AI News, REPORT with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law ... artificial intelligence

Mady Delvaux-Stehres (European Parliament): "There is no way a robot should be treated like a human being"

This topic touches so many different areas such as the medical sector, industry, defense, finance, education, daily home robots etc.

This report seeks to cover the range of “smart autonomous robots” by taking into account today´s and tomorrow's technological progress in the area of robotics and artificial intelligence, it will be the duty of the Commission to clearly define what is a robot.

This report identifies different criterion which could shape the definition: Degree of autonomy, physical support, self-learning, adaptable behavior to the environment etc.

When my colleagues and I started the working group four years ago, we thought we would have time, but the technology is moving so fast, that we cannot wait anymore.

Germany already has legislation on autonomous cars, France started the legislative work with the Villani report on AI and robotics, the UK House of Commons also gave its report with guidelines for legislation, a law on liability is working its way through the legislature in Czech Republic etc.

Indeed, several experts, including professor Bertolini of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, and prominent Paris-based new technologies lawyer Alain Bensoussan have proposed that, where an accident with a robot occurs and due to the degree of autonomy of the robot no one can be held liable, the victim could be compensated by using this e-personality to raise a fund for victims.

This possibility has come in for criticism, firstly, because there has been misunderstanding of the legal concept leading to the assessment that a robot would be treated like a human (which is of course not the goal at all).

Secondly, consumers’ associations and experts have pointed out that this could mean companies are no longer held accountable for the ‘actions’ of their products and might be tempted to take bigger risks.

Taking AI Governance Seriously

For years, science fiction writers, transhumanist philosophers, economists, and countless tech barons (see: Bezos, Gates, Musk, Nadella) have warned of the societal implications of artificial intelligence.

They’re worried about practical, day-to-day AIs—automated manufacturing, self-driving vehicles, delivery by drone, and so on—and how to integrate them into society in a way that is good for everyone.

The Report earned a number of “lol, Europe” news stories from American tech outlets about how the EC was about to classify robots as “electronic persons” and require pension payments for robot workers.

The general consensus was the proposals are “batshit crazy”, another example of regulatory overreach by the European Commission, and a threat to European innovation in robotics.

It provides a model for policies to address some of the concerns around AI, and provides a path toward a legal basis for decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) powered by AIs.

The Report starts us down the path by understanding that we need a new category of personhood to properly account for the unique issues of AIs: the “electronic person”.

If you set one of these AIs in motion, you could predict the kinds of harm it could cause pretty easily, and it is not unreasonable to hold the owner liable for predictable harms.

The AI is a more sophisticated tool that attempts to achieve a pre-defined goal using pre-defined parameters, but that sometimes has unexpected results.

In the words of the Report: The Report offers a common sense solution for dividing responsibility among the humans involved in creating the robot or AI: The framework provided by the Report is even more nuanced than it looks at first glance.

The infamous “Monkey Selfie” legal battle captured headlines again earlier this year, when a U.S. Federal Court judge ruled that the monkey in question could not have copyright in his self-portrait since he was not a “person” as required by the law, even though he was the creator of the image.

While it’s easy to laugh about regulating “electronic persons” today, the Report is asking the hard questions we will need to ask in the next ten years.


10 years after the release of the EURON Roboethics Roadmap and we are witnessing a technology revolution.

It covers a wide range of different areas, such as liability rules, ethical questions, standardisation and safety, data protection, human enhancement or education and employment.

With the own-initiative report, the European Parliament aims at expressing its own position regarding the creation of a legal framework on robotics and AI by providing guidelines and recommendations to the European Commission.

Weng: Does its title “recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics” mean that the resolution establishes general and ethical principles regarding the development of AI and robotics for civil use by private law?

For example, FAA’s regulations for commercial drones, and UNECE’s motor vehicle regulations are beyond civil law domain.

Car manufacturers are developing cars that are able to drive autonomously but first the laws need to change to allow testing these new types of vehicles on public roads.

Besides, we need clarification of all the liability questions arising with the development of automated vehicles, like the well-known question of: “Who is liable in case of an accident?” Weng: I have been conducting an empirical case study on legal impacts to humanoid robots with researchers at the Humanoid Robotics Institute, Waseda University in Tokyo.

In order to reduce conflicts between advanced robots and existing laws, the Japanese government has approved to establish the world’s first RT special zone in Fukuoka in 2003.

Delvaux-Stehres: In my opinion, testing robots in real life scenarios is essential for the identification and assessment of the risks they might entail, as well as their technological development beyond a pure experimental laboratory phase.

This is why we call on the European Commission to draw up uniform criteria across all Member States, of which, the individual Member States should use to identify areas where testing robots are permitted in real-life conditions.

The creation of an e-personality for robots, at least for those robots with a higher degree in artificial intelligence and with self-learning capabilities, could be a possible way forward.

However, in a first step, it is important to regulate more imminent current problems related to robotics like self-driving cars or drones.

Delvaux-Stehres: The Agency should be staffed with engineers and specialists in robotics, but also with lawyers and philosophers in order to reflect on all the questions related to AI and robotics.

Besides the economic aspect, we need a clear framework to ensure the protection of the right to privacy, data protection, and to safeguard the security of European citizens.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and intellectual property (IP), a call for action

“Whereas from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s Monster to the classical myth of Pygmalion, through the story of Prague’s Golem to the robot of Karel Čapek, who coined the word, people have fantasised about the possibility of building intelligent machines, more often than not androids with human features;” Seldom have we seen a document originating from a body of the European Union being introduced in the literary-romantic way as the Motion for a European Parliament Resolution A8-0005/2017 (of January 27th, 2017) by the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament.

Questions such as how to provide incentives and protection of investment for artists and the industries that work with such systems[1], but also what kind of ownership results from works (partially) created by AI machines.[2] One of the issues with ownership is that these are not even new sources of creative works in some cases, but they depend highly on access to works created by others and require massive amounts of input-data (which can be subject to varying IP regimes).

But also the other way around needs important considerations, as the current legal framework is insufficient on “data protection and ownership due to the (expected massive) flow of data arising from the use of robotics and AI”.[3] It leaves us to wonder what should happen to traditional IP law concepts as ‘inventiveness’, ‘original’, and ‘creator’ in this new evolving environment of machine creation.

For example, currently, only the UK has “an explicit regulation for (some) computer generated works, though the strict equivalence with human works may give overly generous protection to works that can increasingly be produced with almost no effort and in quantities previously unimaginable.”[4] In patent law one of the crucial issues could be the definition of the ‘inventor’, do we want this to include a machine?

the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”[5] Legally speaking, it can lead to a complexity in ownership, especially if multiple contributors are involved in the development of an AI system.[6] In infringement cases we have another problem as there currently is no legal framework that provides for a machine or program as an infringing party, meaning robots cannot be held liable for acts or omission that cause damage to third parties[7].

To solve some of the issues the Committee calls for ‘common Union definitions’ and a ‘comprehensive Union system for registration’ with criteria for classification of robots.[9] Legal policy should “encourage helpful innovation, generate and transfer expertise, and foster broad corporate and civic responsibility for addressing critical societal issues raised by these technologies.”[10] The challenge will be on the EU legislator to develop a comprehensive legal framework in this rapidly evolving world of AI systems.

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