In October 2017 the humanoid robot known as Sophia, gifted with artificial intelligence, obtained Saudi Arabian citizenship. In May 2018 Google showcased the capabilities of its product Google Duplex, whose AI system can arrange an appointment at the hairdresser’s or reserve a table at a restaurant, while avoiding misunderstandings on the phone and imitating the gap-filling hems and haws of human conversation. Observing the capabilities of these robots, a lawyer’s mind naturally turns to the issue of the potential legal personality of AI.
In a recent article I discussed possible solutions to the question of liability of algorithms for copyright infringement. The solution put forward some time ago by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs is creating the status of electronic persons. This would mean that an algorithm, and not people responsible for the algorithm, would be directly liable for breaking the law.
An alternative, originally proposed in the US and subsequently analysed under Swiss, English, and German law, is use of equivalents of a Polish spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością (in the US a limited liability company and GmbH in Germany) as a legal vehicle for attributing legal personality to an algorithm. This would be a ‘memberless entity’.
In my last post I examined whether artificial intelligence could be regarded as an “author” for purposes of copyright law. This topic is intriguing, but we must remember that AI can not only create works that at least theoretically can be covered by copyright protection, but it can also infringe copyrights held by others when creating its own works. There are already algorithms that can mimic a certain style of painting or a specific author. In the face of technology enabling anyone with access to it to produce their own “masterpiece by a famous painter,” it is worth considering whether AI can be held responsible for copyright infringement, and if not, who can?
The Global Legal Hackathon last weekend (23–25 February 2018) offered an excellent opportunity to grasp the potential that can be released from cooperation between lawyers and IT specialists. Legal Tech solutions are more than just technological novelties. They are solutions that can protect our legal system against a serious crisis.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is now capable of producing ever-more complex creations which are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from works made by human beings. Recent news shows that this reality is truly upon us. First, there were the algorithm-created paintings whose complexity and unconventional style were anonymously judged to be superior to human efforts. Then, a novel written by a Japanese AI algorithm made it past the initial selection round for a national literary prize.
A forthcoming breakthrough in smart algorithm systems will certainly revolutionise the entire economy, much as internet access has become universal. This revolution will not just impact opportunities for finding work in professions such as translator or driver, but will also completely transform the operations of the justice system. This was demonstrated in a recent competition to predict the results of court proceedings between a group of lawyers and an algorithm created by an English startup.