Deutsch Intern
Robotics Law Research Centre

Criminal liability

Where damage is caused by a machine, it is necessary to distinguish between civil liability for compensation for damage caused and criminal liability for damage to a legally protected interest.

Criminal product liability examines the elements required for liability to arise in a way that resembles civil liability for compensation for the damage incurred. For example, criminal liability for bodily harm is incurred where someone intentionally causes bodily harm to another person through an action or through an omission. Unlike the civil law, there are no reduced requirements in respect of evidence, nor do simplified liability concepts such as product liability (strict liability) and holder liability exist.

In some sub-areas of robotics, the question arises as to whether the rules contained in the criminal law, as it currently exists, are sufficient to protect us against damage caused by semi-autonomous machines. One example of this is the violation of the right of personality, here privacy, by drones used to surveil strangers. The criminal law as it stands now does not include an offence to cover the situation where a drone is used for the surveillance of someone else’s home and films people who may be sunbathing there.