Digitization, Artificial Intelligence and Law

Course offered by: Prof. Dr. Dr. Eric Hilgendorf
Offering University: Uni Würzburg
Course Language: English
Subject Area: Law Free of Charge
Average Workload: 15 Hours Free of Charge Enrol
Picture Credits: Annika Schömig, Gerd Altmann (on Pixabay)

What awaits you in this course?

The focus of the course is on the fundamentals of digitization and highlights its specific link to legal issues in the current context with artificial intelligence.  Especially questions such as the relationship of law to novel technologies, ethical and moral aspects of artificial intelligence or but also the influence of digitization on the applicable law are not only a "hotspot" in the media and socio-political discourse, but also occupy companies, courts as well as universities and last but not least shape our everyday life. Autonomous vehicles, opaque algorithms, the move away from paper files and many other topics with a technical background should not be an insurmountable hurdle for those affected. Comprehensibility and understandability - especially for non-lawyers - are the main priorities here.

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What can you learn in this course?

This course is an introduction to the topic complex of digitization, artificial intelligence and law. It aims to achieve the following goals:

  • After completing the course, you will be sensitized to the specifics and subtleties of the impact of digitization on law.
  • You will become familiar with some selected individual areas of law and digitization as well as the related basics.
  • You will be able to grasp complex issues with technical references and their legal friction points.
  • You can transfer the problem awareness you have acquired to other problematic constellations that you may encounter in your everyday life or in your professional environment.
  • You will learn to form your own opinion on highly complex topics.
  • You get to look beyond the end of your nose.


The aim of this course is not to make you experts on every subtopic, but to help you learn the basics and increase your problem awareness based on selected topics. This course structure therefore shows in which chapter you will gain insights on which topics. 

0.      About the Course

1.      Introduction 

      • Classification of the terms digitization, virtualization, artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous systems
      • Introduction to the social characteristics of dealing with digitization

2.      Overview of the legal requirements

      • Effects of digitization and technology on the law and society
      • Examples of autonomous machines or the use of legal tech

3.      Data Protection Law

      • Right to informational self-determination
      • Sources and principles of data protection law
      • Requirement of data collection for digitization and AI
      • Challenges for the modern data protection law
      • Practical example on corona tracing apps

4.      Private Law 

      • Data as subject of property law
      • E-persons and the status of robots
      • Declarations of intent by autonomously acting systems
      • Digitization and labor law
      • E-files
      • Digital estate
      • Smart contracts
      • Practical examples on online auctions and on digital products

5.      Criminal Law

      • New forms of cybercrime
      • Criminal product liability
      • Basics of criminal law
      • Autonomus systems as new kind of actor
      • Cryptocurrencies
      • Case studys on autonomous driving, on a fatal accident caused by a robot arm and on insults by a chatbot
      • Overview on the dilemma problem

6.       Further Questions

      • Programmability of law
      • Adapting law to technology and vice versa
      • Interdisciplinarity
      • AI and social norms
      • Digitization and legal procedures
      • Moral machines

7. Final Examination

Course offered by

Prof. Dr. Dr. Eric Hilgendorf

Eric Hilgendorf is a professor for criminal law, criminal procedure law, legal theory and information/computer science law at the Bavarian Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg. He is the founder of the research unit "Robotrecht" and holds several positions in international research groups. In the area of digitization and law, his membership of the following organizations can be highlighted in particular: Director of "Bayerisches Forschungsinstitut für Digitale Transformation"; Member of the Ethics Commission on Automated and Connected Driving (2016-2017); Member of the High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence of the EU; (Co-)editor of the series "Robotics and Law" published by Nomos Verlag

Further authors

Max Tauschhuber

Max Tauschhuber studied law at the University of Würzburg with accompanying studies in European law and successfully passed the First State Examination in July 2018. He passed the Second Law Examination in 2020 and now works as a research assistant with focus on the ethical and legal aspects of clinical decision support systems.

Annika Schömig (CO-Author)

Annika Schömig studied law at the University of Würzburg and passed the First State Examination in Law in February 2019. Since March 2019, she has worked as a graduate assistant at the Chair of Prof. Dr. Dr. Eric Hilgendorf, where she was previously employed as a student assistant during her studies.
Her main areas of focus are criminal law and technology law. Her doctoral thesis examines the concepts of “danger” and “risk” in the criminal law, as well as current challenges related to these concepts.

Justus Alain Köhn (Co-Author) 

Justus Alain Köhn is a student assistant at the chair of Prof. Dr. Dr. Eric Hilgendorf. He studies law at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg and the Assas II University of Paris. 

Paul Seipel (Technical advisor)

Paul Seipel is a student assistant at the chair of Prof. Dr. Dr. Eric Hilgendorf. He studies law at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg and advises the chair in technical respects. 

Target group

Digitization has now completely permeated our everyday lives. It is promoted and limited in many different ways by the law.  Interested parties can learn the necessary background knowledge through this course to be able to critically rethink these intersections. This applies not only to students of law or technical courses such as computer science, but also to anyone who is interested in the connection between digitalization and the law, either privately or professionally, and who wants to gain an initial insight into this complex of topics. The focus here is not on teaching legal finer points, but on providing a general overview of potential problems using a variety of examples. No prior knowledge is required. 

However, digitization is not just an issue in Germany, but is on the rise across borders, and in all societies the law is having difficulty keeping up with this progress. In terms of legal development, German law has often served as a model for many other countries (e.g., criminal law in China, etc.), and German and European law is also looked to when it comes to regulating digitization and AI. The contents of the course are therefore also interesting for international participants, even if the content is based on German law. 

Confirmation of participation

By completing the online self-tests offered in the course, participants can not only check their own level of knowledge, but also receive a certificate of participation if they answer 80 percent of the questions correctly.


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Digitization, Artificial Intelligence, Law, Data Protection, Robotics, Autonomous Driving, Legal Tech