Bequeathing his iTunes collection – frustrated Bruce Willis would be better off in NZ
"Internet was great, liberating, enabling revolutionary technology ... then the lawyers showed up."Featured comment
The UK tabloid press says Hollywood star Bruce Willis is considering legal action against Apple. The Die Hard star discovered he can't leave his iTunes collection to his kids when he dies.
Willis may join legal action underway in five US states seeking to give downloaders more rights.
Whether the story is true or not, it raises an interesting point: most people do not realise they are not buying a song from Apple but a "non-transferrable license" – legalise for the fact you don't actually own the track.
US copyright law doesn't let people share songs.
Would the Die Hard star be better off if he moved to New Zealand?
"We introduced various exceptions into our copyright law in 2008 to cater for new developments like digital music," Lowndes Jordan partner Rick Shera told NBR ONLINE.
"One of those allows digital music or books – not films, mind you – to be copied and shared amongst members of the same household for personal use provided certain conditions are met.
"Many online terms do not allow any sharing with anyone else at all, although Apple does allow transfer between what it calls Associated Devices, which may then be switched between accounts."
Copying tracks is no problems on a technical level. In 2009, Apple lifted DRM (digital rights management) protection on tracks sold through iTunes.
Yet its terms and conditions forbid you transferring a track to another account.
But on this point, Mr Shera has a cunning plan.
"If the music collection is not copied at all but is just bequeathed on a device along with the account when someone dies, that may be different," he told NBR.
Unfortunately, it's not immediately clear from iTunes' voluminous, constantly chaning terms and conditions whether this jape would be within Apple's rules – even to an IP expert like Mr Shera.
And therein lies another problem, the Lowndes Jordan partner says.
"This whole issue of consumer unfriendly or even non-understandable online terms is really starting to frustrate people and hit the radar screens of legislators, so I expect we'll see some push back soon."
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.