POKEMON GO EVEN LEGAL, ISN’T IT ?
Pokemon Go has taken over the world, raking in tons of money for both The Pokemon Company and local businesses. But its location-based play has raised many questions about the safety and legality of a game that asks large groups to perform specific actions in public spaces.
What happens when a Gym is placed on top of someone’s front yard? When a lure is dropped in the center of a quiet neighborhood? When someone unwittingly injures themselves on private property? One lawsuit has already been filed against Niantic after a New Jersey man accused Pokemon Go of encouraging strangers to trespass outside his home — will more follow?
“The biggest concern is that you’re getting a ton of people out in public that would not otherwise [have] been out there,” Josh King, Chief Legal Officer of Avvo Legal Services told IGN. “[They’re] interacting with each other, and interacting with a physical environment, and so all of the laws that apply in the real world still apply, even though you’ve got this augmented reality situation going on.”
King “would not be surprised” if someone eventually contested it in court.
King lists some of the biggest legal concerns that could possibly arise as a result of the effects of Pokemon Go, citing negligence, contributory negligence, nuisance, and trespassing as the biggest concerns. He doesn’t see the game having a big effect on legislation change, but he does admit he “would not be surprised” if someone eventually contested it in court.
With a specialty in media law, King often works on cases that correlate in some way to the first amendment. He notes that the amendment does more to protect the players than businesses.
“It’s important to remember that everyone’s got a first amendment right to associate intangible objects or concepts with tangible things, and that’s what’s really happening when you assign a PokeStop, a [Pokemon randomly appears], or you have a gym,” he explains.
“Whatever the case may be, ultimately you’re associating intangible objects or ideas with tangible things.”
This means that it’s completely legal for game developers to layer fictional animals or items on top of someone’s real business.
The most likely grievance to be filed would be a nuisance suit.
King’s advice remains consistent throughout our time speaking with him: be considerate, and take other’s property and livelihood into account when out looking for Pokemon or tracking down Stops.
“I’m hopeful that a lot of this will lead to greater and more beneficial social interaction between players,” he says. “But, you’re certainly going to have cases — at least on the fringes — of people who will abuse the system, or there are going to be confrontations and situations that happen.
“And ultimately, they just need to be aware of their surroundings and mindful of the choices they make.”
So, what does happen when a Gym is placed on someone’s front lawn and their otherwise quiet neighborhood is suddenly overrun with anxious would-be trainers in the middle of the day? Pokemon Go tends to cause people to congregate, which can be a big issue in smaller areas not used to sustaining so many people all at once.
“Game players will have to be careful of that,” he says, encouraging people to practice discretion when entering into a private or residential area.
According to him, the most likely grievance to be filed would be a nuisance suit, which would address the noise or large presence of non-residents in the area disturbing the peace.
He compares a nuisance claim to that of a person complaining about a particularly loud or rowdy neighbor.
Basically, it can be classified as “something happening off your property that impacts your enjoyment of your property.” Whether it’s teens smoking or a bad DJ at a graduation party, any sort of noise level or guest number has the potential to be the base of a nuisance suit.
Something of this caliber could potentially be used to go after the developers of Pokemon Go, he says, then adds that the recently-added feature to opt out of being a designated stop or gym helps offset that possibility.