What happens when you die?
No matter what anyone may assert, we don't really know what exists beyond this corporal mortal coil. Some angelic (or overheated sulfuric) afterlife, a ghostly post-existence haunting our former haunts, reincarnation as some animal or famous person, probably the big sleep of nothingness.
We do know a bit more about what of our physical possessions we can pass on once we, uh, pass on, such as our record or CD collection.
But once you pass away, your iTunes digital music tracks cannot be passed on to another iTunes account holder.
I and many folks think there's something fundamentally wrong about this, including Bruce Willis, that has induced in me and likely many others a wave of iTunes buyer's remorse.
Bruce Willis and I have a shared history he likely has no memory of.
In the mid-1980s, I dated his former Montclair State college girlfriend. At around the same time, he tended bar alongside a stand-up comic buddy of mine at a now defunct Hell's Kitchen joint called Robert's.
I was in Robert's one Saturday afternoon in the winter of 1984 enjoying a hearty bowl of turkey soup when Willis strode in, clad in a tight white t-shirt, MC Hammer-memorial camouflage parachute pants and a full head of hair. A few weeks earlier, I had seen him perform as Lee in Sam Shepard's play True West in a 42d Street theater, then sat next to him at a post-performance dinner, soberly and intensely discussing religion and politics while those around us reveled.
When he came into Robert's and sat one stool away me at the bar, he told me he had just returned from an audition in L.A. for a TV detective show pilot starring Cybil Shepherd. I noted she was then starring in the nighttime soap The Yellow Rose, but Willis told me that series was ending. Did he get the part? He didn't know and, with a typical struggling actor's fatalistic bravado, shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't care even though I knew he was bursting inside.
Of course, he got the gig in what turned out to be Moonlighting, which launched his career.
Anyway, I never met Willis again, although my standup comic friend would tell me when he saw him.
I Read The News Today, Oh Boy
I relate all of this because I saw Willis' name in the news in reports having nothing to do with acting, marital, off-spring issues or politics.
Earlier this month, rumors were floating around that Willis was considering a law suit vs. Apple (imagine that) over his iTunes music collection. The story was, he wanted to be able to bequeath his extensive digital music collection to his daughters instead of it disappearing into the ether once his Apple account died with him.
While the suing rumor wasn't true, both ideas — bequeathing your iTunes collection to your heirs and suing over not being able to — seem reasonable to me.
But not because I plan on dying any time soon.
My own solution to the whole bequeathing issue is not to have separate iTunes accounts for my family to begin with.
Since you're allowed to access your iTunes account on up to five devices, my wife have a single iTunes account. When she syncs her iPhone to iTunes, she simply syncs her own personal playlist with tracks and apps and contact groups she wants/needs, and I do the same. If/when I die, she'll still have complete access to all the tracks we've jointly bought over the years.
But that solves only one problem, leaving a larger one: freedom of choice. Maybe, just maybe, I might want to someday listen to my purchased digital music on a portable device made by someone other than Apple.
Stuck Inside Of Mobile (With The iTunes Blues Again)
With each new Windows Phone 8 phone I play with, the more fascinated I am with Microsoft's OS approach. I find myself increasingly attracted to the whole Windows Phone 8 active tile gestalt along with the larger screens and colorful aesthetic approach taken by both the pending Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X Windows Phone 8 phones.
I'm not saying I would switch from my iPhone 5 to a Windows Phone 8 phone, but that my choice has been removed — exactly what Apple intended. They and the record companies knew I'd have too much invested in my iTunes music collection to abandon it, much less start all over by re-buying all my tracks to play on a Windows Phone 8 phone or once again attempt to solve Spotify.
I understand that I willfully entered into Apple's restrictive arrangement (which was even more restrictive when I initially agreed to it — Sonos still won't play pre-FairPlay iTunes tracks), and why this restriction exists to begin with (expertly explained by ComputerWorld's Apple Holic Jonny Evans).
But I don't care why these digital music restrictions exists or what terms of agreements I agreed to.
I know enough about the law to know an illegal contract cannot be enforced. Telling me I bought something but don't own what I bought to do with as I please or bequeath it to whom I please can't be legal. And if it is legal, it can't be right. In the great tradition of Stephen Colbert "truthiness," it just feels wrong and anti-trade and un-American.
And I would have loved to see my old pal Willis fight this fight, whether he remembers me or not. Yippy-ki-yay, MF, indeed.