Stateline covers Rep. Scott's digital assets bill

Stateline, the state government blog run by the Pew Charitable Trusts, took a deep look at the recent controversy surrounding what happens to our digital assets after we die. 

In many cases, things like email accounts, photo archives, databases, media content and other online accounts are not turned over to your heirs or executors, even if you say so in your will. Tech companies say it's too difficult to make allowances for greiving families attepting to settle estates, and it doesn't help their bottom line to do so.

This session, Rep. Darryl Scott of Dover passed a law to change that by forcing tech companies to abide by the wishes of a deceased user and turn over account information to whomever becomes the legal fiduciary of that person's estate.

From the Stateline story:

If the Delaware measure becomes law, it would supersede any “terms of service” agreements that users have with Internet and social media providers. However, if a person specifies in a separate online tool, such as Google’s “inactive account manager” that he wants emails deleted or transferred to a particular person after a period of inactivity, that would take precedence.

“We put in provisions that prohibit the tech companies from making the choice for you. They can’t, in their service agreement, say that upon your death, we’re going to delete your account,” said Democratic state Rep. Darryl Scott, who co-sponsored the legislation and worked with the state’s bar association to get it passed. “We were trying to restore control to the family to make those decisions, just as they do with many other things, like journals and letters and safety deposit boxes.”

Delaware’s bill is similar to a model law endorsed last week by the Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit organization of lawyers, including legislators and judges, appointed by each state government. The group researches and drafts standardized state laws that can then be considered by legislatures.

Benjamin Orzeske, the commission’s legislative counsel, said the group spent two years working on the digital assets proposal, and he thinks it will be introduced in about a dozen states next year. “This law isn’t changing the level of privacy,” Orzeske said. “It’s just making it media neutral, whether it’s on paper or online.”