Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Professional data, 101

If you are an employee, chances are that your company does have some solution to access your mails, projects correspondence, etc, so it’s not a huge problem for you there. Concerning online freelancers, you may have money left on freelancer websites,

projects ongoing, with customers waiting. It could be a good idea to leave an access and appropriate instructions to these resources to make sure that everything can be closed properly.

Business owners also have responsibilities there. Of course, online financial assets have to be considered, but you will have to list account management tools, project management websites, advertising contracts… How can one be sure that the business can still be done if some people are not granted access? There, you can still prepare documents listing the business online account, latest business plans/business models, instructions for your staff.

A common example is the case of invoices and clients records being stored on a password protected medium. In this situation, it is quite difficult to settle business affairs without using a “digital forensic” or a hacker.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Expert knowledge, 101

Who said that knowledge is gold?

Considering the time you spend online, it appears that you are building a digital wealth. For example, on services like Quora or StackOverflow, you are truly building a online expert, who can be recognized by thousands of followers and build strong relationship with some.

Contributing to coding projects, as your GitHub account enables you to do, also makes you an expert in a field where only a few people are experts. Consider the code you might have left on GitHub. Do you want it to be part of your online estate?

In all these case, you have been building an identity that made you a reference as well as a network of relationships. You’ll have to spend some time to think about the becoming of these assets after your departure. Do you want to close the accounts, erase your information, or let it be for some time accessible to everyone looking for knowledge?

You’ll have to be sure to write clear instruction the the becoming of your social network accounts. They can be deleted, left as a memorial, or curated : it’s up to you.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

online services and physical data

Online services

Most of us can pay utilities online. Gas, electricity, cable, mobile subscriptions — not to mention the endless list of paying services we have (or will have) subscribed to. You can also include web hosting, and in some cases of web entrepreneurs having online apps, you could imagine your work just taken down without asking, and without any chance to give someone the opportunity to resume your work or at least to benefit from it.

Physical data

Another issue is to be sure that the data you own on physical data will be controlled as well. Let’s say you are a writer, and your would-be best-seller still on the hard drive of a computer your family wants to sell. What will happen of the book? What if the buyer publishes it in his own name?

Or if you have critical data stored on a usb flash drive, like details of a patent, a secret recipe, music, or even very personal information? Would you like those to fall into the wrong hands?

Would you want this data transmitted, or the drives wiped clean?

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Rights and licenses for digital assets

You will have to be extremely cautious when discussing about your rights on the digital goods that you are using. Sometimes you own your assets, but in some other cases, you do not really own them. For example, you may not own an ebook the same way you own a hardcover, paper-based, physical book — or music they same way you have CDs at home. If we take the example of the Mac App Store, we might see in the Terms of purchase (which of course you had carefully and thoughtfully read) that you buy a license to use, not a good that you own — and the public realized this after an outburst of actor Bruce Willis.

Some other services, like trusts, can be used to transfer the license to a .. trust. That’s what, for example, a Digital Asset Protection Trust# “can manage these assets and allow those who you pre select to access them without violations of the license terms and without potential liability to others”.

We’re of course not advising you to try to break the law, but you can make it easier for your beneficiaries to access the files that you once “had”. With a proper planning, you can make sure they will have all the cards in hands to receive what you wanted them to have. But having access is different from having the rights to listen to your former favorite songs!.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Disclaimer

In this site, you will not find an exhaustive legal review of your data. Why ?

Laws can change depending on your location, the time of application, and from the changing policies of online service providers. The US are currently changing rights : it means that things can be different, even between two neighbouring states. The strategy proposed here is not to have legal issues for your executor to get back to your data. These processes can be time consuming and not worth the hassle in conditions where there are lots to do elsewhere. That’s why we do recommend you to prepare for an easy transmission of your belongings.

TL;DR#: let’s do the things quick and simply. A quick act can avoid long procedures afterwards.