Emails and Death: Legal Issues Surrounding Post - Mortem Transmission of Emails

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The paper is a first thorough examination of what happens to one’s emails on death. The paper demonstrates that some content of emails can be protected by copyright and transmitted on death accordingly. The paper then analyzes the contractual provisions of the main email providers, Google and Microsoft, in order to determine how these contracts, regulate the transmission of emails on death. The author finds that these provisions complicate the issues of property and transmission of digital assets and do not offer a meaningful control over the assets for their users. The paper adopts a novel focus introduced in the author’s earlier research, the idea of post-mortem privacy that is the right to privacy after death. This concept serves as an argument against the default transmission of emails on death without the deceased’s consent, whether through the laws of intestacy or by requiring the service providers to provide access to the deceased’s emails. Finally, the paper canvasses a solution which combines law and technology. It is argued that much more control should be placed in the hands of emails users. Post-mortem privacy, a potentially contested phenomenon, only accentuates the need to better account for the interests of the deceased, having in mind the volume of personal data and personal nature of emails. Therefore, an in-service solution is promoted, backed up by policy and legislation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-445
Number of pages11
JournalDeath Studies
Volume43
Issue number7
Early online date22 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

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Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Death Studies on 22 July 2019, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/07481187.2019.1609133

Keywords

  • emails
  • post-mortem privacy
  • digital assets

Cite this

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title = "Emails and Death: Legal Issues Surrounding Post - Mortem Transmission of Emails",
abstract = "The paper is a first thorough examination of what happens to one’s emails on death. The paper demonstrates that some content of emails can be protected by copyright and transmitted on death accordingly. The paper then analyzes the contractual provisions of the main email providers, Google and Microsoft, in order to determine how these contracts, regulate the transmission of emails on death. The author finds that these provisions complicate the issues of property and transmission of digital assets and do not offer a meaningful control over the assets for their users. The paper adopts a novel focus introduced in the author’s earlier research, the idea of post-mortem privacy that is the right to privacy after death. This concept serves as an argument against the default transmission of emails on death without the deceased’s consent, whether through the laws of intestacy or by requiring the service providers to provide access to the deceased’s emails. Finally, the paper canvasses a solution which combines law and technology. It is argued that much more control should be placed in the hands of emails users. Post-mortem privacy, a potentially contested phenomenon, only accentuates the need to better account for the interests of the deceased, having in mind the volume of personal data and personal nature of emails. Therefore, an in-service solution is promoted, backed up by policy and legislation.",
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Emails and Death: Legal Issues Surrounding Post - Mortem Transmission of Emails. / Harbinja, Edina.

In: Death Studies, Vol. 43, No. 7, 01.09.2019, p. 435-445.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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