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NSW commissions review of laws governing access to digital assets after a person dies or is incapacitated

The New South Wales government has commissioned a review of laws that govern what happens to an individual’s digital assets — such as their social media accounts, cryptocurrency or similar ‘virtual’ possessions — after they die or become incapacitated.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said that retired Federal Court judge Dr Annabelle Bennett would conduct the review.

“As a specialist in intellectual property law, she’s the ideal person to take the lead on exploring whether NSW needs new laws to regulate what happens to digital assets after we’re gone or can’t make important decisions for ourselves,” Speakman said in a statement.

Bennett has been appointed a part-time Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission (LRC)

“Many of our current laws were developed long before the advent of email, social media and cryptocurrency, which adds a level of complexity that needs to be untangled for family, friends and lawyers trying to untangle digital asset ownership issues,” the NSW attorney-general said.

“Dr Bennett will consider whether we need new legislation to deal with this 21st century problem.”

The review will scrutinise state, Commonwealth and international laws and also encompass the policies and terms of service agreements of social media companies and other digital service providers, the NSW government said.

“There’s no uniformity in the way social networking sites are addressing this issue. Some allow for an account to be memorialised or handed over to an administrator, while others will close the account,” Speakman said.

The review will also examine whether the additional privacy protections are needed when an individual hasn’t made arrangements for someone to take control of their social media or email accounts.

The government said that an options paper seeking stakeholder submissions will be released later this month.

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Tags social mediasocial networkssocial networkingNSW GovernmentNew South Wales (NSW)

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