What About Your e-Life When Your Life Ends?

A student pointed out this story to me: After death, a struggle for their digital memories

Stationed in a remote corner of Iraq, Marine Corps reservist Karl Linn’s only means of communicating with the outside world was through a computer. Several times a week, the 20-year-old combat engineer would log on and send out a batch of e-mails and update a Web site with pictures of his adventures.

For his parents in Midlothian, Va., the electronic updates were so precious that when he was killed last week in an enemy ambush, one of the first things they did was to contact the company that hosted their son’s account. They wanted to know how to access the data and preserve it.

But who owns the material is a source of intense debate.

[…] As computers continue to permeate our lives, what happens to digital bits of information when their owners pass away has become one of the vexing questions of the Internet age. Much of that information is stored in accounts on remote servers and has no physical manifestation that can be neatly transferred. There are no clear laws of inheritance, meaning that Internet providers must often decide for themselves what is right.

Many Internet firms have found themselves facing criticism no matter what they do. If they decline to release the information, they are labeled villains by people supporting the families. If they give it up, they are chastised for violating their own privacy statements.

Complicating such disputes is the very nature of e-mail, which many consider to be more personal and informal than regular letters; some even use it to correspond anonymously, to hide aspects of their lives that they may not want revealed to others.

Also from the Washington Post: After Death, a Struggle for Their Digital Remains [pdf]

The Network Effect Cuts Both Ways

This has been announced for some time, but I like this article’s take. Given that many would argue that Microsoft has turned a blind eye to much piracy in order to cement their market dominance, it’s going to be very interesting to see what will come of this change in support: It’s Windows vs. Windows as Microsoft battles piracy

In terms of numbers, the biggest rival to Windows sales is Windows itself–or rather pirated copies of the OS. And Microsoft is starting to put its foot down.

In its most serious bid yet to reap revenue from those who’ve been getting Windows without payment to Microsoft, the company plans to require computer owners to verify that their copy of Windows is properly licensed before allowing them to download software from Microsoft’s site. The initially voluntary, but soon-to-be mandatory, Windows Genuine Advantage program not only blocks optional add-ons, it also stops more critical downloads, such as security patches.

“They’ve let it go until now because PC growth has been so good,” said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft.

[…] Historically, Microsoft has trod carefully when it comes to crackdowns, particularly in emerging markets. Though clearly eyeing growth, the company has not wanted to push too hard in countries where piracy is rampant, and thereby force customers toward Linux. Also, some say that by threatening to withhold security updates, Microsoft is making the entire Internet less secure, harming legitimate customers as well.

Despite these risks, though, the potential increase in sales seems hard to ignore.

Competition in Music eTailing

Napster’s ‘rental’ music service takes on iTunes

The company said its Napster To Go service would go live Thursday, charging $14.95 for the ability to download an unlimited number of songs and take them onto compatible MP3 players. The songs would be playable only as long as a subscriber keeps paying for the service.

The company will kick off a $30 million marketing campaign for the service with a Super Bowl advertisement running this Sunday, aimed at contrasting the new offer with Apple Computer’s iTunes store, a spokeswoman said.

Napster’s new service, which has been operating in a limited “preview” format for several months, is the first major iTunes rival to take advantage of copy-protection software from Microsoft that expands the flexibility of music subscription services.

Related: MP3.com founder returns to music biz