爱思英语编者按:数字财产的范畴可包含软件、网站、下载内容、网络游戏账号、社交媒体账户甚至是电子邮件。仅在英国,人们持有的数字音乐总价值就可能超过90亿英镑(140亿美元)。

Online assets

网络信息财产

Deathless data

斯人已逝,数据流芳

What happens to our digital property after we die?

人死如灯灭,数据之火烧何方?

Wait! I found his iTunes password

等下!我找到他的iTunes密码了!

LORNE GLADSTONE of Toronto is 58, but prudently pondering how to bequeath his digital property. Doing the paperwork after his parents’ death was a challenge. “When my time comes, I wonder if my children will even know what paper is,” he says. As a software developer, his virtual assets are both valuable and vital to his business. That exemplifies a problem. Online lives have increasing economic and sentimental value. But testamentary laws offer muddled and incomplete ways of bequeathing and inheriting them.

来自多伦多的洛恩•格莱斯顿现年58岁,但他如今已在慎重考虑自己数字财产的处置问题了。对格莱斯顿来说,当年同父母遗留下的书面文件打交道就曾颇费力气。他说道:“当我百年之后,我都怀疑我的子女们是否知道什么叫书面文件”。作为一名软件开发者,格莱斯顿的虚拟财产对其工作的价值及重要性不言而喻。这突显出一个问题:线上生活的经济与情感价值在不断上升,然而对遗赠者和继承者而言,遗嘱法律仍然语焉不详,不甚完善。

Digital assets may include software, websites, downloaded content, online gaming identities, social-media accounts and even e-mails. In Britain alone holdings of digital music may be worth over £9 billion ($14 billion). A fifth of respondents to a Chinese local-newspaper survey said they had over 5,000 yuan ($790) of digital property. And value does not lie only in money. “Anyone with kids under 14 years old probably has two prints of them and the rest are in online galleries,” says Nathan Lustig of Entrustet, a company that helps people manage digital estates.

数字财产的范畴可包含软件、网站、下载内容、网络游戏账号、社交媒体账户甚至是电子邮件。仅在英国,人们持有的数字音乐总价值就可能超过90亿英镑(140亿美元)。中国一家地方报纸调查显示: 五分之一的受访者称他们所拥有的数字财产超过5000人民币(折合790美元)。个中价值不仅只在于金钱意义。Entrustet(一家帮助人们管理数字财产的公司)的内森•拉斯提格说道:“有14岁以下儿童的家庭可能会有两张孩子们的照片,其它的则全部在网络相册里”。

Service providers have different rules—and few state them clearly in their terms and conditions. Many give users a personal right to use an account, but nobody else, even after death. Facebook allows relatives to close an account or turn it into a memorial page. Gmail (run by Google) will provide copies of e-mails to an executor. Music downloaded via iTunes is held under a licence which can be revoked on death. Apple declined to comment on the record on this or other policies. All e-mail and data on its iCloud service are deleted on the death of the owner.

网络服务供应商们的规定则截然不同——然而,他们很少在服务条款中能以清晰明确的语言加以说明。许多服务商为用户提供个人账号使用权,但是其他人一概无权使用,即使是该用户已经去世。Facebook允许逝者亲人关闭账号或是将主页改为悼念页面。谷歌旗下的Gmail将会在未来向遗嘱继承人提供逝者的电子邮件复本。在iTunes中,用户下载的音乐经过授权,可以在去世后撤销。苹果公司对此方面及其他相关政策拒绝评论。其iCloud内储存的电邮以及数据会在用户去世之后被删除掉。

This has led to litigation in America. In 2004 the family of Justin Ellsworth, a marine killed in Iraq, took Yahoo! to court in Michigan to get copies of his e-mails. This year, a court in Oregon ruled that another bereaved American mother could use her dead son’s password to enter his Facebook account for a short period. Now five American states have enacted laws giving executors control over the social-networking profiles of deceased users.

美国已有相关诉讼案件。2004年,在伊拉克身亡的海军陆战队士兵贾斯汀•埃尔斯沃思的家人一纸诉状将雅虎告上密歇根州法庭,要求获得他的电子邮件复本。今年,俄勒冈一家法院裁决,一位丧子之母可短期使用其子的密码登录他的Facebook账户。现今,美国有五个州已通过法律,允许遗嘱继承人使用逝者的社交网络页面。

But this raises the subject of privacy. Passing music on is one thing; not everyone may want their relatives snooping on their e-mails. Colin Pearson, a London-based lawyer, says access should come only with an explicit provision in a will.

然而,隐私问题却又应运而生。传输音乐是一码事,但不是每个人都乐意亲人们窥探自己的电子邮件。伦敦律师科林•佩里森说道,此类账户通行应当在遗嘱里有明确提及时才可使用。

Such clearly expressed wishes may help. An internet law expert in New Delhi, Gurpreet Singh, has already seen a few cases of wills including digital estates. “People are slowly realising the value,” he says. A nascent industry is emerging to simplify the process. Entrustet, newly acquired by a Swiss competitor, SecureSafe, says it has 10,000 clients. It safeguards their passwords, and a list of who can access what when they die.

诸如此类明确表达的愿望或许可以有所作用。新德里互联网法律专家古佩特•辛格已经见过数例涉及数字财产的遗嘱案件。他说道:“人们正在慢慢认识到数字遗产的价值”。新兴产业正在不断涌现以简化其中过程。Entrustet存有一份名单,其中列有在用户去世后指定登录人员及可登录账户。Entrustet宣称其下有10000位顾客,最近它被其瑞士竞争者SecureSafe并购。

But laws, wills and password safes may clash with the providers’ terms of service, especially when the executor is in one country and the data in another. Headaches for the living—and lots of lovely work for lawyers.

然而,相关法律、遗嘱以及密码托管可能会与服务供应商的服务条款产生冲突,特别是在遗嘱继承人和存储数据不在一国之内的情况下。当然,这是留给遗属的难题,不过亦是律师的大批美差。