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Department of Information Systems, University of Melbourne

Dr Martin Gibbs, Dr Tamara Kohn, Dr Michael Arnold, Dr Bjorn Nansen, Dr Craig Bellamy

Grant round: 2012

Grant Amount: $51,492

Just as the internet has been integrated into everyday life, it is also increasingly entwined with the processes of dying, grieving and memorialising, presenting new challenges to consumers. Planning and managing online assets and profiles is a growing and increasingly urgent issue for internet users, yet there is little evidence about the implications of this issue for Australian communications consumers.

The team of Melbourne University researchers examined licencing policies, terms of use agreements and copyright law, and interviewed a range of people, including funeral directors, religious workers, internet content and service providers, as well as estate planning lawyers.

The project identified a range of ownership and access issues, and found that many online 'assets' are left exposed or stranded after death. The researchers concluded that more Australians should include digital registers in, or with, their wills and these should contain passwords and account locations so that material can then be distributed by the Executor or other designated person.

A website was also created as part of the project and provides useful tips and information on preparing a digital register. Visit it here: www.digitalheritage.net.au

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