Do Cases Generate Bad AI Law?

How to Cite

Solow-Niederman, A. . (2024). Do Cases Generate Bad AI Law?. Science and Technology Law Review, 25(2).


There’s an AI governance problem, but it’s not (just) the one you think. The problem is that our judicial system is already regulating the deployment of AI systems—yet we are not coding what is happening in the courts as privately driven AI regulation. That’s a mistake. AI lawsuits here and now are determining who gets to seek redress for AI injuries; when and where emerging claims are resolved; what is understood as a cognizable AI harm (and what is not), and why that is so.

This Essay exposes how our judicial system is regulating AI today and critically assesses the governance stakes. When we do not adequately recognize how the generative AI cases being decided by today’s judges are already operating as a type of AI regulation, we fail to consider which emerging tendencies of adjudication about AI are likely to make good or bad AI law. For instance, litigation may do good agenda-setting and deliberative work as well as surface important information about the operation of private AI systems. But adjudication of AI issues can be bad too, given the risk of overgeneralization from particularized facts; the potential for too much homogeneity in the location of lawsuits and the kinds of litigants; and the existence of fundamental tensions between social concerns and current legal precedents.

If we overlook these dynamics, we risk missing a vital lesson: AI governance requires better accounting for the interactive relationship between regulation of AI through the judicial system and more traditional public regulation of AI. Shifting our perspective creates space to consider new AI governance possibilities. For instance, litigation incentives (such as motivations for bringing a lawsuit or motivations to settle) or the types of remedies available may open up or close down further regulatory development. This shift in perspective also allows us to see how considerations that on their face have nothing to do with AI—such as access to justice measures and the role of judicial minimalism—in fact shape the path of AI regulation through the courts. Today’s AI lawsuits provide an early opportunity to expand AI governance toolkits and to understand AI adjudication and public regulation as complementary regulatory approaches. We should not throw away our shot.
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Copyright (c) 2024 Professor Alicia Solow-Niederman