Death and iTunes

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A reader, who apparently doesn’t wish to unduly attract Death’s attention by providing his name, writes:

Some day—hopefully not today—I shall shuffle off this mortal coil, and then what happens to my iTunes collection? Is there some way of transferring ownership of media purchased from Apple?

If you pore over Apple’s license agreements, the answer is no. For example, this piece of prose from Apple’s legal department says this about apps:

You may not rent, lease, lend, sell, transfer, redistribute, or sublicense the Licensed Application and, if you sell your Mac Computer or iOS Device to a third party, you must remove the Licensed Application from the Mac Computer or iOS Device before doing so.

I’ve scoured Apple’s iTunes Store Terms and Conditions documentation and I haven’t found verbiage specific to movies, music, audiobooks, and e-books, but I’m assuming these same restrictions apply to those media flavors. Given that, Apple seems to be well within its rights to say that when you expire, so too does your purchased media.

However, Apple isn’t populated with unfeeling monsters so it’s possible that a direct appeal to the iTunes support team (who I’ve found to be extremely cooperative) is worth a try. You might scribble this address on the bottom of your Last Will and Testament:

Apart from soliciting Apple's supportive hug, there are a couple of other things that your grieving survivors can do. If there’s copy-protected iTunes music in your library, that music can be burned to a CD and, in turn, that CD ripped to another copy of iTunes to remove its music’s copy protection. Or, while you’re still in a condition where you’re numbered among the living, you could convert your protected music to the iTunes Plus format, thus removing its protection.

I can’t swear this will work, but it too may be worth a shot: Provide your next-of-kin with your current Apple ID, password, and payment details so that they can access your account after they’ve taken care of more important matters. Once in your account, change the payment and contact information to that of a member of the family who does a less convincing impression of The Family Circus’ Dead Grandpa.

And finally, if your family prefers a tribute more meaningful than keeping your iTunes library alive, suggest that they peruse this article from the Entrustet HIWI Blog: iTunes Death Policy: How to Disable and Delete iTunes Account.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • New social network for discovering music
    • HD TV show rentals
    • A few more customizable, useful interface options
    • Smarter album art list view
    • Noticeable performance improvements


    • Ping feels unfinished
    • Other headline features won't mature for some time
    • Senseless interface changes harm usability
    • Ringtone features removed
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