Artificial Intelligence and the Law in the 21st Century – Is Nigeria Ready?


Have we ever asked ourselves how exactly do our familiar search engines operate or how Siri is so smart and happens to give the best and most accurate responses to every question we ask? These are everyday tools we utilize and always wonder how they work so intelligently and sometimes solve problems far better than the human natural intelligence could. It is because these our search engines and software apply Artificial Intelligence (AI), otherwise known as machine Intelligence. AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Artificial intelligence is basically the use of machines to complete tasks just like the human mind. It should however be noted that AI is more advanced than the human mind particularly in terms of accuracy. This is because computers use rules to analyse data and learn patterns and glean insights from the data. They do not just do tasks they have been programmed to do, they actually learn as they go, improving their performance through feedback. The first artificial intelligence applications were introduced around 1956 and these applications are based on logic theorems and chess game.

In today’s world, AI can be applied in various field of life and used for different things. The is myriad of applications of AI technologies which can be implemented to make life easier. According to Forbes, AI has been applied in the following fields: Powering Infrastructure, Solutions and Services; Cybersecurity Defence; Health Care Benefits; Recruiting Automation; Intelligent Conversational Interfaces; Reduced Energy Use and Costsand Accountingand Fintech. One industry which is becoming revolutionized by AI technology is the banking industry as banks do not need humans for processes which can be automated through computers. For instance, J.P. Morgan uses AI to answer customers’ questions and anticipate what their future needs are likely to be and themore that these products are used, the more they learn, which means that they exponentially improve in their capacity to assist customers without requiring human involvement. Whenever a professional sector faces new technology, questions arise as to how that technology would disrupt the daily operations and careers of those who choose that profession. The legal profession is not spared from this ordeal. Today, the legal profession is being transformed by AI in many ways, but in most cases, it augments what humans do and frees them up to take on higher level tasks. This article will further espouse on the role that AI has to play in the Nigerian legal system and the legal issues associated with the development of AI in Nigeria


Before now, computers and machines have been used to create works of art and other literary works. This however was not more than the result of the work put in by the programmer and operator, it therefore means that the computers or machines did not do more than paint brushes or pens used by artistes or writers. Copyright protection in this regard was not so difficult as the program used to create artistic works were more or less tools in the hands of the author. The AI seems to be completely different for copyright protection as the work is actually generated by the computer program independent of the programmer.

The ownership of copyright of works created by Artificial Intelligence is a lot more problematic because unlike general works created without AI, the computer program is more than a tool and it makes many decisions involved in the creative process without human intervention. The fulcrum of this problem is the originality of the work and originality is one of the conditions for copyright protection in Nigeria. Section 1(2)(a) of the Nigerian Copyright Act provides as follows: A literary, musical or artistic work shall not be eligible for copyright unless sufficienteffort has been expended on making the work to give it original character. This has been interpreted to mean that the Copyright Act is not concerned with the originality of ideas but with the expression of thought. As remarked in University of London Press v University Tutorial Press, originality does not require that the expression must be in an original form but that the work must not be copied from another work, but it should originate from the author. The language of the copyright Act and the courts is that copyright should originate from the author manifested by the expression of the author. In relation to Artificial Intelligence, the work is basically created by the computer program who enjoys neither legal or corporate personality. In Nigeria, the basis for the protection of copyright is not beyond works created by persons (natural or corporate) and there is no provision for works created by AI. This is evidenced by Section 2 of the Copyright Act which provides that copyright shall be conferred by this section on every work eligible for copyright of which the author or in the case of a work joint authorship any of the authors is at the time when the work is made, a qualified person, that is to say – an individual who is a citizen of, or is domiciled in Nigeria; or a body corporate incorporated by or under the laws of Nigeria. It has however been argued that the copyright of any work created by an AI program should be the work of the programmer as the copyright should belong to whoever has undertaken the necessary provisions for the creation of the work. This therefore implies that the copyright neither belongs to the robot or the artificial intelligence system but the person who created the robot or the intelligent system. This approach does not consider the work done by a robot or an artificial intelligence system as being done by those artificial systems but as products of the work done by the original creators of the system. This approach is conservative and seems to attempt to fill the vacuum in the law by ensuring that a party enjoys copyright of the work created by the system. In as much as this approach is not the best and forward-looking position, it is still a more desirable position than the work created by a robot or an artificial system does not meet the requirement to be protected by copyright because the author of a creative person is presumed to either be a natural person or a juristic person. This seems to be the approach under the Nigerian copyright law, Spain and the United States Likewise.

The European Union through the European Parliament Committee for legal matters has been making efforts to guarantee the legal status and recognition of robots and AI machines as ‘electronic persons’. This will mean that AI systems and robots will be able to enjoy copyright systems as a recognition of the systems as persons will confer on them rights and obligations.

Flowing from this, it is evident that copyright protection of works created by AI systems is still a developing area of the law and needs a lot of progressive legislation to ensure that there si adequate protection of works created by robots and AI systems.


As stated by Professor Ryan Calo, any sufficiently transformative technology is going to require new laws. This therefore means that the rapidly advancing area of artificial intelligence will require a new field of law and new regulations. Artificial is developing fast and needs to be regulated, as it is there is little or nothing on the regulation of AI in the world and in Nigeria particularly. As stated in the previous section efforts are being made by the European Union to ensure that a new category of persons ‘electronic persons’ are created to cater for artificial intelligence and robots. This is laudable as it will create a platform to attribute rights and obligations to AI systems and robots.

Seeing as AI systems are taking the job market, there will be a need to regulate these new employees seeing as they are neither servants nor independent contractors. Will this then mean that companies making and selling AI software will need to be held responsible for harm caused by the systems even as this system sometimes act on their own. It is however contended that companies who are involved in the sale or production of AI system should be responsible for any potential damage caused by unreasonable practices. For instance, the company should be responsible if a self-driving car program is set up in an unsafe manner that causes injury or death.

Another issue which necessitates the need for regulation is the fact that AI is displacing a lot of workers as AI systems can now perform functions which were performed by humans. One industry which has witnessed this takeover is the banking industry. Most banking functions are now performed by machines and according to a McKinsey study from late 2017 up to 800 million workers worldwide may lose their jobs to AI by 2030. This will definitely need the intervention on the law to bridge the potential gap the shift to AI might cause.


AI is beginning to transform the legal profession in many ways, but in most cases, it augments what humans do and frees them up to take on higher level tasks such as advising to clients, negotiating deals and appearing in court. It is a large factor shifting the way legal work is done. It assists the law firms with certain jobs which include the following:Review of documents for discoverable and relevant information generally referred to as technology-assisted review (TAR). The AI powered software improves the efficiency of document analysis for legal use and machines can review documents and flag them as relevant to a particular case. Once a certain type of document is denoted as relevant, machine learning algorithms can get to work to find other documents that are similarly relevant. Machines are much faster at sorting documents and produce output that can be statistically validated. They help reduce load on the human workforce by forwarding on only documents that are questionable. Asides being monotonous, it is important that legal research be done in a timely and comprehensive manner. AI systems leverage on natural language processing to help analyse documents; Legal research through automated searches of a universe of case law and statutes; Proofreading, error correction, and document organization; Predicting legal outcomes better than humans. It has access to years of trial data, lawyers are able to answer questions being posed to them by their clients as to the likelihood of a success in such trial; Contract review and management is also done by the AI. A big portion of works done by law firms on behalf of clients is to review contracts to identify risks and issues with how contracts are written that could have negative impacts for their clients. They redline items, edit contracts and counsel clients if they should sign or not or help them negotiate better terms. It helps analyse contracts in bulk as well as individual contracts.

According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles would be automated by 2036. They also report that by 2020, law firms will be faced with a tipping point for a new strategy. It is most advisable for all law firms to commit to becoming AI-ready by embracing a growth mind set, set aside the fear of failure and begin to develop internal AI practices despite their traditional resistance to technology.

Artificial intelligence also benefits the law firms in the following ways: It saves time as it analyses more information, more thoroughly than humans in a tiny fraction of time. This in turn helps to save cost and improve efficiency since less staff time is involved in finding answers and identifying mistakes; the quality of work is produced is better as human factors such as fatigue, sentimentsand distraction are not present. It also identifies missing clauses or conditions, inconsistently used terminology or undefined terms; It improves organizational and logical structure with automatic document comparison. Thus, lawyers can more quickly identify holes or gaps in their documents and even in their legal analysis.


Flowing from all that has been said, it can be concluded that the world is moving fast and the reality of living in a digital age is dawning on man. Therefore, it necessary to consider the position artificial intelligence is taking in our world today in order to make sure the transition process is one which is very smooth.

On the issue of copyright over works created by AI systems in Nigeria, it is advised that Nigeria adopts the approach of attributing the copyright to the person who created the AI system as this will close the gap currently existing in the Nigerian copyright regulation of works created by AI systems. Regulations should also be put in place to protect human labour particularly in sectors where AI is already taking over jobs, this is to reduce or control the effect of the shift from human intelligence to artificial intelligence. It is also advised that industry stakeholders and the legislature start making plans to ensure that the copyright Act is amended to reflect the realities of the digital age and other relevant laws are passed to cater for emerging technological trends.

In conclusion, it is asserted that Nigeria is not prepared for that shift to Artificial Intelligence as most of the laws in Nigeria are archaic and do not conform with trends of the digital age and Nigeria will have to undergo a legislative revolution in order to effectively cater for AI technology.

Alimi Aisha is recently graduated from the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos and is currently a Bar II candidate at the Nigerian Law School. She takes interest in reading and doing research. She is a hardworking and solution-oriented person.

Olamide Sholabomi is a graduate of Law of the University of Lagos. He is a hardworking and result driven person. He has interests in corporate law, intellectual property and International Law. He has participated in Moot Competitions both in Nigeria and Internationally. Olamide believes good laws and policies are catalysts for development in any society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *