Technology has allowed us as a society to go places and do things never before imagined. But, it has created issues and problems that, likewise, we could never have imagined. Much has been written about the problem of texting while driving or “sexting” by minors. Our laws have been struggling to keep up, because they were never written with computers, cellphones and the internet in mind.
Criminal laws are often the first to be modified. But, because technology allows us to create and preserve information in many different formats, property rights must be addressed as well. The term often used to refer to what technology allows us to create is “digital assets”.
What exactly are digital assets? They include emails, email accounts, digital music, books, photographs and video, social network accounts, domain registrations, Domain Name System (DNS) service accounts, file-sharing accounts, blogs, listservs, financial accounts, banking accounts, web-hosting accounts and online accounts. As technology continues to advance, new digital assets are created.
And unlike paper, these assets can’t simply be thrown in the trash bin. The volume of digital assets can dwarf that which is put to pen and paper. This leads to legal issues in the realm of property rights. Who has the right to access my Facebook account? Can I designate someone to do it on my behalf? Can Facebook’s rules and regulations override my decisions? Who owns my account or has access to it when I die?
Next week we’ll try to answer some of these questions.