Bruce Willis is planning to sue iTunes developers, Apple.
No, it’s not the plot for the latest Die Hard blockbuster, but instead the Hollywood star will be playing himself in an upcoming courtroom saga.
In another case of truth being stranger than (pulp) fiction, News Ltd reports that Willis is considering legal action against technology giants Apple after realising that he won’t be able to bequeath his digital music collection to his daughters in his will.
Willis recently discovered that legally, he does not own the material he has paid for on Apple’s iTunes store in the traditional unspoken contract of a purchase, but instead that the material bought on iTunes is only ‘leased.’
The fine print of the terms and conditions that users typically skip over when they agree to buying music online, in fact makes clear that music purchased on iTunes is merely borrowed by the user and not to be shared or passed on to others.
Willis, who has reportedly built a sizeable music collection through thousands of dollars of purchases on to “many, many iPods” is keen to be able to pass on his vast collection to his daughters, Rumer, Scout and Tallulah (there’s a band name for you!) but the legal ramifications of the iTunes store means that he’d be technically breaking the law if he were to do so.
The notable silver screen hero has assembled a legal team to help tackle Apple and his unique problem, one approach is establishing his family trusts as the “holders” of his downloaded music, while another is enabling legal action in five US states to give downloaders more rights when it comes to digital downloads.
Of course, Apple is no small legal small-fry and could be the biggest, most powerful foe that Willis has faced – both on and off screen – yet.
They have the ability to freeze out iTunes accounts users if it believes their accounts are being misused, and already has several restrictive measures in place that relate to the transferring of mp3 files to iPods, as well as other media such as movies, podcasts and e-books to the likes of Amazon’s Kindle.
Willis’ dilemma is representative of the larger problems individuals can face as the sales and popularity of digital media continues to balloon, with the issues of digital ownership becoming an ever-murkier legal conundrum.
The 57-year-old Willis involvement in the music world, as part of his blues band Loose Goose and more recently as a member of The Accelerators, means that he’s more passionate and understanding than most movie A-listers when it comes to the rights of song ownership; and though it might read like a publicity stunt, Willis is serious about taking up his legal stoush.
The ramifications if he’s successful in his court battle will reach far beyond Willis and his three daughters, but to the millions of music lovers who use iTunes and download music online; leaving many to holler, “yippee ki-yay muthaf#%er!”
UPDATE: Apparently the story is false, with Willis’s wife on Twitter appearing to pour cold water on the news. But the question over digital ownership after-death remains, and it’s a discussion that will only become louder as time goes on.
@richied_ it’s not a true story
— Emma Heming-Willis (@EmmaHeming) September 3, 2012