Anthony Wing Kosner, Forbes:
According to The Sun (UK), Bruce Willis is considering a suit against Apple over the terms and conditions of its iTunes service. The actor has collected a huge music library, and “wants to leave the haul to his daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah.”
As The Sun explains it, “customers essentially only ‘borrow’ tracks rather than owning them outright, so any music library amassed like that would be worthless when the owner dies.” Willis is setting up a trust to hold his downloads, so the trust would presumably own his iTunes account in perpetuity.
This seems like a kind of fluffy story at first glance, I know. I’m not sure Willis is even right about the iTunes terms: “license,” as in the infamous phrase “licensed, not sold,” only appears in the document with reference to application software (which is the way software has been sold for decades, of course). As near as I can tell, when you buy digital content from Apple—DRM or no DRM—you’re really buying that content, not licensing it. (Of course, music from iTunes has been DRM-free for years; regardless of what the terms and conditions say, in practice I could give anyone my digital music collection. As long as I didn’t keep my own set of copies, I suspect it would be found legal.)
But at second glance, this really does bring up some interesting questions, doesn’t it? Digital copies of all our media is already becoming the norm rather than the exception, and it’s my suspicion that in the future—probably sooner than we think—the notion of physical location in connection with data will all but vanish. And, as in so many other areas, our social mores and the legal system that nominally reflects them will lag a considerable distance behind.
Update: According to The Guardian, there’s a good chance the story about Willis isn’t even true. Hah. But, I’m going to stand by my “interesting questions” bit: this issue will come up, eventualy, and the question remains as to what happens then.