Software Agents and Electronic Contracting

Francisco Pacheco Andrade

Law School

University of Minho

29 May 2012

The use of software agents in electronic contracting brings along various and difficult issues: on one side, the issue of trust, both at a technical and at a legal level. Trust, reputation and even good will (human and software’s) are to be considered. On the other side, and in order to achieve an adequate level of trust at legal level, we must consider the issue of the legal consideration of software agents. These may indeed be seen as mere instruments and their actions attributed to the will of humans. But it is also possible, at least, to suggest a legal recognition by law of a sort of legal personality to be attributed to software. In this sense, it would be interesting to consider the possibilities of the institute of representation. But can we really be represented by a software agent? What solutions do we have in order to allow a safe and trustable use of software agents in electronic commerce? And do we have consider, besides the will of the humans involved, also the will of software? These are questions that must be formulated, and possible solutions, arising out of the technical reality but complying with the legal requirements, must be faced.