Monday 6. December 2021
Webnews 03/05/2017


COMECE contribution on the legal status of robots


Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) present new legal and ethical challenges both in terms of liability and responsibility. COMECE welcomes the debate on this theme at the EU level, and cautions against potential risks deriving from according legal personality to robots.


The Commission has launched a consultation on the EU Directive on liability for defective products witch guarantees the liability of the producer in case of damage caused by malfunctioning products. It establishes the principle of strict liability or liability without fault of the producer.


The COMECE Secretariat expresses its concern for the recommendation made in Para 59, f) of the recent European Parliament resolution on Civil Law Rules on Robotics, according to which the Commission should reflect on the possibility of "...creating a specific legal status for robots… so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently".


The Parliament’s proposal contradicts the very concept of responsibility, based on ultimate human rights and duties. Responsibility rooted in legal personality shall only be exercised in presence of a certain capacity for freedom. Freedom is more than autonomy. Recognising legal personality to robots could also open up possibilities for their capability of having an alleged full range of rights and duties in other legal areas.


Applying to robots rules on liability for animals would also be problematic, leading to an unacceptable shift towards considering robots as belonging to the area of "the living". Existing applicable legal regimes relying on ultimate liability of humans already provide viable legal solutions.


COMECE formulates similar concerns in a submission to the public consultation of the JURI Committee of the European Parliament on Civil law rules on robotics. In the context of the broader scope of this exercise, other elements were highlighted, such as the ethical framework, privacy, protection of personal data, poverty and EU administrative structures.


- Read the COMECE contribution to the European Parliament's JURI Committee public consultation on Civil law rules on robotics


- Read the COMECE contribution to the public consultation on the Rules on liability of the producer for damage caused by a defective product

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