You may have heard about a recent story in The UK Guardian about Bruce Willis suing Apple over ownership of his iPod collection, and whether or not he can bequeath that collection to his heirs. Though the story is apparently false, (false story in a British tabloid? Blimey!) it brings up some interesting questions: do you actually own your digital music files? Do you own your CD collection? Did you break the law back in 1985 when you made that mix tape for that girl that was supposed to show her how hip and trendy you were?
From the various stories I’ve read in the last few days, it would seem that no, you do not “own” songs that you have purchased from iTunes; what you own is the right to play them on up to 5 devices, or to burn up to 7 CDs from a playlist that you have created. Much the same way that you never “owned” the music that you purchased on vinyl, CD, or whatever; you have never had the right to re-sell a CD, or even give away for free a copy of it that you have made.
I’m certain though that most of us are under the impression that we can bequeath our CDs, records and tapes to our heirs. It would seem that whether it is legal or not, if you want someone to have your digital library after you are gone, put all your files onto a portable hard drive, label it “All My Digital Music Files”, and rest in peace knowing that you are most likely beyond the reach of the law.