In March 2018, Professor Faust and Professor Schäfer of Bucerius Law School’s interdisciplinary program on jurisprudential research held a symposium on the economic analysis of the civil-law problems arising out of automation and the internet. Some 30 lawyers and economists took part in the event.
Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are today among the largest in the world. The Alphabet Company (Google) alone has about 10 times the market capitalization of Airbus, one of the largest industrial companies in Europe. While these firms have amassed huge assets, their existence has also given rise to new civil-law issues that conference participants tackled from a legal and economic perspective.
A much-discussed problem is determining who has what rights to the data belonging to internet users, and how these rights are protected. Further questions arise when one considers new forms of dispute resolution and the liability rules which apply when a person uses the internet. Automation sometimes results in human decisions being replaced by algorithms. The advantages and disadvantages of this state of affairs are particularly evident when one considers automated driving. Can the liability problems which arise in the event of accidents be solved under the current law or with slight modifications, or are completely new legal principles necessary, including according legal personality to cars and machines? How does one assess blockchain technology, which is also based on algorithms? How are contracts regulated exclusively by logical and deductive decisions to be evaluated? How reliable are product recommendations and reviews on the internet, and how can mistakes be corrected? Greater access to personal information not only allows tailor-made product offerings, but also tailor-made pricing based on a customer’s financial resources. How should the law respond to this? Such questions were discussed from a legal and economic perspective.
Presentations and conference papers appear in a compilation produced by the publisher Mohr Siebeck (Tübingen).