Liability for Artificial Intelligence: A Proposal of the European Parliament

34 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2021

See all articles by Gerhard Wagner

Gerhard Wagner

Humboldt University School of Law; University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: July 14, 2021


Digital autonomous systems are characterized by their ability to make their “own” decisions, i.e. decisions that are not fully determined by the software that animates them. As such, they pose a challenge to existing liability systems and to the general law of delict or torts. At the European level, the European Parliament took the initiative and drafted a Regulation on Liability for the Operation of Artificial-Intelligence-Systems it recommended for adoption by the Commission. The European Parliament distinguishes between high-risk-AI-systems, that shall be governed by a regime of strict liability, and “other” AI-systems, that create only normal risks and are left to fault-based liability, as defined in the legal systems of the Member States. With a view to the addresses of the new liability scheme, the draft regulation distinguishes between frontend- and backend-operators. The following chapter discusses the fundamental choices which the framers of the draft made. It concludes that the focus of the proposal on user liability is misguided, as the manufacturers are the central actors who determine the safety features of AI-systems. Moreover, introducing the concept of a backend-operator creates needless friction with the Products Liability Directive. While the commitment to strict liability for high-risk-AI-systems draws a wedge into existing regimes of strict liability under national law, the imposition of fault-based liability on users of ordinary AI-systems forces some Member States to roll back more generous rules of tort law.

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Strict Liability, Torts, Autonomous Vehicles, Products Liability

JEL Classification: K

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Gerhard, Liability for Artificial Intelligence: A Proposal of the European Parliament (July 14, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Gerhard Wagner (Contact Author)

Humboldt University School of Law ( email )

Unter den Linden 9
Berlin, 10099

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics