Recognising rights for robots: Can we? Will we? Should we?

Belinda Bennett*, Angela Daly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers the law’s response to the emergence of robots and artificial intelligence (AI), and whether they should be considered as legal persons and accordingly the bearers of legal rights. We analyse the regulatory issues raised by robot rights through three questions: (i) could robots be granted rights? (ii) will robots be granted rights? and (iii) should robots be granted rights? On the question of whether we can recognise robot rights we examine how the law has treated different categories of legal persons and non-persons historically, finding that the concept of legal personhood is fluid and so arguably could be extended to include robots. However, as can be seen from the current debate in Intellectual Property (IP) law, AI and robots have not been recognised as the bearers of IP rights despite their ability to create and innovate, suggesting that the answer to the question of whether we will grant rights to robots is less certain. Finally, whether we should recognise rights for robots will depend on the intended purpose of regulatory reform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-80
Number of pages21
JournalLaw, Innovation and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date27 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • artificial intelligence
  • intellectual property
  • law
  • rights
  • Robots


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