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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Robot Manumission  
  The freeing of a robotic being from a state of being owned property.  

I can't find an earlier example of this idea.

Yes, he had won his right to freedom, but it had taken five years of fighting in courts throughout the country. The country had been divided on the issue. Most were against him, some were mildly tolerant but no one favored his cause. Anti-robot leagues had come into existence, and the newspapers had washed the nation in violent propaganda. Robert was eventually freed, but Congress immediately passed a law prohibiting any further robot manumission.
From Robot Unwanted, by Daniel Keyes.
Published by Other Worlds in 1952
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