Doctoral defence: Tiina Mikk “Criteria for the evaluation of inheritability and options for excluding inheritability in the context of digital inheritance based on the example of e-accounts”

On 28 January at 11:00 Tiina Mikk will defend her doctoral thesis “Criteria for the evaluation of inheritability and options for excluding inheritability in the context of digital inheritance based on the example of e-accounts”.

Supervisor:
Professor Karin Sein, University of Tartu

Opponents:
Professor Dr. Anja Amend-Traut, University of Würzburg (Germany)
Associate Professor Urmas Volens, University of Tartu

Summary
As we have moved more and more of our life onto the Internet, issues of digital inheritance have become all the more topical. This dissertation takes as its first main research question whether digital assets such as online accounts are inheritable. In practice, many providers of Internet-based services, all over the world, seem to be of the opinion that the answer is ‘no’. As a result, many of them seek to establish the termination of all rights upon the death of the contracting party, including the right to access the deceased person’s messages on social networks, in e-mails or in files stored in the cloud. The author concludes that Estonian law does not grant the respective service providers the right to deny heirs access to accounts and their content.

As its second main research question the dissertation focuses on analysing whether and on what conditions inheritability could be excluded by an agreement with the respective service provider. To this end, extensive research into standard terms is offered. The author concludes that inheritability can only be excluded with immediate effect by an individual agreement, but not in standard terms. The dissertation also suggests criteria for the evaluation of inheritability. As such, the conclusions of the dissertation are applicable to the evaluation of legal positions other than online accounts. The dissertation focuses on analysing the topic from the perspective of Estonia’s inheritance law and examines, inter alia, whether inheritability would be in conflict with the deceased person’s posthumous personal rights, data protection law and obligation of secrecy. Also, the potential infringement of the rights of the deceased person’s communication partners is discussed. As the subject has seen little discussion in Estonia, comparative law arguments drawn from consideration of German case law and legal literature are applied.

The defence will be held in Zoom: https://ut-ee.zoom.us/j/96037916788?pwd=bVJ1enp3RE1GNzJKMUZhVHR0VTBPdz09.
Meeting ID: 960 3791 6788, Passcode: 374859.

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