A study led by DTDM researcher Prof. Mireille van Eechoud was recently mentioned in a column for the Dutch newspaper Trouw. The study was for the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and examined the legal aspects of digital inheritances. The study was conducted by a team of experts from the Amsterdam Law School from different legal disciplines: Prof. Mireille van Eechoud (Information Law, research lead) Prof. Barbara Reinhartz (Inheritance Law), Prof. Chantal Mak (Property Law and Fundamental Rights), Prof. Marco Loos (Consumer Law and Contract Law), Dr. Jef Ausloos (Data Protection), Luna Schumacher (Information Law), and Lotte Pol (Information Law).
The central research question of the study was: what adjustments to the Dutch legal framework, if any, are desirable to adequately protect private and public interests involved in the settlement and liquidation of digital estates? To answer this question, first an analysis was made of relevant terms & conditions that providers of commonly used information services apply, and of their policies regarding death. The analysis included user agreements, general terms and conditions, privacy policies and other available company documents. Information service providers were categorized into digital media services (commercial offerings such as streaming video or music), communication services (including social media and messaging services) and ICT services (including cloud storage and digital safes). Next, the relevant legal framework is described, and ambiguities therein are identified. In addition to inheritance law, this concerns contract law and, in particular, consumer law, intellectual property rights (especially copyright), personality rights and data protection law (General Data Protection Regulation). General property law is also important, insofar as it relates to the question whether digital assets are part of the estate. Finally, with a view to formulating possible solutions, a selection of legislation in other countries was studied.