Presentation on theme: "Ryanne Lai 21 st June 2005 "What Happens to Your Web-based Email After You Die?""— Presentation transcript:
Ryanne Lai 21 st June 2005 "What Happens to Your Web-based Email After You Die?"
Have you ever wondered… Who owns your emails when you die? Letters: your property After you die, they form part of your estate even if you put them in a safe deposit box
The Case of Justin Ellsworth: Background Justin Ellsworth 20 year-old marine killed in Iraq in Nov. 2004 Ellsworth's parents requested from Yahoo! the password of their son’s email account Yahoo! refused
The Case of Justin Ellsworth: Background Yahoo!’s Terms of Service: http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
The Case of Justin Ellsworth: Background (ii)the property right to the electronic documents (the soft copies) (iii)the intellectual property right (i.e. copyright) to the content of the account (i)the right to access and use the email account
Who Owns What? (i)the right to access and usethe email account Terms of Service: a binding contract account is non-transferable safe deposit boxes: survivors get the right to the contents of the safe deposit boxes, not the right to access and use the safe deposit boxes.
Who Owns What? (ii)the property right to the electronic documents (the soft copies) “personal chattels”: Intestates' Estates Ordinance (Cap. 73) ownership of electronic information ownership of the storage medium
Who Owns What? (ii)the property right to the electronic documents (the soft copies) Emails: a kind of personal property? Two main components: 1.contents 2.source codes Justin’s emails Yahoo!’s servers
Who Owns What? “literary work”: s. 4, Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) (iii)the intellectual property right (i.e. copyright) to the content of the account Terms of Service: Yahoo! does not claim ownership of content submitted by the user
Who Owns What? (iii)the intellectual property right (i.e. copyright) to the content of the account Limitations: Cannot demand copies of emails unless Yahoo! “knows or has reason to believe” that the emails have been or are to be used to make infringing copies: s. 109, Copyright Ordinance Confined to emails composed by Justin
The Privacy Problem Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486) Only applies to “personal data” andto data user that controls the collection, holding, processing or use of personal data. Common Law: no such protection either
Outcome of the Ellsworth Case In the matter of Justin M. Ellsworth, Deceased, No. 2005-296,651-DE (Oakland Co., Mich., Prob. Ct.) Yahoo! was ordered to provide the family of Justin Ellsworth with soft copies of all email sent to and from his email account Question of public interest?
Steps to Take to Avoid Litigation For service providers: Let subscribers indicate their preference when they sign up for the service
Steps to Take to Avoid Litigation For end users: Put list of passwords in safe deposit box Write a letter to your executor Set up a trust Specify in the will the person you want your email ownership to be transferred to Entrust passwords to people you trust
Conclusion Web service providers now offer more storage capacity What have your clients been asking you to do? What have you decided to do? ? ? ? A need to clarify the law in this area