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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Influencers on Social media – Between Law and Ethics

25 September 2018, Brown Bag Lunch
12.15-13.45, MakerSpace (room beside Mensa), University of St. Gallen

Social media has been changing the way in which people communicate, and that is nothing new. The emergence of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or – more recently –Musical.ly has transformed social interaction in peer-networks. This transformation can be noticed by anyone participating in or observing such networks. What is less noticeable, though, is how business models have changed to benefit from these shifts in social trends.

One industry where business practices have been fundamentally impacted is the advertising industry. While in the early days of social media marketing, social networks were used to establish online brand identity, since 2015 a new advertising concept has been sweeping the online space: influencer marketing. Based on peer empowerment – anyone with a camera and internet connection can start producing content for an online social media platform, influencer marketing is to social media what native advertising is to the news world. Persons with well- followed social media accounts lend their brand image for the endorsement of goods or services, while rarely – if at all – disclosing that their support does not necessarily entail genuine appreciation for the endorsed things, but that such support is paid or bartered for.

This event aims to discuss influencer marketing using insights from private law, ethics as well as journalistic practice. Register by sending an e-mail to isabel.ebert@unisg.ch by 23 September. Exceptionally, Skype connections may also be available for streaming.

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Innov-AI-tion Law for Technology 4.0 – An Interdisciplinary Conference

The European and global society is gradually transitioning into the fourth industrial revolution, marked by an exponential technological advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as works of art created by AI systems, algorithmic decision-making and autonomous vehicles. The profound transformation of our society creates a pressing need for a clear legal framework that the EU is currently seeking to develop within Digital Single Market, notably through the adoption of the recent EP Resolution on Civil Law Rules on Robotics.

The conference will be composed of three panels, tackling respectively the questions of private law, IP and privacy (please see below the conference programme). The concept of the conference is rather unique, as each topic will be covered by two presenters having different backgrounds (one from law and another from technology).

The conference undertakes to respond to the quest for establishment of a regulatory framework by putting to debate questions still unsolved that touch upon several fields of law:

(i) Private law: What types of regulation should govern AI liability, and which actors should be involved in these regulatory approaches?

(ii) IP law: Who should hold copyright over works of art created by AI agents and can AI-generated inventions be patented? How does the IP and data interface work in the context of AI?

(iii) Privacy law: How to protect privacy and ensure accountability for decisions taken by autonomous AI agents affecting humans (e.g. automated tax decisions)?

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ADR in Legal Education: The Promise of 21st Century Skills (18 January, Maastricht)

 

Technology is one of the main factors challenging the 21st-century job market. With a new wave of automatization just around the corner, one of the main questions a lot of professions will have in common is: what can professionals do, that machines cannot? One of the answers to this question relates to the increased attention given at international level to soft skills in education. These skills include empathy, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, to mention a few.

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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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Snapshot: 11th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies (CELS)

Computer courts are not science fiction. Intuitively, an important limitation of computer adjudicators is that the procedure becomes impersonal. Consequently, users may prefer human adjudicators over software adjudication. The research of Ayelet Sela suggests otherwise. She tested whether litigants preferred a human mediator over a software mediator. Using an electronic environment that was developed to analyze online dispute resolution, she found that the software mediator was preferred to the human mediator, and not the other way around. Individuals even felt they could express their views better when using an interface. The paper was presented at the Conference of Empirical Legal Studies, which was held on 18/19 November 2016 at Duke University. Click here for the paper.

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