Often “Digital Assets” and “Intellectual Properties” are included in a Facebook account. These can be considered valuable for one reason or another by family and friends and even business associates. They can even be a source of contention between some of these constituencies. For these reasons and more, it is important to consider these issues before death and to know what rights you may have after someone has passed on while leaving digital assets behind.
Initially, digital assets do not have to be of monetary value. They can be of a sentimental nature as in pictures, poems, etc. They also can have a perceived negative disposition that you do not want to have preserved.
These assets though can have monetary value or potential monetary value. They can even be of historical significance. Assets that can be lost forever if the page is removed. Conversely, the content of the site could be deemed anti-inflammatory and potentially lead to a loss of revenue in the perception of infused culture.
So how can someone gain access to this content? The primary and most effective way is to be granted that access by the Facebook user by being designated the legacy contact. The legacy contact can decide if the account is memorialized or not and who can have access to posting tributes and to see the content. Memorializing an account is a status provided by Facebook to allow family and friends to view posts and to make tributes about the deceased. Without a legacy contact, accounts are automatically memorialized when Facebook is alerted to the death of a user. Facebook will not give out passwords so an account that is memorialized will stay that way unless it is removed. In fact, even someone with the password cannot access it at this point.
To deny access and to have the page removed one must provide proof of authority with a will, estate letter, or power of attorney. This removal effectively deletes all content of the Facebook page. Some data may remain in Facebook’s system, but it is no longer linked with the initial user. To keep this from happening it is important that a person with interest in the content to make that interest known before it is deleted. This may require legal representation.
A deceased person’s intellectual property could be located on Facebook and can be defended in death by legal representatives. These include copyright and trademark infringements. However, these same properties cannot necessarily be bequeathed by last will and testament, since the agreements signed to join Facebook can supersede.
This is an area of law that is rapidly evolving. If you feel your rights are being infringed on with regards to Facebook digital assets, then you can contact one of our offices to assist you. However, keep in mind that like many legal issues, expediency is frequently necessitated.
If you don’t have an estate plan or your plan doesn’t include your digital assets, contact our office today. We can help you get your affairs in order or update documents if you already have a plan. If your loved one has passed, and you need access to his or her digital assets, we can help with that too. As part of probate or estate administration, we can explore the best legal options to gain access to the digital assets left by your loved one.
King Law is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. We serve the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina. Call 888-748-KING (5464) today to set up a consultation with one of our dedicated civil litigation or estate planning attorneys.