We are working remotely and all of us continue to be available by telephone or email. In alignment with national, state and local initiatives as it relates to the coronavirus, we remain open for business and have changed the way we are working for the health and well-being of our employees, and you, our valued clients and colleagues. Read more

Mason & Helmers
We Welcome Your Call
  • Phone 651-323-2548
  • Toll Free 877-389-5533

Rumors of suit over digital music inheritance spawn chat storm

Twin Cities music lovers may have felt inspired to root for Bruce Willis in the role of hero dad upon hearing rumors that the action star recently announced his intention to sue Apple in order to be able to include his iTunes library in his daughters' inheritance. The story certainly piqued the interest of every reader familiar with the fairly substantial investment that can go into amassing a respectable digital music library.

Although it appears that the story amounts to little more than rumor, the idea may have some merit in the interest of avoiding a future will contest over the inheritability of digital assets. As acquisition of creative property becomes increasingly reliant on electronic media, traditional notions of ownership are struggling to keep pace.

Few people think twice about the ability to pass on a book collection or a set of classic vinyl records to heirs, but the lines get blurred when it comes to intellectual property that arguably has no value inherent in its physical form. While the value of a single digital music file may be legitimately limited to the right to enjoy its contents, the question arises of whether a significant investment into building a collection of files alters the character of ownership.

Many purchase agreements for digital music files have been generally understood to create what amounts to a non-transferable lease of the right to possess the file and enjoy the music it contains. In that case, any claim to inheritance rights would seem likely to fail. Some tech insiders note, however, that current app store terms and conditions make no reference to non-transferability.

Even if the story about the actor's plans to file suit is pure gossip, it raises issues that will have to be addressed as upcoming generations think about the nature of the estate they hope to pass on to loved ones. Ultimately, we will have to decide the scope of rights that vest in our "ownership" of purchased digital media, social media accounts and even the virtual assets of online game worlds.

Source: Game & Guide, "Bruce Willis Suing Apple for Digital Inheritance Story False?" Sept. 4, 2012

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

For Assistance with Estate Disputes & Other Matters, Contact Us

To learn more about the firm and how we can assist you,
contact Mason & Helmers in St. Paul, Minnesota. Call 651-323-2548 or 877-389-5533 (toll free) to set up an appointment.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review
rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories — legal ability and general ethical standards.

Contact Our Attorneys

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us For A Response
Mason & Helmers

Mason & Helmers
332 Minnesota Street
Suite W-3070
St. Paul, MN 55101

Toll Free: 877-389-5533
Phone: 651-323-2548
St. Paul Law Office Map