's music collection. I rather not get it that way though.

I've now got my dad's music collection -- which I'm glad to have. "That way" comes whether or not we'd like it too . . .

Re:Children don't like their parents music (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43452825)

Few would care for their parents music collection.

A few years ago, I was helping my teenage daughter with her homework. My wife walked in, and told us that Michael Jackson had died. My daughter asked "Who's Michael Jackson?"

Re:Children don't like their parents music (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452937)

You can spend your entire life researching Michael Jackson and the question will at most change from "Who's Michael Jackson?" to "Who the fuck is Michael Jackson?!"

Re:Children don't like their parents music (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43453257)

That's the point at which you, as a responsible parent, are supposed to bust a move with your best Thriller dance, singing along as you do, subsequently embarrassing the hell out of your progeny.

Bonus points if you can make this happen in a crowded public place; Extra bonus points if your daughter's friends happen to be within view.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about a year ago | (#43453329)

My seven year old knows who Michael Jackson is or at least knows the name and
I don't own nor do I listen to any of his songs. I find it very surprising that a
teenager wouldn't at least know that he was a singer.

How is knowing artist relevant ? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#43453465)

Few would care for their parents music collection.

A few years ago, I was helping my teenage daughter with her homework. My wife walked in, and told us that Michael Jackson had died. My daughter asked "Who's Michael Jackson?"

How does not knowing the band/artist make one unable to appreciate a great piece of music? I can see the other side, being a fan of a band/artist can make one like something that is in truth, of low quality. However not knowing the band/artist would seem to make one more neutral when evaluating music.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

sarysa (1089739) | about a year ago | (#43452893)

Bit of a generalization there. Notice a trend in the music industry for retro everything? Album of the year went to a band influenced by the 1800s, probably lamenting that none of those original works were ever recorded. The current #1 album on the charts is Justin Timberlake's throwback to the 50s and 60s. That digital collection would be enjoyed just fine.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

sarysa (1089739) | about a year ago | (#43452911)

Sorry, I meant it 'features a single' that blah blah...though he also performed it on SNL and other places on his'buy my new album' tour...

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43453119)

Bit of a generalization there. Notice a trend in the music industry for retro everything? Album of the year went to a band influenced by the 1800s, probably lamenting that none of those original works were ever recorded. The current #1 album on the charts is Justin Timberlake's throwback to the 50s and 60s. That digital collection would be enjoyed just fine.

Doesn't mean the kids *want* the stuff from the 50s and 60s, they're just starry eyed thinking how brilliant Justin Timberlake is for even knowing about that old stuff.

And the only reason they're listening to Justin Timberlake is because the record industry is busy marketing him and his amazing album.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (2)

gsslay (807818) | about a year ago | (#43452899)

And those who do already have a copy. They're not waiting for you to die first.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43452981)

My parents modeled my music preferences. And I thank them for that. By letting me listen to what they were listening, they managed to keep me away from all the garbage that was being played as mainstream at that time. Hello, Pink Floyd and Van der Graaf Generator; fuck you, Kriss Kross and NKOTB and that shit.
I apologize to those who love(d) Kriss Kross and NKOTB. I still think it was shit. To even things out, they could say my preferred music is shit and I promise I won't care :)

Re:Children don't like their parents music (2)

cybernanga (921667) | about a year ago | (#43453067)

I listen to music from my parents generation, it brings back lots of (mostly) happy childhood memories, and as I've listened to more of it, I've learnt to appreciate it, and have made my own discoveries of good music from the same era. As a teen I had different musical tastes, that my parent's couldn't stand, and I went through a phase of not wanting to hear my parents music, but one grows out of that.

My 19yr old daughter, recently said "I wish I was alive in the eighties, you guys had the best music" I was flattered, but I also know that she only gets to hear the good music from back then. I have my parents music collection, my daughter wants mine*, and we both wish we had my grandparents collections.

* Sweets, if you read this, hopefully you still have a loooooong time to wait before you start prising it from my cold, dead fingers

Re:Children don't like their parents music (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453155)

Hah, I found out that I like my parent's music more than they do. Tried making a mixed CD for them a couple of times to a lukewarm reception. Musical tastes change!

Re:Children don't like their parents music (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#43453241)

Few would care for their parents music collection.

After being exposed to Taylor Swift and One Direction, my kids heard Kansas, Floyd, and Van Halen.

Their take? "That can't be old-person's music. It's so awesome."

Some of my favorite music was written 5 and 40 years before I was born. But it's true - my parents' music was 50's and 60's schlock, not Hendrix or Miles.

Re:Children don't like their parents music (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#43453379)

And that tends to always be true. The thing about music from a few decades back is that the only old music people still listen to after all that time is usually the good stuff. For a fair comparison, you need to compare Taylor Swift or One Direction with bubblegum pop.

Rip and store locally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452683)

It's simple, just rip a copy and keep it locally therefore you don't have to trust them.

license not goods (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452687)

You have a non-transferable end-user license so all your digital stuff goes away and amazon and apple and everyone else is happy. That's why digital content is bullshit -- because you are just renting it and don't really own it.

Re:license not goods (4, Informative)

PhotoJim (813785) | about a year ago | (#43452965)

I buy all my stuff on physical CDs and DVDs/Blu-Ray discs and then rip it (in the case of my music) for a few reasons, but this is a big one.

If ever I want to give away the media, I can - whether I'm alive or dead. No confusion, no complication.

Violates the ToS/EULA/etc (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#43452691)

What's the best way to make sure your "digital inheritance" gets passed down?

Put it on physical media and give it to them. Or remove the DRM (if any) and put it on a disc and give it to them. Or (if you're okay with it) move it to a third party pay system like Google Drive where you can make it readable to them. Keep in mind that in doing so you will almost certainly be violating the usage agreement you clicked on with the distributors your got that music from -- in some cases you are violating it two or three different ways in that scenario.

This story [slashdot.org] wasn't true but you'd essentially be facing the same obstacles.

Based on principle that I don't want to get into, I refuse to purchase anything from Apple. So I don't have to deal with that problem. I do make purchase on Amazon, however, whenever a Big Bach box of 100 Bach songs goes on sale for $1. So what I do is I download them all in mp3 and put them out on a redundant SAN in my house. I do this with all books, music and movies -- if I buy the CD or DVD I rip them out to this. If I get a DRM'd ebook, I free it with calibre and put it out there. Pretty sure I'm violating a ton of shit [amazon.com] doing this but ... meh:

2.2 Restrictions. You must comply with all applicable copyright and other laws in your use of the Music Content. Except as set forth in Section 2.1 above, you may not redistribute, transmit, assign, sell, broadcast, rent, share, lend, modify, adapt, edit, license or otherwise transfer or use the Music Content.

Every five years or so I upgrade the drives to medium quality drives that are larger for more storage. So this machine running as an internal server to my home is unencrypted and I can access it with my PS3, Xbox or computer. I will simply hand over that machine and drives to my offspring in my final will and testament.

You should honestly still be asking about MMORPG accounts, apps and games that you paid for ... I'm sad that I cannot give my children my old Lucas arts games. The media is archaic and my "license" with the company is meaningless more and more each day as Disney dismantles and guts LucasArts. I wrote a journal entry [slashdot.org] about this in 2006 and it was on the front page but that discussion seems to have been lost to the ages. I'm certainly not the first person to puzzle over this quandary and it will only snowball further and further.

Re:Violates the ToS/EULA/etc (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43452857)

Why not rip the games and give the kids a link to scummvm?

Re:Violates the ToS/EULA/etc (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#43452991)

Why not rip the games and give the kids a link to scummvm?

I do when I can. It's great, those guys are doing god's work and I implore anybody who could even foresee the use of it to kick them a couple bucks. But the fact is that it doesn't cover all the games [scummvm.org] I grew up playing like it only handles half the Dr. Brain series [scummvm.org] which that first game was fundamental in my understanding of logic and programming. And when I said LucasArts, I was mostly talking about X-Wing and Tie Fighter -- which I don't think used the SCI engine and I do not believe are available on scummvm. I think they can be run in a Win7 compatibility mode but I'm trying to sever Windows entirely from my dependencies.

It's more so a consumer protection and ethical question: how are we preserving that which we have valid licenses to? What is a company's responsibility (if any) to aid you in moving forward with those games?

Possible topics I'd be interested in considering are things like: should companies make an ethical move to include licensing terms that state they will open up source code they control if they go bankrupt? Should it be viewed as anti-ethical to shelve source code and let a product decay? To what level is that? I'd like to see a movement in the software world towards a future where we do not have "lost" ideas and art that were sacrificed to default greed at literally no benefit to their original owners/creators. It just feels wrong to think back on all the software I've used and realize that anything older than 6-ish years is very nearly completely gone. Games are the obvious example but I'm talking everything, even the stupid little versions of music players and instant messengers I used in college.

No one's asking these questions but here we are, hung up on the symptoms ... long live (literally) open source, I guess.

Re:Violates the ToS/EULA/etc (1)

sarysa (1089739) | about a year ago | (#43452945)

'Tis why I still buy CDs. It makes me a luddite, sure, but I can easily digitize it and so long as I delete the copies, I am still protected by first sale. (Guess this only works if you only buy music where you get it for the entire album experience)

Re:Violates the ToS/EULA/etc (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43453267)

'Tis why I still buy CDs. It makes me a luddite, sure, but I can easily digitize it and so long as I delete the copies, I am still protected by first sale. (Guess this only works if you only buy music where you get it for the entire album experience)

Give yourself a bit of credit, man; refusing to be a sucker != being a Luddite.

The answer is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452693)

You don't pass on a "digital inheritance" of purchased digital content, especially one hosted on some cloud service.

At least, not officially. The account would still have to be in your name and the company would have to believe you were still alive.

The true answer is to purchase physical content. CDs, Blu-rays, real actual discs that contain ALL of the data. Anything that requires a company's server to be available for authentication or data is eventually doomed to failure, and will not reach future generations (because, as we well know by now, business needs change and customers get hosed because of it).

Re:The answer is... (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#43452821)

The account would still have to be in your name and the company would have to believe you were still alive.

Well, that's easy. Incorporate and have Anonymous Coward, Inc. buy all your music and movies and such for you. Pass on the corporation and its assets in your will.

Undeath: Not just for soulless corporations and liches anymore!

Re:The answer is... (4, Interesting)

captaindomon (870655) | about a year ago | (#43453401)

That's a good idea, but legally moving the money into the corporation in order to purchase the stuff gets pretty complicated tax-wise. You might want to look at something like an open trust instead. Talk to your tax lawyer. IANAL.

Better check your licensing agreement... (4, Insightful)

MasseKid (1294554) | about a year ago | (#43452699)

IANAL, and I haven't checked the license, but I suspect you legally don't own rights that can be passed on upon your death.

Re:Better check your licensing agreement... (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#43452975)

IANAL, and I haven't checked the license, but I suspect you legally don't own rights that can be passed on upon your death.

Look at the bright side: If everything you own is eventually "licensed, not sold" -- and thus reverts to the "rights holder" on your demise -- you won't have to worry about estate planning and inheritance taxes .

Re:Better check your licensing agreement... (2)

idontgno (624372) | about a year ago | (#43453263)

Only on Slashdot can someone point out the probate advantages of serfdom over freehold. Even if in jest. In the "Ha, ha, only serious" sense.

Re:Better check your licensing agreement... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453261)

That's why you don't mention these things to the authorities. D'oh!

Put it in your will (2)

digitrev (989335) | about a year ago | (#43452705)

Put all of the relevant information in your will, or in a sealed & notarized envelope only to be opened upon your death. Accounts, password, approximate contents, the whole shebang. If you're worried about someone taking this information before you're dead, put in a single account and password to your KeyPass database, or an e-mail account that only has usernames / password, etc. Then, find some way of tracking access to that account, so that it pings you when someone uses it. Heck, even add a 1-week timer to it, so that they have to be sure you're dead before they can get those passwords.

Basically, rely on the systems we've always used to pass along our inheritance.

Re:Put it in your will (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43453123)

The KeepAss Database would be happy to send it all to you in physical format through their newest HaulAss transport branch.

Do what's sensible... (3, Insightful)

DoomSprinkles (1933266) | about a year ago | (#43452707)

I bet Hollywood and the RIAA would like to assume you'll make the only sensible option and inform your beneficiaries to use your life insurance to repurchase all such content you think you own.

Dead man switch (1)

CoolCash (528004) | about a year ago | (#43452721)

Lets say Google does implement an inactive account system. Create a process that detects that account deletion and then sends out an email to your family members with a copy of your keepass file, that way they will have access to all of your accounts after you pass away.

Terms (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | about a year ago | (#43452731)

I'm pretty sure when you die the license agreement you have between Apple or Amazon (or whoever) is ended and ownership ceases.

Anyone actually read that thing?

Re:Terms (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43453139)

Anyone actually read that thing?

War and Peace is shorter than the Apple/iTunes EULA (and less densely written).

License agreements... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about a year ago | (#43452737)

Do the license agreements for iTunes and Amazon digital movies (and music) allow you to pass them on to others?

Easy (4, Funny)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year ago | (#43452741)

There are two ways that I can think of. The first is to just list all the titles, and then provide a link to the Pirate Bay. You could even save them time and torrent the titles yourself first.
The second is to provide your password (e.g. in an encrypted container, with the password to that in your will) and hope that the companies will not realize you are dead. I know, maybe a better idea would be to stop licensing stuff and actually outright buy it. Buy DRM free, and you can make a copy yourself. Don't purchase anything that requires DRM or whatever.
The third way (which doesn't do what you ask) is to just forget it. Just set it to die when you do.

Also, just delete all the porn. I'm sure your kids don't want to know what sort of weird stuff you are into.

Re:Easy (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43453137)

Yes, because deleting all your porn AFTER you die is mighty easy.

Re:Easy (1)

slazzy (864185) | about a year ago | (#43453407)

It is very easy. Read up on a "dead hand switch"...

Take it into consideration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452749)

The first thing I thought is that the record/movie companies generally don't want you to hand over digital copies.
Instead you should take this into consideration when you "buy" those things and not pay more than half of what you would for something that you could transfer.
This way you will have enough leftover money for you children to buy the same copies if they want them.

Your password (2)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#43452757)

The problem is the concept of the license instead of the purchase. The media companies want to get away from the idea that you 'own' anything. In order to do that with the shift to digital goods they 'license' everything. This way when you die they can claim that all of your purchases were in fact not purchases but in effect lifelong rental agreements. Your heirs get nothings and all of the money you spent becomes wasted.

There are two potential ways too challenge this. Someone could list a large number of digital assets in a bankruptcy case and get the trustee to challenge the idea that they cannot be sold. To the best of my knowledge the only time this came up it was settled out of court without setting precedent. The other way is to have the trustee of someone's estate challenge this when you die. The bottom line is that you have to have enough digital assets for the trustee to feel that it is worth their time and money to fight over. Since most people only have a couple grand or so in digital assets it usually isn't worth the court costs to try to recover them.

The practical alternative is to include your account password in your will so that your heirs can log into your account and use it after you pass away.

Simple Solution (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43452791)

Keep all that stuff on physical media unencrypted, and your heirs get it along with all the other junk in your attic.

Your passwords could be stored in a similar way, or you could get clever about it (online vault, with the password in your will or whatever).

Just assume that anything protected by DRM doesn't belong to you in the first place. By the time you die chances are half of it already won't even be accessible by you because some company went bankrupt. Whatever promises you've been given are about as well as those given to your parents by the 8-track recording standards committee.

you can't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452797)

you own them with a non-transferable license, you can't give it to anyone. When you die, they can't legally take posession of them because of the terms you accepted when you bought them.

Why bother? Bits rust. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#43452823)

What makes you think that your children will want it? Music and movies go stale. I have a vast collection of music from way back when, that I never listen to.

Re:Why bother? Bits rust. (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43453225)

Maybe because it's shit music.
I'm counting the number of famous bands from 40 years ago which still are famous versus the number of famous bands from 10-5 years ago which still are famous. The former number is much, much larger than the latter.
The change started around the end of '90s-early 2000s when it became a lot easier to create "immediate" music with close to no skill; before, bands relied on their members' ability to play instruments well and come with imaginative lyrics. After that time threshold ('99-2001) the advance of electronic means to programatically generate music (loops, beats, etc) made it easy to pick a bambi in bikini or mini-skirt, have her yell some meaningless words in a microphone while some sound engineers made the voice sound pretty and others made it match the background generated song, rinse and repeat, publish, see money flowing in like crazy.
That's why I'm stuck to 20th Century in terms of music. I was then mesmerized by the ability of singers to keep a note for 20+ seconds in a live concert, the amazing skills of drummers to bang their drums in a 15+ minutes solo, the incredible features of guitarists to shred notes with ease and all of them kept emotions flowing through me. Now all I see is 4-minute songs which yield ansolutely zero emotion. More tits, less music.
Recently, I briefly enjoyed dubstep (it was something new) and then it became plain and repetitive. Every skillless wannabe jumped the bandwagon and squeezed out the same stuff with minor variations.

Re:Why bother? Bits rust. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453425)

Shitty music and movies go "stale." This does not happen with quality media.

Re:Why bother? Bits rust. (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about a year ago | (#43453437)

Ah, where's the "Naive" moderation when I need it?

Yes, some things go stale, and many come back for seconds years later. I'm 54, and have watched numerous movies from before my birth. My daughter (22), has watched tons of movies from before her time. She's recently discovered Sinatra (I was never a fan myself), and loves it. So, just because you don't want it, does not indicate that your offspring won't. Tastes change, styles come and go....one size doesn't fit all.

Parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452829)

I'm wondering if the submitters parents have carefully organized their collections of VHS videos and LP's to pass on to 'Ron'... LOL of course not, they've got better things to do and they know subby has other interests these days.

could all be different in decades (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#43452835)

half of these sites were not around 10 years ago and all of them 20 years ago

Re:could all be different in decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453175)

half of these sites were not around 10 years ago and all of them 20 years ago

Not unlike the consistent problem with format shifting and technology. No one said archiving digitally was going to be easy, but likely worth it.

Re:could all be different in decades (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about a year ago | (#43453531)

I have a large(ish) collection of .mod, .s3m and .xm files. They were mostly made in the late 80s - 90s on Amiga and Ataris I think. Packed in there with them is a copy of "ModPlug Player" which somehow fires right up on my current Win8 machine. Assuming your reader program is packaged with your media you'll have a pretty good shot at keeping your data alive.

Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452839)

how do I make sure my children get my iTunes, and amazon movies?

Believe me, they really don't want that shit. You might as well ask how you can make sure they get your valuable coffee can full of odd-sized bolts and your collection of cancelled checks going back to 1978.

Solution: stop buying, start pirating. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452845)

Do not pay money for digital downloads of movies or music. Do not purchase e-books. Only purchase games which have interesting multiplayer portions.

Stop giving them your money. Just stop doing it.

Keepass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452895)

Make an archive of a keepass database, with a working windows binary, as well as the source code. Even if they can't figure out how to use it, someone should be able to, even when you're long gone. Being an open format that's currently widely used, it'll probably be around for quite a while.

Then put your prefix on it, with an additional password that will be released somehow when you're inactive for too long. Of course make sure you only include stuff you want in there.

Commercial media is just not all that important (1)

Lev13than (581686) | about a year ago | (#43452931)

My late father-in-law was a DJ. We have several boxes of his LPs, 45s and reel to reel tapes in the garage. Would you like them? If you call now I'll throw in a few milk crates of our VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs at no extra cost.

In contrast, we also have 40 years or so of 8mm/VHS family video that he put on DVD before his death. DVD isn't perfect, but those get backed up and have been shared with family.

Re:Commercial media is just not all that important (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43453235)

Yes, I would like them. I actually like sifting through piles of recordings and find interesting stuff.
Sadly, I am not living in the US. Guess that makes your proposal inaccessible to me :)

Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43452935)

Am I the only one who thinks that this is a little bit strange? If someone (in this case a spouse or parent or grand-parent) dies there are far greater issues involved than who gets to download some random stuff. As long as the important information about bank accounrs, insurance, etc. and personal stuff like letters, photos, home movies are accounted for there's really no point in worrying about stuff you bought. Alternatively, if you really want your heirs to inherit the music you liked to listen to, the books you read, and the movies you cared for, how about you get physical copies? There's something special about taking a book from the shelf knowing that a loved one who has since passed on did the same thing, held it in his hands, read the exact same printed lines on the exact same paper, and that it has the smell of, let's say your grandfather's pipe still lingering between the pages. Compare that to a sterile bunch of DRM encumbered bits on some computer. In short: Think about practical issues first and then think about sentimental value rather than how much money you might have thrown at Apple and other companies.

Re:Why bother? (3, Insightful)

PhotoJim (813785) | about a year ago | (#43453133)

It's down the list, but it's stuff that has value, so it's not that insane.

On the same continuum would be photographs - photographs can have a great deal of historical value, both to a community and to a family. Having some sort of a plan to ensure that they get passed on to someone who will care about having them and value them is a good thing.

Re:Why bother? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453367)

No, they're not on the same continuum at all.

Personal photographs have sentimental value to immediate relatives and are potentially of interest in the future. In 50 years, having a picture of your great-grandpa when he was 11 years old will still have some value to your relatives.

Digital copies of commercially available mass media are literally worthless. Nobody on earth will care about your digital copy of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1", or whatever useless cruft you think is going to excite some nameless, faceless relative who you seem to imagine will spend months lovingly cataloging and curating your media collection for posterity.

Probably can't ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43452941)

As has been pointed out several times, the license probably doesn't allow for that.

Take your hypothetical death out of the equation, and ask: how would I transfer ownership of my digital media to someone else right now? I think you'll find the answer is the companies involved have stacked the deck in their favor, and there is no mechanism to do that.

In their interpretation, you don't own it, you bought a limited license to use it only how they approve.

If there's no legal mechanism you can transfer ownership of it while you're alive, what makes you think your death changes anything?

It's not 'property' per se. It's the new fangled digital property, which you don't own and have very few actual rights to. And those rights aren't transferable.

Hardly a problem just for digital content (2)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#43452993)

Consider your IRA, 401k, etc. holdings. Unless your spouse or heirs know the passwords to all your Fidelity/Putnam/Vanguard/Hancock accounts, it'll be a major pain to get at your money. Heck, what with all-electronic statements and stuff, it may be really difficult just to find out your accounts exist (and their numbers).

Digital Photos (3, Interesting)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about a year ago | (#43453001)

The days of family photos being passed down are gone. A shoe-box full of slides is remarkable durable, barring a fire. When grandma dies her collection of digital photos dies with her. While perhaps no exactly a "first world problem" it's a pretty significant issue when you consider the amount of history that can be lost. It's especially important to artists. Imagine if all of art produced by the likes of Picaso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh vanished when the died and someone shut down their computers. Most archival media available is susceptible to silent bit rot and spinning media requires care as well.

Re:Digital Photos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453327)

Imagine if all of art produced by the likes of Picaso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh vanished when the[y] died

Then I would have had less boring topics to study in school. Sigh. One can dream...

Time (0)

Zecheus (1072058) | about a year ago | (#43453005)

What makes you think your kids are in any extent interested in your digital media? If you think digital media defines you as a parent, maybe you should re-calibrate, spend more time with your kids, not your media.

You don't really own it (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about a year ago | (#43453177)

Think of it as a longer-term rental

You have access to it until the provider decides it is no longer profitable to maintain the servers

Make sure you're really buying things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453277)

The fact that you mentioned iTunes is a very serious warning sign. I have no idea about Amazon, but it is known and I believe it has been upheld in court, that no person has ever bought anything from iTunes. YOU NEVER BOUGHT ANYTHING ON ITUNES. Every file is licensed. That isn't to say you should hesitate to break the law (what's done is done; chalk it up to fraud on their part) but stop using iTunes to "buy" things, and investigate Amazon very carefully before you continue using them. For example, I know for sure that I literally purchased (and now own) all my music CDs. Get up to at least that level of ownership.

If ownership is not offered or can't be usefully taken advantage of (e.g. video), because of laws like DMCA (e.g. you can't legally make use of purchased Blu-Ray discs) then stop buying and switch to piracy, at least until the conventional market opens. You should never feel guilty about pirating things which aren't for sale. Just make sure you're ready to come back to the table if they ever come back to the table; don't ever commit to the impasse being permanent or else you lose the moral high ground. And of course don't pirate things which don't need it (music).

My woman stands to inherit-by-default our legal collection of music and our illegal collection of video. And she'll be looking over my shoulder when the next RMA-ed disk comes in and we re-add it with mdadm. That plus Google means she'll be ready, if something happens.

The part about the machine going passwordless after 6 months' inactivity is a little suspicious, too. That sounds both insecure (can someone fake it by diddling with the clock?) or inconvenient for the bereaved during the 6 month wait. Just have a family member know the damn password, already.

6 Months? (1)

Joshua Shaffer (2895571) | about a year ago | (#43453279)

Am I the only one confused about the 6 month timer? Who is going to leave a server running for 6 months after your death? Is this in a remote datacenter where you're always paid at least 6 months ahead? Is everyone relevant already informed that the password drops after 6 months so they'll know to check? Is the password even needed to access the files (is this data encrypted) or could they just mount the drive on another machine? I'm imagining messing with the BIOS or spoofing the NTP server to provide it a future time but I can't see going through that effort for a bunch of movie files. Fun way to get at any secret encrypted files though...

my children get my iTunes, and amazon movies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453323)

how do I make sure my children get my iTunes, and amazon movies?

By changing existing copyright law. The *AA will fight the inheritance tooth and nail. "Our contract was with ron-l-j, and not his heirs."

Think bigger. (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#43453349)

Think bigger.

1) Your kids probably don't want it. How much of your grandfather's-era of music would you actually listen to? Not much. Sure, they'd like to keep a photo or two for "show-and-tell" but it won't mean much to them later, and 99.9% of what you want to give them, they won't be interested in. When people die, they have a lot of crap to go through, and most of it gets destroyed or sold - nobody keeps EVERYTHING. The first things to go are mass-market commercial items that can easily be replicated / recovered.

2) Your kids won't know what to do with it. It's become hard to play web video from 10-15 years ago (when was the last time you installed Quicktime / Realplayer?). Doesn't matter what you do, they probably won't be able to play it (DRM, etc.) - you can scream open-source all you like, the fact is that by the time they grow up, unless they are as geeky as you, they won't be able to play it.

3) Out of all the crap I could have "inherited", I kept only what was personal and important. There probably *WAS* value in the old 78's that I took to the charity shop, but to be honest, it wasn't sentimental value so who cares? There's no way I could listen to the music on them and tolerate the slow-droning that passed for music back then. And the stuff I did keep was daft, for a reason and - without exception - tangible. There's enough non-tangible stuff in my head from dead people without some "virtual" music that I could pick up in seconds if I really wanted it.

4) When they get older, they'll care less. They will be working and could buy your favourite music on the format of the day for nostalgia, if they wanted it. Chances are they won't dig out the old CD player except to blow the dust off and show the kids how music "used to be" (like previous generations would demonstrate their phonographs etc.). Fast forward a generation and all your Netflix accounts (assuming that company is even AROUND by then) won't mean anything to your family. That favourite movie that they always snuggled up to watch as children? Chances are they don't remember as adults or - if they do - they'd prefer it on a convenient modern format which they would buy themselves anyway.

5) The generation problem. I know things about my grandparents. I know next-to-nothing about my great-grandparents. I'd never seen them, they were dead before I was born. Hence, I don't really have more than a passing interest in them. I know zero about their parents and the further back you go, the less I know and the less I care. I probably *am* related to someone famous at some point - almost everybody is and even simple maths provides the answer - every famous person of ten generations ago probably has nearly a thousand people who can trace their ancestry directly to them today, and millions more whom can get there with third-cousins twice-removed or whatever.

Sure, it'd be cool to have a piece of documentation etc. for filling in a family tree but - thinking about it - my dad probably does have that kind of stuff about his own granddad. But why would he show it to me / pass it to me? I have no connection with the person it came from and it would mean almost nothing.

Now consider what it would mean to see a list of music that your grandfather liked, or your great-grandfather. Now consider how much it would be different to have that music in some online-only account that's tricky to get into (and almost certainly the details will be lost by then), impossible to play if you do, may not even exist any more, etc. It's not as much as you think.

And by then most of that stuff will be so old-hat it won't even be put onto TV / radio as it would have been repeated a billion times and gone through the "gold" nostalgia channels and be next-to-worthless, like asking me to watch something that my great-grandad saw at a music hall. Interesting. Once. For a minute. That's about it.

6) All this effort takes you away from your kids. They honestly won't give a shit beyond lip-service and keeping a few tangible goods of yours with memories behind. Your wasting your time trying to pass it onto them and who says they even want it? Maybe they'd be infinitely more interested in getting hold of that comb you always kept on the mantelpiece that you got from your holiday in Europe and always used to blow through with some paper to make a funny noise when they were a kid.

Ask your kids what they want to inherit. Your music and movies are likely to come absolute bottom.

Get off my lawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453353)

Your children won't want any of your music and movies anymore than you wanted your parent's polka collections and Bob Hope Christmas specials. Stop wasting your money on digital media and pass down a real inheritance.

securesafe.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453363)

I use a commercial service like www.securesafe.com. I keep my 80+ password and all important files (e.g. Insurance documents, etc).

If I die, disappear or am otherwise "no longer here", two of my relatives enter on the website a code I gave them.

The system then tries to reach me during a certain period on all known addresses (mail, mobile, etc), if it fails it assigns each password and document to the specified beneficiaries. (It does not just share PW).

The creepiest feature of the platform, tough, is the accompanying message you prepare for the case your beneficiaries receive access to the passwords. "My Dear, if you read this message I am now dead"...

This is why DRM sucks. (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about a year ago | (#43453463)

I'm just going to state the obivous: NEVER, EVER, BUY ANYTHING ENCUMBERED WITH DRM! Or at least not without knowing you can remove it. This is what I do. I buy digital content all the time, but music only in the form of MP3's or otherwise unencrypted formats, and ebooks only in MOBI or ePub formats, from which the DRM is easily removed.

I don't buy movies online, since they aren't sold without DRM yet, and it can't be reliably removed yet. I buy them on physical discs, which may have DRM, but which I can at least pass on to anyone I want.

The service providers took care of that for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453491)

You don't have anything to pass along, because you exchanged money for the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to consume that piece of data. You entered into a contract that said you weren't going to give any of this stuff to anyone else, so that's taken care of.

and the answer is... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43453513)

Piracy

That's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43453515)

According to the RIAA and other groups, its not your content (or at least it won't be) so don't worry, there will be no inheritance.

Bitcoin Inheritance (1)

j0ebaker (304465) | about a year ago | (#43453543)

It seems to me a difficult thing to pass on a bitcoin inheritance.

Get over it (2)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#43453545)

If all you intend to leave your children is your MP3 collection, then that is pretty sad.

First, don't BUY digital movies. There is no point to it. Even buying physical movies is stupid. Unless you are absolutely going to watch a movie more then 5 - 6 times there is no economic reason to spend $20 - $30 on a movie you are going to watch once or twice. People have this silly notion of collecting content, whether its physical disks or digital files, but it it economically stupid to buy a movie in this day an age of instant access for a few bucks, especially when a year later its on Netflix. There is no reason to spend a fortune accumulating a movie library which its more economical to rent or subscribe to services to access that content on demand, and in the future it will be just easier and cheaper to access movies and TV shows on demand.

When it comes to music there has not been a music service that has forced DRM since iTunes when DRM free about 5 years ago. So you can transfer your music to a hard drive and give them that, assuming they want to listen to 30 year old music.

But I guarantee your children don't care about any movie or music you "owned" when you pass, especially if you unwisely blew through all "their" inheritance money to accumulate it. Buying music or movies is NOT an investment.

Also there is no point to have a crazy scheme to reset passwords on a file system, any content can be "reowned" by a new admin account, also why are you password protecting your movies, just throw them onto a shared family folder anyways.

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