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Bridging the accountability gap: rights for new entities in the information society?
FIDIS consortium, EC contract 507512
Number of pages
New entities in the information society, such as pseudonyms, avatars, software agents, and robots, create an 'accountability gap' because they operate at increasing distance from their principals. One way of addressing this is to attribute legal rights and/or duties in some contexts to non-humans, thus creating entities that are addressable in law themselves rather than the persons 'behind' them. In this article, we review existing literature on rights for nonhumans, with a particular focus on emerging entities in the information society. We discuss three strategies for the law to deal with the challenge of these new entities: interpreting and extending existing law, introducing limited legal personhood with strict liability, and granting full legal personhood. To assess these strategies, we distinguish between different types of persons (abstract, legal, and moral) and different types of agency (automatic, autonomic, and autonomous). We conclude that interpretation and extension of the law seems to work well enough with today's emerging entities, but that sooner or later, attributing limited legal personhood with strict liability is probably a good solution to bridge the accountability gap for autonomic entities; for software agents, this may be sooner rather than later. The technology underlying new entities will, however, have to develop considerably further from facilitating autonomic to facilitating autonomous behavior, before it becomes legally relevant to attribute 'posthuman' rights to new entities.
FIDIS, rights for non-human, pseudonyms, avatars, software agents, robots
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