This one comes from the great state of Virginia. Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill to permit parental access to a deceased child’s digital accounts. The bill defines digital accounts as “blogging, e-mail, multimedia, personal, social networking, and other online accounts..” The bill mirrors legislation other jurisdictions are considering, which are designed to grant survivors the benefits of a decedent’s social media estate. The Virginia Law, however, differs in that it is limited to minor decedents, most of whose estates may not have the financial value of adults who have cultivated a profitable empire through blogging, twitter or the like. Though not expressely stated, one can assume that Virgnia lawmakers, in adopting the law, are hoping to provide parents with information of value concerning instances of “cyber-bullying” or unintended consequence of social interaction. Minors can circumvent the measure through through language in a will or other trust instrument.
Of particular note is the drafting of the bill, which leaves room for future, anticipated or perhaps even unforeseeable expansion of social media, by including in its definition of digital accounts, “other on-line accounts or comparable items as technology develops.” The language provides lawmakers with a future-catchall and will potentially guard against the all to common problem of laws playing catch-up with rapid technological advances. One has to wonder, however, if such broad language could survive a “void for vagueness” challenge.