So, Who Inherits Your iTunes Library When You Die?

With a stack of vinyl about to head my way in the coming days, after I manage to raid my parent’s storage room, it got me thinking: where does all of our collected digital music go when we kick the bucket? Who inherits our iTunes library when we pass on?

Turns out, I’m not the only one thinking about transferring my music library down the road. The fine folks over at Market Watch asked the same question. The only difference, they managed to also dig up some answers.

The short answer is, well, no one gets your Amazon or iTunes library. You’re not legally allowed to transfer your music, books, or movies purchased through iTunes: “According to Amazon’s terms of use, ‘You do not acquire any ownership rights in the software or music content,’ writes Market Watch. “Apple limits the use of digital files to Apple devices used by the account holder.”

We have to ask: how exactly does it make you feel that you can’t pass on a favorite book or album to your loved ones when the time comes? It’s not fun to think about, but the reality is that we’ve amassed a collective of media that mean something to us, and that could mean something to our children, but legally, as it stands today, we have no right to pass that music on to someone we love. Our iTunes library dies with us, and our loved ones will have to buy the media all over again if they want it.

From the sounds of it, our media now has an expiration date. That has to be music to the RIAA and MPAA’s ears. When you think about it, we’ve already lost the ownership war. Buying a song or album on iTunes is a rental. The only difference between this rental and traditional rentals is that the media expires when we do, and not in 72 hours like a Blockbuster rental.

According to Market Watch, the law is too far in the past to have any real precedent in the area, and some lawyers have begun setting up software to create trusts to oversee accounts and digital collections once we pass on.

The even scarier thing is that upon further research, we noticed that Macworld’s Christopher Breen asked this exact same question back in April of 2011. Turns out, not much has changed since then. Breen found the same thing a year ago that Market Watch just found.

There are a few things you can do if the media you’re purchasing doesn’t have some sort of draconian DRM attached to it, but even then the legalities of copying that music and passing it on to friends or family is still plenty murky.

In a world that’s increasingly finding a way to go digital, it’s time we start asking exactly how our digital lives get passed on from one generation to another. These assets shouldn’t just perish when we do. Clearly it’s time that we stop and think about this before we end up too far down a road we can’t turn back on. If the only absolutes in this life are death and taxes, we may want to add expiring media to the list.

Joshua is the Content Marketing Manager at BuySellAds. He’s also the founder of And since all that doesn’t quite give him enough content to wrangle, he’s also a technology journalist in his spare time, with bylines at PCWorld, Macworld… Full Bio