How Your Digital Movies Are Handled After Death

(Hint: Always Read the Fine Print in the User Agreement)

Many people in the digital era have a library of digital assets, such as books, music, and movies. When it comes to digital movies, “ownership” isn’t as straightforward as it appears. What happens to your digital movies varies depending on the service provider.

Apple Store Purchased Films

Apple does not handle streaming downloaded material, but it does hold the consumer responsible for downloaded content. You’ll discover verbiage in your iTunes digital product agreement that encourages you to download material to make it more tactile if you read the tiny print.

It is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage Content once downloaded. We encourage you to back up your Content regularly. . . . You may be limited in the amount of Content you may download, and some downloaded Content may expire after a given amount of time after downloaded or first played. Certain Content may not be available for download at all.

Other Providers of Digital Movies

Vudu by Fandango: The content on Vudu may be “watched again on a streaming basis,” according to the company. These rules don’t say what to happen if someone dies, but the language about transfers implies that you won’t be able to pass your account privileges on to loved ones after you pass away.

 Disney+: Disney+ is another popular provider in the digital movies space. The agreement specifies that it is a license, not a sale or assignment of interest, according to Disney’s rules. “The purchase does not constitute an ownership interest” in the material, to put it another way. This seems paradoxical, yet it happens frequently.

Movies Anywhere: You are allowed to download eligible movies to a maximum of eight devices as long as they are allowed by the providers. But the terms of use also state that you are receiving a license to use the product without actual transfer of ownership rights. That is, you receive a limited, personal use, non-transferable, non-assignable, revocable, non-exclusive and non-sublicensable right to do the following:

  1. stream or download and install the movies, trailers, bonus materials, images, artwork and other copyrightable materials (the “Content”) that are available to you from the Movies Anywhere Service; and
  2. use the Movies Anywhere Service.


The term “buying” does not mean what it used to mean when it comes to digital movies. You can transfer your interest in the tangible devices, and most services do not have language mandating that you erase the downloaded content from the device. Contact an attorney who can help you properly identify and protect what you “buy”.

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