Structuring modern life running on software: Recognizing (some) computer programs as new digital persons

Paul de Hert, Vagelis Papakonstantinou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Saudi Arabia grants nationality to an AI robot; the first “clash of robots” took place in Japan; and, Bill Gates suggests that robots start paying taxes. We believe that these developments justify new legal fiction interventions. Software has long now exceeded the intellectual property boundaries. It is no longer merely property; it has assumed life of its own. It does not matter that such life is imaginary today. Legal persons were brought to life through legal fiction intervention that was based on much less motivation – merely the human incentive for profit. Software is certainly connected today with profit, given that the world’s most val- ued corporations are software companies. However, it has moved much further than that, to assume in many ways artificial life of its own. We think that it is time that the dichotomy be- tween natural and legal persons, that has served humanity so well over the past centuries, now be trisected: A new, digital person, ought to be added to it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-738
Number of pages7
JournalComputer Law and Security Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • digital persons
  • robots


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