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Bruce Willis Considering Legal Action Against Apple Over iTunes Collection 570

First time accepted submitter oobayly writes "It appears that Bruce 'Die Hard' Willis isn't too impressed that he can't include his iTunes collection in his estate when he dies. According to the article: 'Bruce Willis, the Hollywood actor, is said to be considering legal action against Apple so he can leave his iTunes music collection to his three daughters.' Such a high profile individual complaining about the ability to own your digital music can only be a good thing, right?"
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Bruce Willis Considering Legal Action Against Apple Over iTunes Collection

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  • by harryfeet ( 2721737 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:42PM (#41214065)
    I'm quite sure Steve Jobs would have given everyone as much access to their own content as they wanted, but that it is actually the record labels and/or RIAA demanding these rules.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      lol yea sure he would have, the same douche that would flip bits in an os installer so you had to buy a new computer if you wanted to run the newest SUB VERSION of the same os you already had would have let you keep your i-tunes collection and forgo all those extra sales.

      • by isorox ( 205688 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:00PM (#41217677) Homepage Journal

        lol yea sure he would have, the same douche that would flip bits in an os installer so you had to buy a new computer if you wanted to run the newest SUB VERSION of the same os you already had would have let you keep your i-tunes collection and forgo all those extra sales.

        It's your own fault for not moving to git.

    • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:01PM (#41214253) Journal

      I'm quite sure that the thought didn't even enter Steve's head. It was never his problem. He was in the business of selling appliances. Content was the hook to sell hardware. It's not that complicated.

      That his customers were short-sighted enough not to consider that DRM-protected content is non-transferable, was a bonus.

      Contrary to customer reports, Steve was not a saint. He was a businessman.

      • by siride ( 974284 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:08PM (#41214345)

        I don't see how taking advantage of other people's stupidity doesn't still make you an asshole.

        • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:16PM (#41214441) Journal

          I don't see how taking advantage of other people's stupidity doesn't still make you an asshole.

          It's one of the primary definitions of "asshole".

          But what's really unique and forward-thinking is doing it in such a way that people build shrines to you.

        • by tqk ( 413719 )

          I don't see how taking advantage of other people's stupidity doesn't still make you an asshole.

          That's a bit harsh IMHO. He harvested low hanging fruit maybe, but his customers weren't complaining about the fleecing they got. They appear to enjoy the experience. Some people think a nicer trackpad or rounded corners are worth an extra grand in price. That's their problem. Steve was happy to indulge their jones. That doesn't make him an asshole. It makes him an astute businessman who recognized a market he could sell to/exploit. I wouldn't go there, but a lot of people will. That's no reason to

          • by siride ( 974284 )

            Paying extra for fancy hardware with a fancy name attached to it is one thing. But we aren't talking about that. We're talking about selling people music that's DRM-protected and non-transferable. Sure, maybe they should have done their research. But there's also the idea that you shouldn't sell ethically questionable or ethically wrong products, even if the customer is stupid enough to buy it. And the fact that you are willing to take advantage of stupidity or ignorance still makes you an asshole. That it

      • by wzinc ( 612701 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:41PM (#41214659) []

        Also, iTunes has been DRM-free since 2009.
      • by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:58PM (#41214793)

        I'm quite sure that the thought didn't even enter Steve's head. It was never his problem.

        No, and Steve doubtless realized that it was not actually a problem for his customers, either. If Bruce Willis wants to leave his music collection to his daughters, all he actually has to do is copy it onto a hard disk and hand it to them. Apple is not going to go after them, and even if they were unwise enough to brag about it in public, there's not a whole lot that the RIAA could do to them either. This is not a matter of putting songs on Bittorrent, where the music industry's lawyers could argue that they are liable for lost sales if everybody who bittorrented those songs were to buy the album instead. At most, Bruce Willis's estate would be liable for the actual cost of the songs--hardly even worth the trouble and expense of a lawsuit, not to mention the bad publicity. For that matter, if Willis's daughters had chosen to maintain his Apple ID after his death, it's unlikely that Apple would have objected.

        Bruce Willis has decided to fight for the right to will his music collection to his kids openly and legally, rather than doing it under the table. This is a principled stand, and it might ultimately lead to a more rational status of electronic property. Good for him! But in practice, it doesn't really affect your ability to pass your music onto your kids after you die--or before, for that matter.

    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:03PM (#41214305) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, St. Steve would never do anything bad.

    • I'm quite sure Steve Jobs would have given everyone as much access to their own content

      I think Apple does give people access to their "own content" as much as they want. If you write a song and record it in garage band, you're pretty much free to do whatever you want with it. The problem here is that Willis has purchased songs digitally (probably a lot of them) and now in his mind this is equivalent to him buying vinyl records and compact discs. The problem now is that this license for listening to music was sold to him and the enforcement of this license is quite unfavorable to the consumer -- there is no second sale, there is no inheritance, there is no transferability period.

      as they wanted, but that it is actually the record labels and/or RIAA demanding these rules.

      You are more than correct but what you fail to understand is that the RIAA did not do business with Willis. The RIAA did business with Apple and Apple did business with Willis. Willis is going after the correct party here because something was sold to him and he had misunderstood the agreement that he signed -- the same one everyone has to "sign" every time the iTunes software is even updated. I've bitched about this so many times on Slashdot [] but I think that Willis is going to lose when it comes to down to the ToS. Although, I do not remove the blame entirely from Apple because their sales technique and the public understanding of their 'product' is largely misguided if not lying. The public thinks they are purchasing the same thing they did when they bought a CD but now it's digital, it's smaller, compact, more elegant, etc. But that's not true, you're missing a whole bunch of rights that came with buying a CD including the ability to pass a single copy of the CD on to your daughter or liquidate it in the estate sale. At anytime Apple can revoke your right to listen to this CD and I still buy physical copies of music for many reasons -- this being one of them.

      I'm the sure the RIAA would have loved to dispatch a gestapo to your estate sale and destroy your vinyl and cassettes when someone died but they didn't. And that meant that these things retained value. Now that they're on the "iCloud" or whatever, they can do that without looking like Nazis so they definitely will and Apple won't have any say in the matter. Don't give Apple a free pass though, they're laughing all the way to the bank as you sign a ToS explaining how your rights are diminutive compared to physical media yet you spend like you're buying a physical entity.

      Buy physical media, extract it to your computer and then shelve it. Otherwise you need to understand that what you're "buying" from Apple or Amazon or whomever is non-transferable and at the very least temporary in that you are mortal.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#41214399)

        is non-transferable and at the very least temporary in that you are mortal.

        Can a corporation purchase these licenses, and can the corporation be transfered to other relatives?

        The DMCA allows non-mortal 'beings' to hold copyright and transfer it indefinately, why should corporeal beings be at a disadvantage when it comes to the same thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Apple is doing it wrong. On their homepage, at there's a link "Buy Music Now." It doesn't say "buy a personal license" or "license music", It says "buy"

      • I've bitched about this so many times on Slashdot but I think that Willis is going to lose when it comes to down to the ToS.

        Is it legal for the ToS to say that you can't have these rights? In the US the answer is probably yes. In the EU the answer may well be no. The issue of whether digital media is property in the traditional sense seems to still be in the air pretty much everywhere in the world, with much of it taking its lead from the USA. There are whole industries in the US based on it not being equivalent so that they can continue to sell the same users new licenses for the same content in different contexts, so it seems

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:07PM (#41214339) Homepage

      But as a consumer, you're not dealing with the RIAA directly. Your licensing agreement is with Apple, so I believe they're the people you would need to sue. If Apple is forced to change the terms of their licensing, then it falls back to them to negotiate terms with the record labels and deal with the fallout.

      Personally, I'd like to see an overhaul of copyright law to deal with the realities of digital content, instead of hacking through it piecemeal on a case-by-case basis. I guess that won't happen, though.

    • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:11PM (#41214381)

      I just had a debate with another slashdotter (bws111) about authors' rights. I said when an author like JRR Tolkien dies, his heirs should no longer get paid, because the kids are not the ones who did the work. Only the original laborer should receive money.

      The other slashdotter said the Author's kids should be paid. I wonder how he feels about iTunes songs? I suspect he wold be opposed to the idea that songs can be passed generation-to-generation because it would cut into his earnings. And also:

      Because I've found authors/artists often expect their work should continue receiving money for 110 years (almost six generations), but they want to terminate the customer's use of the work as soon as possible. Like ten if they could get away with it. It's an unfair and double standard.

      • by Sique ( 173459 )

        The problem with the concept of "stop payments to the estate as soon as the original author dies" is that it creates an incentive to cause an early death to authors to get their products for free. Thus the idea to either couple the term to the date of first publication or to extend the terms long enough after the death of the author to make it unprofitable to send out the killer squads.

      • by Morty ( 32057 )

        Both the rights and the content should be inheritable. The rights because they are part of the incentive for authors -- if the author dies young, the author wants his/her family to be provided for. The content because it's just like any other property from an inheritance and trasnferrence perspective, with the sole proviso that it cannot be *copied*.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:52PM (#41214735) Homepage

        Personally I've never understood why life should enter into at all, as a matter of principle. I mean, if an author wrote a book and owns the rights to it, why should those rights change in value just because he's hit by a car? Why does the cancer patient writing a book on his deathbed deserve less protection than the teenager with a hundred years left to live? Why should it matter if you form a corporation and let the corporation produce it instead of the person? You should just get a fixed number of years and that's it.

    • No, it's iTunes. When I buy music through means other than iTunes (CDs), some of those labels are RIAA members too, but they have done nothing to prevent me from transferring the CDs. Thus, it's an iTunes problem, not a publisher problem.

      It sounds like the mistake Willis made, is that he's licensing music instead of buying it. I have never licensed any music and never will. I'll switch to piracy if they ever stop selling. The good news is that even as late as 2012, music is still for sale. They aren'

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:44PM (#41214083)

    It's about sending a message.

    Good for him.

  • Soooo... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:47PM (#41214107)

    ... we have finally found a socially beneficial use for a cheesy action movie star. Now let's find one for bankers ...

  • DRM free (Score:5, Informative)

    by mkraft ( 200694 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:49PM (#41214129)

    iTunes music is DRM free. He doesn't need to sue to leave it to his daughters.

    • TV and movies (Score:5, Informative)

      by kenorland ( 2691677 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:52PM (#41214157)

      iTunes TV shows and movies, however, are locked up with DRM and can't be transferred.

    • Re:DRM free (Score:5, Insightful)

      by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#41214387)

      The files being DRM free, and the license being fully transferrable to anyone to do as they will with are entirely separate concepts. Linux is DRM free, that doesn't mean I can distribute a binary copy of it and refuse to give out the source.

    • Well first, there are some tracks that Apple never made DRM-free, but I suppose that's a minor issue. Also, while being DRM-free allows you more freedom on a practical level, leaving those tracks to your family members may still violate the license, and therefore be illegal. You might say, "who cares?" but maybe Mr. Willis wants to make a point, and has the money to do so.

      Personally, I feel like digital content occupies a very murky area of "property" that needs to be cleared up and fixed. I'll be glad

    • I'm guessing he's doing it on principle, as he doesn't want his daughters to formally be criminals. If I was rich I would also use my money to help fight for principles, and I don't think that's a bad thing, I'm not sure why you think that's a bad thing. When someone fights for principles you attack them? That's low man.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Yes he does. DRM-free just means you can make copies. It doesn't mean you can transfer ownership. Yes, Scout, Rumer, and Tallulah (!) can go to Dad's computer and copy his iTunes files, but those copies would be illegal and grounds for prosecution.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:50PM (#41214139) Homepage

    Bullshit. He owns the copies on his 'pod and can transfer it to whoever the hell he wants. What he does not own is the right to create more copies. That is what he needs a license for and that is what copyright is about.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:19PM (#41214469) Homepage Journal

      Copyright isn't the issue per se here. The restriction on copying here is a legal hack used to induce customers into buying a package of rights, which constitute a lot of the convenience of digital formats (no more carrying boxes of tapes car). What is at stake is passing on that package of rights, not the copy.

      True, he could buy an iPod for each of his daughters, put his entire music collection on each iPod and leave it to them that way. He could even burn audio CDs and do it that way. But they wouldn't have the *rights* package he paid for. They could not legally transfer those copies to their own iPhones, a right *he* enjoys. They're back to carrying, not a box of tapes but a box of devices.

      This really is a fascinating question, because no matter what is decided, one side comes out with more and the other less, than what they'd have got under the traditional analog scenarios. When music was on vinyl, giving that record to another person in effect transferred the rights to listen to the music, but the utility of that right degraded with the physical copy.every time the record was played. Thus you might well have inherited a copy of the Beatles *White Album* from your parents, but if you want to listen to the music regularly there's a good chance you've bought a digital copy. The physical album probably stays on the shelf and comes down only for special occasions.

      If iTunes rights cannot be inherited, Mr Willis can't leave his offspring something he has paid for and enjoys. If they *can* he leaves them perpetual utility and the next generation sale won't be made. Of course maybe that's a good thing, given perpetual copyright extension.

    • Unfortunately, that is not how it works. You don't own the copies of the music on your iPod. You own a personal use license that lets you download copies of purchased music to your iPod. You can have up to 10 devices concurrently associated with your iTunes account and download copies of your purchased content to those devices. That's why if your iPod gets smashed you can download your music again. []

      That is not at all like owning a copy, like a CD.
  • by EGSonikku ( 519478 ) <petersen,mobile&gmail,com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:54PM (#41214179)

    ITunes music has been DRM free since 2009. []

    So he can't be bothered to just copy his music out of iTunes and do whatever he wants with it?

    This sounds more like he wants to leave his iTunes *account* to his estate. It also sounds like he didn't read the iTunes Terms of Service before he agreed to it. Doesn't seem to me Apple is being the "bad guy" here, at least no more than 99.99% of every company out there, as an account you make is for YOU, I've never seen anyone else that allows you to transfer your account to someone else either.

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:03PM (#41214303) Journal

      Because a contract should supersede very ancient expectations that a library or catalog can be bequeathed to one's heirs. This is indeed a government of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers. Yes, Apple certainly is on firm legal ground, but if you consider its actions, and the actions of all the other 99.99% of companies, well, I'd say we're dealing a with a pack of society-destroying sociopaths, all protected by concepts meant to protect an individual's liberty, and not apply liberty based on the size of the bank account.

    • by pla ( 258480 )
      So he can't be bothered to just copy his music out of iTunes and do whatever he wants with it?

      What we can physically do, does not equal what we can legally do. You and I and 99% of Slashdot might not give two shakes of a rat's ass about what "they" will "let" us do, but you can't just leave blatantly illegal instructions in your will (and have them honored).

      Also, iTunes contains more than just music these days, and their video content most assuredly does still have DRM.

      More to the point, he probabl
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:57PM (#41214201) Journal

    Pragmatically, Bruce could afford to set a fund aside to re-purchase his library in one of his daughter's names, but I'm sure it's the principle of the thing, and in that respect he's right.

    The moral of the story, something I discovered years ago, is that generally it's the terminally lazy and shortsighted who buy their music from itunes. Buy the real CD, import it into itunes, and it's yours forever. You even have a handy backup in the Tupperware bin in the closet. And your kids can get your entire music collection on a DRM-free hard drive that itunes will play, or a collection of cds that they can rip if they feel like it.

    I understand, buying directly from itunes is often cheaper than buying a recent commercial CD. (With older music, of course, you can often buy the entire CD for the cost of a couple of tracks, but that's besides the point.) But one of the prices you pay for that discount is that the music is not yours. Oh, it might seem like it's yours, but try to give it away, and you find that it doesn't belong to you.

    • No, a CD is not equivalent to digital music. No one want to deal with CDs anymore.
      That is why you torrent.

      • I don't torrent music.

        Yes, it's easy and free and you can get more music than you could ever listen to in a relatively short time. But it's not worth it to me from a legal or moral standpoint.

        But admittedly, that's easy for me to say -- I don't feel the need to buy the latest highly marketed CD at retail price. Pop music in particular tends to have a very short shelf life. Wait a few months (sometimes a few *weeks*) until the early adopters overplay their purchases, the shine is off the bauble, and title

    • by Cinder6 ( 894572 )

      What if you only want one song off the album? That's when ITMS is a good option. Besides, it's DRM-free.

    • Pragmatically, Bruce could afford to set a fund aside to re-purchase his library in one of his daughter's names, but I'm sure it's the principle of the thing, and in that respect he's right.

      Yeah, it really doesn't make a lot of sense unless he's trying to make a point. Obviously he doesn't like the way digital licensing works, and he's willing to pay some lawyers in order to raise awareness of the issue.

  • by No Grand Plan ( 975972 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:58PM (#41214219)
    I refuse to believe even he would want to inflict 'The Return of Bruno' on someone anymore...
  • Anyone know what fine print he is talking about?
    It would be nice to see exactly what they do say.
    Also to those who are saying that the RIAA forces Apple to do this, what is the text of the contract that they force iTunes to abide by when using their music?

  • It's bizarre at first sight, but it does make sense to treat it differently than real property. Does he intend, for example, that each kid gets a copy? Copyright infringement, he got 3 for the price of 1. It would be "fair" if a single copy could be passed on, and I really hope that will be the law.

  • by pesho ( 843750 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:03PM (#41214295)
    I imagine his movies are distributed under the same restrictive license. Is he also trying to loosen up the cpyright restrictions on his creations?
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:24PM (#41214511) Homepage
      Sssh! On the off-chance that he manages to win the case over the licensing of digital music, then there would be a clear legal precedent for digitally distributed TV shows and movies too. While the movie business might lag behind the music industry in terms of digital distribution, it is slowly getting there and some of us would like to actually own, as opposed to "rent" or "license", our digital media. Unless Bruce has the world's largest music collection by a considerable margin, he must know that legal fees are going to cost him more than the collection is worth, meaning this is about the principle of the thing, and he's got the money to take it quite some way. I'm getting some popcorn in; this could be the best thing to come out of Hollywood for years.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Deep voiced Narrator: 'All he wanted, was for his daughters to know his song..'
        (cuts to bruce willis in a cab on a california road)
    BW:"Snow white aint bitin this apple" (He drives the cab at full speed off a ramp through an apple building, accompanied by obligatory explosions and guitar riffs)
    Narrator: "This summer....The fruit will fall from the tree..."

    The title Bad Fruit flashes acrosses the screen and the torrentverse goes wild in August.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:09PM (#41214357)

    Sure, there are ways around it, but that is not the point.

    If anything, it will make it clear that we don't own anything. That companies own everything we think belongs to us.

    I applaud him for making this public.

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:17PM (#41214461)

    The only reason Bruce Willis and not Chuck Norris is sueing is that Chuck Norris CAN keep his iTunes collection in the family heirloom.....

  • Couple of questions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fikx ( 704101 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:22PM (#41214489) Journal
    I wondered what he is trying to accomplish, end of the day if he left his collection to someone: Is he wanting to be able to transfer the collection from his account to his kids account? Does apple allow that ?
    If someone used the export or whatever to get it out of iTunes as DRM free files, can those be added to someone else's collection? what's the difference between an "official" iTunes file and an mp3 or such?
    Just curious, I've stayed away from iTunes for the most part myself....
  • by AdmV0rl0n ( 98366 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:35PM (#41214595) Homepage Journal

    Content producers have almost always fought this war, and they have fought it in a way that makes their customer the enemy. They fought tooth and nail against fair use (and still do, the fair usage battles rage on across the globe, and there are no defined standards in the area, with each country going through the legal battles at various miserable stages.)

    Apple is not alone. Depending on where you live, You may or may not be allowed to backup the content you 'lease'. I say lease because if you are not allowed to backup content, or rather, if you are not allowed to do what you wish with something you paid for, its not ownership - its more a lease or rental. If you live in the UK, you are not even legally allowed to buy CD's from Hong Kong - because its deemed that although you may have suffered from globalism, you are not allowed to benefit from it. Not so far as the media and content producer mafia is concerned.

    Again, depending on where you live, and on how successful these mafia have been in their defense of their ownership - You may not be allowed to copy the CD or DVD or Blue Ray of music or film, or computer game- that you paid for. In such cases, I know of some computer game vendors who do in fact offer to replace the 'defective' disk - and I suppose this is a limited offer. I don't suppose they will still offer that in 20 years time, at least for old games. Music and Film I am less aware of. Do they offer a lifetime replacement offering - or do they sell the goods knowing CD/ DVD will be a fading medium in due course. Buy a new copy might be their way out of the hole. Convenient for them, expensive for you. Compared to this, Apple's digital offering might have legs. Until you die, and then your lease is over.

    So, I'll cut to the chase. Bruce (and anyone else in the same boat) should digitise what they have paid for and forceably take their ownership of the item and end the problem. When you die, your digital collection goes to whoever you wish. Yes, this collection won't be cloud based and won't reside in the Apple garden, and you'll have to take responsibility for its maintainance - just as anything in life.

    *Please note. I'm not advocating piracy. I'm advocating you bequeth the one paid for copy to one person. Or similar. This may not be in line with Apple terms, or even legal terms in your territory. But if the terms or legalities are so stupid, then they deserve to be broken in any case.

    *Legal note* - Most UK MPs MP3 their music. These people are responsible for the law still stating in the UK that this is illegal.
    *Second legal note* - Nobody I am aware of in the UK has been arrested for converting one or multiple tracks they own into MP3 and illegally loading it onto an MP3 player.
    *3rd legal note* No record company has ever tried to enforce this in legal case, and they would be epically stupid to ever try.

  • by EGSonikku ( 519478 ) <petersen,mobile&gmail,com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @05:42PM (#41216523) []

    "Update: Like many of our peers, we also fell for this good old British tabloid rumor at first. We have updated the story now that Willis’ wife has denied that this story was true."

    Slashdot may want to retract, or update the story.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter