Who Owns Your Web Stuff After You Die? Good Question

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Have you ever stopped to wonder what might happen to your digital stuff after you die?

The folk at Digital Beyond have, and they’ve been talking about it at the SXSW festival this week.

These days it’s easy to put stuff online thanks to dozens of free services offered by third party companies. Blogs, microblogs, social networks, photo sharing: it’s so simple and quick, hardly anyone stops to think about the long-term consequences. Once you’re dead, what happens to your updates, your posts, your photos? Who owns them? Who’s going to look after them?

It turns out that some big name websites have thought about this, and created policies to follow in the event of a user’s death. Facebook famously has a “memorialized” account option, which turns someone’s account there into a read-only archive (although the Wall can be left open for people to post condolences).

Not every site is so well-prepared, though. And not every web user stops to think about this stuff beforehand. It’s all very well looking after someone’s digital legacy if you know about all their different accounts and identities, but what about the accounts they never revealed to you? Who will manage those?

There are a lot of questions and not many answers.

Perhaps in future the act of writing a will might include additional instructions, account IDs, and passwords for online accounts, alongside the traditional financial bequeaths.