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What will happen to your virtual property after your life time?

By Nishant Ahlawat

Lately a lot of my clients have raised queries about getting legitimate access to virtual accounts and e- properties of their deceased loved ones. Analyzing these queries I intend to explain the complexity and solution to simplify legal and practical issues so emanating out in form of a virtual property will.
In today’s world use, of computers, storage devices and software(s) is no more an option or utility but a necessity. While this virtual reality opens gateway to new form of user experience(s), gaming, data depositions, creative, social interactions and revenue generation models it also calls for an interpretation of existing laws from a new spectrum.
Virtual Property
Have you ever thought why you are able to access large number of virtual/ internet services for no cost at all?  The answer lies in their usage by large number of users including you. Knowingly- Unknowingly not only you contribute to increased valuation of these e-commerce models, but also participate in enhancing and supplying your data and trends to these services. With increased traffic these services earn revenues from various options like sharing trends and data created by users, selling ads on these platform etc. The current trends of virtual development is aggressive to the extent that warrants legislative or judicial attention. Dynamic architecture of these virtual structures, evolved by  developers of virtual worlds, are revealing new legal issues, particularly dealing with an individual’s actual, real world rights to virtual property. Confusion exists partly because individuals are pumping actual money in and out of these virtual worlds and alternatively because their rights are governed by contractual agreements.
Virtual assets created by users
In day today uses of virtual world and services, individuals depend and explore various services like emails, social networking, clouds, audio- video sites, e-wallets, virtual vaults, and virtual world games. Not only personal data is created and stored in virtual accounts, but invaluable intellectual property rights are created in form of creation and enhancements of   literary, source code, design, artistic and other such contents.

Their Value
While these assets may or may not have commercial value in market, they might be of very high emotional, social, relative values to individuals or communities.
Why a virtual property will?
A blog, website, parked domain names, mobile application, or an e-commerce venture etc run by an individual may be generating revenues. Besides being of high emotional value, data stored on storage devices or in virtual accounts like scanned copy of property related documents, photographs stored in virtual albums, audio-video files, and chat conversations may be of very high evidentiary value.
Assets purchased in online games and structures that have current or future potentials of being sold at a higher value, virtual currency convertible into real money, accounts like paypal etc.all have a monetary characteristics attached to them.
An individual in his lifetime ends up creating lot of valuable data by using computing and virtual devices. While this data is more personalized than physical world data, in the event of death of an individual the fate of this data /virtual property stands in doubt based on silence of legal trends in our country.
As is a known fact a lot of this data is governed by terms of services of these service provider agreed by individuals. While many of these service providers feeling the need of after death policies, have defined policies to cater to the need of such rights being transferred to next of kin/ legal heirs.
Now the most important question here is that, as per the laws of land, virtual properties created by an individual/user being of self-acquired nature, issue of its disposal after the death of an individual in absence of his will becomes a complicated one.
An individual might not want to grant his wife or children access to his very personal chat or other media files even after his death. There might be some data that one do not wish to share with anyone or otherwise share specifically to particular individuals.
Even to define legal heir /next of kin for the purpose of compliance of after death policies of various data service providers or to establish a case to such service providers in absence of such policies, a will declaring disposal, dissemination of virtual properties become of very high relevance.
Thus it is recommended that every individual in his/ her lifetime must get an e-will created irrespective of being of young or old age. My next write up shall detail about essential ingredients and structure of an e-will.

For any suggestions, queries and inputs you may contact me on  +91-9711870085


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