As technology becomes more entwined with modern relationships, the issues surrounding ownership of digital assets and intellectual property is on the rise. The misuse of smart technology is challenging the legal landscape with never before seen issues.

Changing relationships can create turmoil and confusion about digital asset ownership for spouses, parents, and children, even when the occasion is joyous. Social media, intellectual property ownership, and smart home technology are all factors in today’s changing landscape which have caused an increase in digital content clauses in family law. Canadian Family Law continues to evolve on the issue of asset division during separations and divorces, which can apply to digital ownership.

A digital agreement can address who will take ownership of existing accounts and help couples plan for separation of shared assets such as films, songs, photos, software, and apps should a breakup occur. Addressing digital assets is not always straightforward, but a digital or social media clause can provide for a financial remedy if elements of the agreement aren’t upheld.

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Social Media

Social media clauses can lay out an agreement for sharing details about your spouse or children and determine the rules for treating one another with respect online. Adding a penalty for noncompliance to your prenuptial and separation agreements can prepare you for the impact of slanderous or compromising posts.

The experts at McQuarrie Law suggest researching and creating formal agreements to protect sensitive information from being exposed before, during, or after marriage or domestic partnership. Thoroughly review adoption paperwork for clauses that might prohibit the use of social media to track biological relationships, or ones that limits posts about individuals.

Intellectual Property

Separating ownership of digital records like the contents of a cloud account, email, browsing history or texts is complex. One partner could have bargaining power in a divorce or custody proceeding by devaluing or deleting notes, research, or inventions of another party. Theft of a book or screenplay could be catastrophic on earnings potential. Future adoption agreements may contain clauses to govern DNA and facial recognition technology.
Maintaining control of private information is paramount to those whose earnings are tied to intellectual property. Establishing agreements for sharing passwords, accounts, and access should be handled by a compassionate family lawyer who understands the complexity such arrangements require.

Smart Homes

Smart home technology can be misused by the party responsible for setting up Internet-connected devices. Door locks, speakers, thermostats, lights, and cameras can potentially be used by opposing parties to threaten or harass.
Separation agreements need to cover the use of smartphones, cameras, and GPS tracking to protect all family members when relationships change. Defining account ownership, managing passwords, and controlling remote access of devices should all be laid out with the advice of a family lawyer.

Standard Preparation

Establishing a written agreement with your partner about digital assets should be a standard part of divorce, child custody, adoption and other family law matters. Many digital and social media clauses outline acceptable behavior, safeguard intellectual property, and build in financial penalties for noncompliance. Having these agreements in place will help enforce conduct during distressing times.


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