Saudi Arabia has become the first country to give a robot citizenship. Before we all panic in a Blade Runner-esque manner, what does this actually mean?

It has predominantly been received as a PR stunt to promote Saudi Arabia’s technology industry. The rights Sophia actually has have not been clearly set out but citizenship does imply a level of human rights. The details of how she will be used, what she will do and whether she can enforce those rights are vague though.

From an intellectual property perspective, giving artificial intelligence a legal personality (although not citizenship) means that AI could hold rights and grant those rights for any materials it creates. Copyright in materials lies with the author but, without a legal personality, AI cannot be seen as the author and that creates severe ambiguity over who the ‘author’ should be – is it the original developer, the programmer, the owner of the AI or none of them? This is becoming a more pressing issue as the materials artificial intelligence creates becomes more valuable.

It is a fast developing area and something we are keeping a keen eye on at Briffa.

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