You don't own your iTunes library - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

You don't own your iTunes library

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

A recent headline that actor Bruce Willis was ready to sue Apple over who got his digital music collection when he dies was an attention grabber that sparked quite a debate.

While Willis' wife tweeted he's not suing anybody over his iTunes library, it was enough to prime a conversation over who owns what when it comes to digital commerce.

Music downloads have become the primary way people add to their music collections, as digital libraries have replaced vinyl and CDs.

With illegal file-sharing largely curbed, the business can be an incredible money-maker.  iTunes moves 12 million downloads a day and more than 15 billion since its launch in 2003.

But even if Willis tried to argue he owned his digital music collection and could give it to whomever he chose, it might not be much of a battle.

University of Houston law professor Jacqueline Lipton says possessing the music is not the same as owning it.

"We've always had a law of sales and a law of licensing. It's just that the technology has changed the market models," Lipton said.  "In the past, you would go to a record store and buy a physical recording. You don't buy a physical recording, anymore. You license a digital copy."

While iTunes removed safeguards to prevent copying music, a few years ago, the law's pretty plain: When you die, your right to the music dies with it. Your heirs will have to start over.

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