Robo-liability: the European Union in search of the best way to deal with liability for damage caused by artificial intelligence

Antonia Waltermann and I will be organising a debate on legal personhood for robots at the SSH Synergy conference 2019 (7 February). For a brief overview of some of the issues the event will touch upon, see the following editorial I wrote for the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law:

Robotics is no longer a theme reserved for science fiction movies and technological research institutes. Although most of us do not yet possess a human-looking machine that takes care of our household, robots already play an important part in our daily lives, as search robots, virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa, programmes that suggest products or services based on our previous purchases or searches etc.

It is difficult to define exactly what a robot is. The concept may refer to machines that carry out identical and repetitive actions. These types of robots have been widely used since the industrial revolution and our current law is fit for dealing with them. More problematic, however, are the robots that possess artificial intelligence (AI), enabling them to ‘learn’ from the information they are programmed with and the actions they perform, and to use this ‘knowledge’ to make decisions in subsequent cases. It is these types of robots that challenge the present legal framework, inter alia in the field of liability law.

Search engines and virtual shopping assistants may cause economic damage to certain traders, by steering potential customers to their competitors; they may affect consumers whenever their suggestions are not accurate or do not meet their needs or preferences. However, the risks and damage caused by self-driving cars or healthcare AI applications may be significantly larger.

The full editorial can be found here.

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How Technology Disrupts Private Law: An Exploratory Study of California and Switzerland as Innovative Jurisdictions

2018 is the first year in history when more than half of the world’s population is online. Since its dawn, the Internet has changed many aspects of daily life. The first wave of the Internet saw a change in communication: the use of e-mails and the rise of Internet browsers facilitated online transactions and marked the beginning of global access to goods. Then came wider access to services, in what is by now called the ‘gig’ economy: Internet platforms started matching demand and supply in sectors such as transportation, tourism and even entertainment. More recently, a new wave of decentralization through cryptography developments in distributed ledger technologies has challenged the fitness of established legal rules and practices and disrupted disrupting the law.

Legal systems have always had adapt to modernity. What is new, however, is that all aspects of human development are moving faster than ever and at an unprecedented scale, with unmatched complexity. By contrast, regulatory solutions for legal questions arising out of technology innovation have been rather slow and random. The legal status of Uber drivers as independent employees has been established in different jurisdictions around the world, but will it also apply to Youtubers? Such case-by-case approaches tend to increase legal uncertainty rather than reduce it. In a recent working paper I completed for the Stanford Transatlantic Technology Law Forum, I looked at a number of private law issues raised by disruptive technologies in two particular jurisdictions: California and Switzerland. The goal of the paper is to map and analyse regulatory responses.

This is an excerpt from a post on the Oxford Business Law Blog. Read the full blog post here.

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10 Years After Romania’s Accesion to the EU: European Contract Law (Doctrinal and Empirical Observations)


The Maastricht European Private Law Institute and the Legal Research Institute of the Romanian Academy (Centre for the Study of European Law – CSDE) are organising a conference on current issues of European contract law. 2017 marks a decade after Romania’s accession to the European Union, which is a meaningful moment for legal researchers to evaluate various aspects in different sub-areas of private law with respect to the development of the Romanian legal system as a legal system of the European Union.

The conference will include both doctrinal and empirical observations on European contract law. At the same time, the conference will serve as a dissemination platform for the first empirical study on the application of European law by Romanian national judges.

The event will also honour Prof. Nicolae Turcu, the former president of the Romanian Legislative Council’s Civil Law Section, who passed away earlier this year, to the grief of both legal academia and practice.

The full programme of the event can be found here (in Romanian/English).

Registration requests can be sent to ardae2007@gmail.com until 20 October 2017.

The conference is free of charge.

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Research on Dispute Resolution Clauses by Maryam Salehijam

Maryam Salehijam is a European Law School (Faculty of Law, Maastricht University) alumna who is currently doing her PhD research at the Transnational Law Centre of the University of Ghent under the supervision of Maud Piers. Maryam is undertaking research on the familiarity of legal professionals (including lawyers and third-party neutrals) with dispute resolution clauses which provide for non-binding ADR mechanisms such as mediation and conciliation. Her research focuses on legal professionals from the following jurisdictions: Austria, Australia, England & Wales, Germany, Singapore, the Netherlands, and the United States.

For her research, Maryam is gathering data by means of a short questionnaire which can be accessed here and which Maryam elaborates on below. Should you have any expertise in the relevant jurisdictions and would like to contribute to her research, we kindly invite you to have a look at the questionnaire or contact Maryam directly.

By Maryam Salehijam:

​Call to Participate in a Questionnaire on Dispute Resolution Clauses

There is a lack of clarity regarding the obligations that arise from dispute resolution agreements with a mediation/conciliation component. In order to reduce this uncertainty, a chapter of the BOF funded PhD research of Maryam Salehijam (supervisor: Professor Maud Piers) from the Transnational Law Center at the University of Ghent focuses on the question “What are the parties’ obligations under an ADR agreement?”

To answer this question, the research is divided into two stages: the first stage involves a questionnaire that assesses the familiarity of legal professionals –including lawyers and third-party neutrals- in selected jurisdictions (Austria, Australia, England & Wales, Germany, Singapore, the Netherlands, and the United States) with dispute resolution clauses calling for non-binding ADR mechanisms such as mediation/conciliation. Moreover, the questionnaire provides willing participants the opportunity to copy and paste a model or previously utilized dispute resolution clause. In the second stage, the clauses gathered as well as clauses extracted from other sources will be content coded using the software NVivo in order to determine which obligations tend to be reoccurring in the majority of the clauses under analysis.

The questionnaire targets individuals who have experience with commercial dispute resolution. The participation in the short questionnaire will require minimum effort, as most questions only require a simple mouse-click. Please note that the information entered in the survey is kept anonymous unless indicated to the contrary by the participants. Moreover, as the analysis takes place on an aggregated level, the findings will not disclose personally identifiable information. Accordingly, the information provided will only serve scientific purposes.

To complete the questionnaire, please click here to access the survey. The closing date of the survey is 29th April 2017.

If you wish to provide the model/previously used dispute resolution clauses without completing the questionnaire, please email Maryam Salehijam at maryam.salehijam@ugent.be

Maryam Salehijam

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Volkswagen Case- proposal for solution

The recent Volkswagen scandal has managed to hit waves both on the American continent and across the Atlantic, bringing European consumers to doubt the same question Californian consumers are trying to solve: When does a false public statement by a company infringe the rights of consumers,  or are those companies been protected by the freedom of speech principle?

At the consumer level, a more substantive question that is troubling in an era of globalization, is the practical question of whether a consumer can ever be truly certain that a product that he is purchasing is in line with the basic standards of human labour?

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M-EPLI Roundtable: ‘Walking on Common Grounds? New Insights on the Asian, European, and Latin American Principles of Contract Law’, 26 January 2016, Maastricht

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The Roundtable will attend the Asian, European, and Latin American principles of contract law from a comparative law perspective. Scholars from each of the three continents will share their insights on the status, merits, and potential of the existing contract law principles.

Location: Boardroom (B1.019), Faculty of Law, Maastricht University

For more information and registration, please contact Dr. Agustín Parise (agustin.parise@maastrichtuniversity.nl).

 

Programme

 

9:00      Opening Remarks, Jan Smits (Maastricht University, The Netherlands)

 

First Session: Latin America

 

Moderator: William Bull (Maastricht University)

9:05      Agustín Parise (Maastricht University)

Third-generation Civil Codes: Interaction of New Codes and Harmonizing Principles in Latin America

9:25      Discussion

9:45      Rodrigo Momberg (University of Oxford, UK)

The Principles of Latin American Contract Law: Looking for Identity

10:05     Discussion

10:25     Iñigo de la Maza (Universidad Diego Portales, Chile)

The Concept of Contract in the Principles of Latin American Contract Law

10:45     Discussion

11:05     Coffee Break

 

Second Session: Asia and Europe

 

Moderators: Liuhu Luo and Jiangqiu Ge (Maastricht University)

11:30     Shiyuan Han (Tsinghua University, China)

The Principles of Asian Contract Law: What has been done and What’s going on

11:50     Discussion

12:10     Jan Smits

Principles of Contract Law: Beyond Common Ground

12:30     Discussion

 

12:50     General Discussion, moderated by Janwillem Oosterhuis (Maastricht University)

 

13:10     Closing Remarks, Agustín Parise

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