So, who DOES get your music when you die?

From The Toronto Star:

My digital life really began in earnest when I bought my first iPod in 2001. My wife and I used to go to the cottage with several shoeboxes of CDs. Then, one day, with all our music contained in this little shiny device, the shoeboxes stayed home.

For the next couple of years, the music industry continued down the same path — relying on album sales. Then, in 2003, the iTunes music store debuted, sales of single songs soared, neighbourhood music stores disappeared and our digital lifestyle was in full flight.

My music collection stands at 5,992 songs. I’m 61 and plan on living and accumulating more music, more books and more apps for years to come.

When my parents passed away several years ago, my siblings and I spent precious time sorting through all the record albums and books. We were dealing with real, tangible assets, touching and reminiscing about the past.

But what will my children sort through? My stuff is stored in a “cloud” or on a device. How are they going to benefit from the tens of thousands of dollars spent during my lifetime on digital products? Apple has locked all your iTunes purchases to your personal account and password — once you’re gone, so is your content, wrapped up in Apple’s much vaunted privacy policy. In other words, your kids won’t have the option of deciding what music of yours they want to keep or toss.

Apple was contacted for help. Here is the reply:

My name is Roby with the iTunes Store support and I’ll be handling your request.

I have looked over the information you provided and I understand you are inquiring about transferring the ownership of your account to your children. I can see why this would concern you. I’ll be happy to provide you with as much information as I can to help you with this.

I have done some research and I found out that you may transfer ownership of your account to whomever you choose provided that the person will submit the scans of the following documents to us:

• A copy of the death certificate of the current account holder.

• A legal document confirming you have the right to transfer the property of the deceased.

After we receive the documents, our legal team will review them. If they approve your request, we will be able to transfer ownership of the account.

I told Roby in another email that I was somewhat reassured that providing a death certificate and a mention in my will to transfer ownership would solve the problem, but it now creates another. My kids will have ownership of two different accounts: mine and theirs. Think about it. Now they will have to manage multiple accounts that don’t talk to each other.

Not exactly the elegant Apple solution I was looking for.

Roby replied again:

I understand you would prefer to have your purchases transferred across your heirs’ accounts rather than them assuming ownership of your account. I know how confusing having multiple accounts can be, so I certainly appreciate how much you would like to join up your purchases to your heirs’ accounts.

I’m sorry but it is not possible to merge two or more iTunes Store accounts together.

So there you have it.

Buy your music online at your peril.

Enjoy life to the fullest and don’t sweat the fact your children probably won’t care what music you had, what books you read or what apps you bought.

It’s the ultimate recycler’s dream: thousands of dollars of merchandise and it’s all stuffed in a cloud — somewhere.

Your Last Will & iTunes

iBook library to my wife, 420 items

Music archive to my children, 16,800 items

Movies archive to my wife, 235 items

TV shows archive to my children, 700

Things to remember:

• Your music, movies, TV shows, applications and books are tied to you personally through your iTunes account. If you want to give your iTunes purchases to your children, you need to include those wishes in your will.

• No one else can access your digital life without your explicit permission. This presents a problem if you are dead.

• Your children will need a copy of your death certificate and a scan of the appropriate part of the will dealing with the disposition of your iTunes account.

• Once that is complete and reviewed by Apple, they will give your heirs permission to access all that hard-earned content.

• There is one other workaround: Apple allows up to five authorized computers to play your iTunes content. Make sure your children’s’ computers are on your list. But it will always be yours. RIP.