A Fourth Law of Robotics? Enforcing Ethical Copyright Compliance in a World Shared with Automata

Authors: Burkhard Schafer (University of Edinburgh), David Komuves (University of Edinburgh), Jesus Niebla (University of Edinburgh) and Laurence Diver (University of Edinburgh)

The paper discusses the regulatory problems for copyright law that we are likely to face in a world that we increasingly share with autonomous devices. It analyses robots both as consumers and (co)creators of art, discusses some of the challenges that such computer creativity creates for the law, and analyses if “enforcement by code” can address some of the legal issues that are likely to emerge. We discuss the possibility of a “fourth law of robotics” looking in particular at the way in which care robots will be interacting with art on behalf of their charges and in the process also become creators of derivative works. Key concepts of traditional copyright law – the idea vs expression dichotomy, the notion of derivativeness, the concept of novelty and with that ultimately the very idea of the author become problematic in such an environment, opening up the discussion if anthropocentric conceptions of copyright are still fit for purpose in the 21th century.

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