Estate executors or administrators in Oklahama have the power to access, administer or terminate the online social media accounts of the deceased, according to a new state law.
According to former state Rep. Ryan Kiesel (D-Seminole), who had co-authored House Bill 2800 before he left office, the law would remind the people of Oklahoma as they go about their estate planning that, in addition to their personal and real property, they should make plans for the vast amount of intellectual property we leave behind.
The number of people who use Facebook today is almost equal to the population of the United States. When a person dies, someone needs to have legal access to their accounts to wrap up any unfinished business, close out the account if necessary or carry out specific instructions the deceased left in their will, Kiesel said.
Digital photo albums and e-mails are increasingly replacing their physical counterparts, and I encourage Oklahomans to think carefully about what they want to happen to these items when they pass away, he said.
The bill, which became a state law on Nov. 1, assumes a Facebook page or other social network account is the property of the person who creates and uses it. However, most websites claim the information as their own in service agreements when users sign up.
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Kiesel has acknowledged the law may conflict with service agreements, but said the law is intended to get people thinking seriously about what they leave behind on Facebook and other websites.
We're not just leaving a couple of shoeboxes full of mementos behind, Kiesel said. We're leaving behind potentially thousands of photographs and all kinds of aspects of our lives online.
The law is the first of its kind in the U.S.