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Plans for new AI legal framework gather pace

Posted: 05/11/2020


The European Parliament has recently adopted new proposals on how the EU can best regulate Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to boost innovation, ethical standards and trust in AI technology.

As one of the first institutions to recommend new AI regulation covering ethics, liability and intellectual property (IP) rights, the European Parliament has been working towards a new legal framework for AI over recent years and these proposals signal the EU’s intention to become a global leader in the development of AI.

New legal framework

The newly adopted proposals urge the EU Commission to present a new legal framework detailing the ethical principles and legal obligations to be followed when developing, deploying and using AI, robotics and related technologies in the EU, including software, algorithms and data.

It is recommended that legislative intervention in this area is based on several guiding principles that include:

  • safety, transparency and accountability
  • safeguards against bias and discrimination
  • the right to redress
  • social and environmental responsibility
  • respect for privacy and data protection.

Liability

A further legislative initiative adopted by the European Parliament calls for a “future-oriented civil liability framework” to make those operating “high-risk” AI strictly liable for any resulting damage. It is felt that a clear legal framework would stimulate innovation by providing businesses with legal certainty while also protecting citizens and promoting trust in AI technologies.

AI is considered “high-risk” where it involves significant risks both in the sector and in its intended use, particularly from safety, consumer rights and fundamental rights perspectives. While “high-risk” AI technologies are still rare, the European Parliament believes that their operators should hold insurance similar to that used for motor vehicles.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs)

A third report adopted by the European Parliament stresses the need for an effective intellectual property rights regime and patent system to protect innovative developers but not at the expense of human creators’ interests or the EU’s ethical principles.

The report draws a distinction between AI-assisted human creations and AI-generated creations. As it is accepted that AI should not have legal personality, ownership of IPRs should therefore only be granted to humans.

Summary

This announcement from the European Parliament is the latest step towards a new legislative framework for AI technologies throughout the EU. The European Commission’s expert group on AI has been active over recent years, publishing high-level policy recommendations, ethics guidelines and, more recently, a new risk-assessment checklist for trustworthy AI.

As we move towards a new era of AI regulation in the EU, those operating in the sector will be keen to see that a balance is struck between protecting fundamental rights and keeping citizens safe on the one hand, and giving the freedom to innovate with AI technologies on the other.

From a UK perspective, it will be interesting to see whether domestic legislation follows the EU’s lead or the extent to which there is any divergence in the UK.

Details of the European Parliament’s press release can be found here with the European Commission’s legislative proposal expected early next year.


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