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Insuring iTunes: are your digital downloads covered?

Not all insurance policies will protect your music

Reducing security risks from open source software

Consumers building up extensive collections of digital music and movies should ensure their downloads are protected by their home insurance policy and will be replaced if the computers keeping them are damaged or stolen. Many insurers do not cover digital possessions, it has emerged.

The days of popping down to your local record store and browsing through the racks are fading fast. Music downloads are quickly becoming music buyers' favoured medium, with online collections increasing in size rapidly.

Many users don't back up their collections, and even if they do, disasters like a house fire are as likely to destroy spare copies as much those used every day.

So what happens when your latté gets knocked over your laptop, or your server is stolen? Like your other possessions, you would hope your insurer will cough up to cover the cost of re-downloading the songs. But while some insurers will now protect you music downloads this way, it pays to do your research because there is a real divide between insurance policies that cover downloads and those that don't.

A recent report by unofficial consumer watchdog Which? found that out of 46 insurers, fewer than half covered music and other digital downloads in their policies.

Privilege Insurance last year calculated that the average Briton would have to pay £257 to replace their music downloads. It estimated that that cost will rise £25 each year as digital music collections grow.

Almost a quarter - 24 per cent - of music downloaders have had their entire collections lost.

Register Hardware underwent the pain of several insurance companies' automated phone systems to discover that some are already willing to protect downloaders from the costs of digital disaster.

For example, we spoke to Churchill Insurance and found that it would cover up to £1,000 worth of downloads in addition to cost of replacing the host computer itself.

Similarly, Privilege Insurance told us it would cover any value of music downloads. Unlike Churchill, however, Privilege said it would expect claimants to prove they owned the downloads with purchase receipts. So make sure you keep physical copies or forward emailed receipts to a web-based email host.

Churchill said it would take download claims "in good faith" without requiring download receipts.

Sadly, there are still some insurance companies that remain behind the times.

Even though "change happenz", Zurich wasn't prepared to insure music downloads at all, and JS Insurance, which has a specialist computer insurance division, also told us it did not cover music downloads in any policy.

Before applying your John Hancock, then, it pays to read your insurance policy's small print to find out if it covers your music downloads.

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