It's the kind of script that Will Smith would be happy to star in: a lonely Hollywood actor, making a stand for the little guy against a corporate giant trying to strip away the most sacred of family bequests – one’s iTunes library.
Or so the story went.
The Sunday Times article (pay-walled) initially reported that Bruce Willis was going to commence legal action against Apple, on the basis that the iTunes Terms and Conditions wouldn't allow him to transfer his vast collection of music, and books to his children upon his departure. Other media outlets and the online community quickly picked up the story and ran with it, as though it were photos of Prince Harry bathing topless on the Thames.
The story was running hot. That is until we were "reliably" informed by Bruce’s wife, Emma Heming-Willis, via Twitter (of course) that "…it’s not a true story". There goes Will Smith’s chance at an Emmy.
Rest easy Apple Inc. The wrath of the man who put the world through two Expendables movies (and counting) will not be coming to a Californian court house near you.
But let’s pretend that one of Willis’ struggling Hollywood colleagues decides to pick up the banner and throw themselves into the den of Apple’s lawyers, fully-rested after a successful stoush with Samsung in the US – can your iTunes library be transferred as part of your estate when you die?
One thing is clear – when you "purchase" music, books or anything else from iTunes, all that you are buying is a copy of a digital file, and a licence to use that file only in certain ways. As with any other licence, the licensor can make the terms of that licence subject to whatever restrictions or caveats they like, including that the licence cannot be transferred or assigned (a fairly typical provision for many commercial licences).
But what about these circumstances where the licensee is an individual, and the licence forms part of an estate – can it be transferred?
Well, iTunes Terms and Conditions for both US and Australian customers do not prevent a customer from transferring or assigning their licenced content – although you are prohibited from transferring a licence to any of Apple’s software or applications, including iTunes itself.
The current iTunes Terms and Conditions do not seek to prohibit the transfer – via one’s estate or otherwise – of the content of your iTunes library (at the present time). However, if you did intend to bequest your iTunes library, the intended transfer needs to be carefully drafted to ensure it doesn't breach all of the iTunes Terms and Conditions (including in relation to a User Account) and the transfer does not "over-reach" by purporting to transfer other Apple property, such as software as well.
So, for iTunes users, this story does have a happy ending (Ed: We tried to find an appropriate John McClane quote to end the post, but the language wouldn’t meet our KWM style guide!).