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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Mar 13, 2013

An Oregon mother who has been battling Facebook over the rights to her deceased son’s account has been calling on legislators to change outdated laws that would prevent others from losing photos, messages and memories from a loved one.

The Oregon legislature has recently taken up Karen Williams’ cause, whose son died in a 2005 motorcycle accident, by drafting a proposal that would make it easier for loved ones to gain access to a deceased family members “digital assets”. The legal issue stems from a 1986 federal law as well as voluntary terms of service agreements that prevent companies from sharing a person’s private information- even if such a request was stipulated in a last will and testament.

Lobbyist for the digital communications industry agree that the 1984 law is out dated but any changes to state law might be deemed unconstitutional by the federal government.  Oregon however, has dismissed these fears and gone ahead with a law that will treat digital assets, such as photos and digital messages stored online, the same as material property for estate purposes.

This may seem like a win for those seeking to obtain such digital assets but the language of the bill does not take into account a company’s privacy policies which trump anything that the bill includes.

The issue is much denser than what can be seen on the surface. Legislators fear that any laws that will allow social networking sites to disseminate any private information about their clients will open the flood gates for companies to start exploiting users. It is a slippery slope and the reason why there are such contentious debates in Washington and online alike about bills like CISPA and PIPA which made their way to the floor of the senate last year.