I Read Dead Peoples’ Email: UPDATE
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Deeper treatment of this issue, and specifically the Justin Ellsworth case, continues apace. Here’s one piece in IP Law & Business (the article is not available on line for free yet) by Mark D. Rasch, formerly headed the Department’s efforts to investigate and prosecute computer and high-technology crime. He recommends the creation of an ‘”Internet Living Will” designating who can have access to your electronic assets in the event of death or incapacitation, and the scope of their authority to act on your behalf.”
Also, Jonathan Bick, a lawyer in New Jersey who’s an adjunct professor at Rutgers and Pace law schools, writes in the New Jersey Law Journal, available at Law.com (registration required here, too) that there’s an analytical article by . He agrees with the argument of my interlocutor Paul Gowder in the comments to my original post (above) that this stuff ought not to stay private: “[D]efending nondisclosure of information after a person has passed away on the basis of privacy would present significant legal difficulties. A typical result was found by the district court in New Era Publications Int’l v. Henry Holt & Co., 695 F. Supp. 1493 (S.D.N.Y. 1988), aff’d, 873 F.2d 576 (2d Cir. 1989), when it dismissed a privacy argument by noting that the author of the copyrighted work was dead, thus eliminating his privacy interests. This would also be the likely outcome should a privacy argument be present in the Yahoo! matter.”
I think it’s the wrong decision. Expectations, expectations, expectations!