Renters’ Insurance And Digital Music: What’s Covered?

Dec 13th, 2006 // 12 Comments

A blogger who seems to spend as much time thinking about nature’s fury as we do wonders:

Let’s just say (hypothetically speaking) that I bought all my songs from iTunes at 99¢ a pop. Let’s just say. So what if both my laptop and my iPod are destroyed in a horrible, cataclysmic…hurricane? Given that digital music is supposed to be actual property (that can actually be stolen, etc) does renter’s insurance cover the $10,000 in lost songs?

We spent a little bit of time poking around insurance companies’ Web sites, and we couldn’t figure out the answer, either (this post from 1993 suggests that adding a rider for computer equipment to a renters’ insurance policy might do the trick to some extent). Anyone out there have experience with insuring their digital music collection, and if so, how’d you do it? We’d hate to lose our extensive collection of drunk-one-night purchases to some global warming-induced cataclysm.

DRM and Renter’s Insurance [confectious]

  1. ikarl67

    I had a house fire in 2005 and lost a hard drive ( and the backup ) of 500 iTunes songs.
    Without getting into too much of how the claim process works, you basically have to account for purchase > $100 and < 1 year old. Since the iTunes were not traditional software, it gave the State Farm folks some grief, however, Apple DOES retain your purchase history and that helped considerably.
    Long story longer:
    I was not able to completely recoup my iTunes losses, however my policy DID cover lost CDs ( which I replaced with via iTunes ).
    Bottom line; make two backups and keep one off-site!

  2. Janelleyo

    State Farm is awful when it comes to replacing anything in any sort of loss, industry-speaking. My father is an independent underwriter who handles mostly homeowners & auto that he’s had for 20 years (he doesn’t write new policies), but he’s extremely tech savvy and so I’ve posed him this question to see what he comes back with from the majors. Knowing him, he’ll call Allstate, Progressive, Liberty Mutual, etc just to find out each of their policies and then demand they update them. Because that’s what semi-retirement does to a person.

  3. Miss Harvill

    I had a much stupider experience– but with the same moral to the story. My laptop’s hard drive bit the dust in a bike accident and I realized I had lost forever any iTunes track that hadnt made it onto my iPod or burned onto a CD. Mainly that meant losing the late night (drunk) impulse purchases of Ashlee Simpson and Hawthorn Heights tracks. On the other hand, I wasn’t too broken up to lose those after all.

  4. Panhandler

    This subject is ripe for ivory-tower pondering, huh?

    What’s the “replacement value” of a digital copy? It’s not that Aboriginal mask you bought to put your weed in; Big Corp. Ins. Co. doesn’t have to pay for someone go whittle a new one. Be interesting to see relationships grow between digital providers like Apple’s ITMS and the claims departments of the BCICs. With Apple’s proof-of-purchase and the melted hard-drive to match, wouldn’t claims departments be willing to pay $10 here and there to replace lost data? And wouldn’t Apple be willing to take a $10-spot and replace all your tunes, if it was a legitimate loss?

  5. Eugene

    Allstate is just as bad as state farm as is Nationwide. I’ve had much better service from a smaller company (Erie) who didn’t even send an adjuster out because I was able to e-mail them pictures of the damage.

  6. Scott

    Thought I cannot say if they’re specifically covered, you have to specify up to what amount you wish to cover. If your physical assets are worth $15,000 and you have only $15,000 worth of coverage, you’re not going to get the $10,000 for the lost music/files even if they are covered. Some people lose sight of that, so it’s important to keep an inventory of all your belongings. All State provides a brochure that let’s you track your assets.


    Just spoke with my agent, only physical objects are covered. So CDs are covered, software is covere, obviously the iPod would be. But if you were to burn your 1000 songs to a CD, only the cost of the CD would be imbursed, not it’s “digital value” per se. So as mentioned, backup twice, keep one in a safe place offsite.

  7. j clicky clicky

    A propos of nothing, I think when you buy an EMusic song you are allowed to download it again in the event of such a disaster. I am sure their policy is more explicit about how many times and whatever, but I had a download vaporize on me midway through pulling it down a couple years back and when I emailed support they said just download it again and it doesn’t get charged to your tally.

  8. Fangbaby

    If the insurance companies don’t have to pay for digital music, why should we? They don’t consider it property that can be “stolen” or burned in a fire. The defense should call insurance executives to the stand at RIAA/P2P trials.

  9. Janelleyo

    Wow Fangbaby, that’s quite a “tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it” question. Libery Mutuals Claims (who btw, replaced all of my belongings that they could in 2 large boxes that was like Christmas Day times 12 and cut me a quick check for the rest within 2 weeks) let me know:

    Believe it would be covered subject to a $5k limit as described in the
    Amendatory Endorsement.

    We would probably want some type of proof that it was purchased, especially if a large amount. I’d imagine ITunes can provide this. At the same time, we’re curious if ITunes would let you download the same exact music previously purchased if you proved to them that you had a loss?

    Now, someone mentioned eMusic allows repurchasing, but does iTunes? And we’re talking proof with a police report for break in or Act of God proof from an insurance adjuster. I don’t know. Doesn’t seem to me like the business iTunes wants to get in, just as much as I can’t go to Best Buy and say, my copy of Kevin Federline’s stellar debut cd was stolen, please replace it.

    So who do we lobby? :)

    With my claim when my apartment was robbed, I only had to provide P.O.P for large ticket items, like my laptop. Everything else was on my word! So it seems silly that they’d let me turn in a list of 500 cds & dvds, a few digital cameras, et al, without proof I ever even had them, but yet they would give me grief over my late night Journey mp3 purchases.

  10. mreasy

    The problem is, how can you “prove to them that you had a loss”? Everyone’s advice to “make a backup and keep it offsite” is telling… because digital files are replicable in exactly the same form as the original (unlike physical CDs, which are arguably replicable with the same audio quality, but not the same physical form as the original), there’s no way for them to know that you DON’T have another copy somewhere, which copy would have equal value to the original. And since it’s so easy to produce your iTunes purchasing history, it seems much more likely that this scam would be attempted than more laborious types of insurance fraud.

  11. kimmie

    I’ve seen first hand Apple Customer Support allowing a customer to re-download all of his purchased tunes after a HD failure. For free. Maybe he just got a super nice tech that day.

  12. Janelleyo

    Thanks Kimmie, thats great news!

Leave A Comment