The story about Bruce Willis suing over his iTunes library turned out to be a total crock. But it did get people reviewing end user license agreements (EULAs) and discovering that, holy crap, under the law you totally don’t own the music you paid for. You can’t even legally pass on your music to your family if you die! What the hell, man?
One problem. Let’s say Apple has a corps of lawyers who enjoy being total douchebags, or Steve Jobs’ crack jerk squad, whatever. The iTunes EULA is their Bible — the document that must be defended at all costs. They will make sure that you never share your music collection illegally.
One small problem: They’re going to do this… how, exactly?
Here’s the problem: Apple, Amazon, Google, et. al. can prattle on about licenses and legalities and EULAs all they want, but it rubs up against a problem in the sense that they either have nor want any sort of mechanism to find out when you’ve bought the farm, and even if they did, they can’t legally access your hard drive anyway. Doing so is a fairly direct violation of federal anti-hacking laws.
That’s really the problem with EULAs: They have absolutely no basis whatsoever in anything resembling reality. They’re the legal equivalent of a huge corporation making lawyer noises and kinda sorta hoping you don’t realize that on a customer-by-customer basis they have no hope of enforcing this crap. The last time a company tried this seriously, Sony tried to get people to delete CD rips if they filed for bankruptcy.
Or, for that matter, they have better things to do. Let’s say for a moment there IS some method to determine that the John Q. Doe tied to this credit card in iTunes is the same guy who got drowned in liquid nitrogen in a tragic frozen banana stand accident. First they’ve got to get the legal machine fired up. Next they’ve got to serve a warning. Then they’ve got to actually pay enough attention to enforce it without crossing any legal lines. And if somehow dear old John’s music collection was copied, they’ve got to take you to court to prove it.
So, take EULAs seriously, because they are legal contracts. And the above scenario opens the door to grave abuse, absolutely. But at the same time, it’s difficult to see companies of this size enforcing something that’s literally a waste of time and money.