Monday, November 02, 2009

What happens to virtual (online) "property" in an "estate"?

Chris V. Nicholson has a potentially important story about “virtual estates” on p B4 of the New York Times today (Monday Nov 2). The title in print is “Death in an Online Age Raises Issues of Ownership” and online the title is stronger “Virtual Estates Lead to Real-World Headaches,” link here.

The story opens with an anecdote about the disposition of an imaginary island in Second Life, and even discusses the monetary conversion rate to Second Life. But a more practical problem would concern intellectual property: blogs, profiles and ordinary personal websites, as well as Twitter accounts, and, in act, emails, IM’s and text messages.

There is a suggestion that some day people will need to name “digital executors” to have accounts, and that could present a problem if someone has trouble finding someone willing to do it. Or perhaps an ISP could simply delete all the material upon a person’s death if there is no such agreement.

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