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Catch them all – Pokemon Go and the law

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Pokemon Go

It has been less than a week since Pokémon Go invaded the world. And I mean this literally, not just in the “why is everyone on social media talking about this?” sense.

No, the little animated gang has popped up in cemeteries, the middle of the ocean, a delivery room during labor, the actual Westboro Baptist Church, and of course, at the Holocaust Museum. If this story (which contains rude language, an Eevee and an Onyx) is to be believed, Pokémon Go is also uniting “sketchy dudes” and beat cops at 3 a.m.



And even if you have never thought of being the best, like no one ever was, at catching the animated clan, fear of missing out may have your thumbs primed to download the app for your device.

Aside from the Holocaust Museum, which understandably does not condone playing games in “a memorial to the victims of Nazism” and is trying to electronically ban the game from its premises. The same could be said for the man whose house, an old church, is now a “training gym” Pokestop. He has even met the owner of the gym – again, his house – at his front gate.

So congratulations, law students, there’s a new niche on the block – Pokémon Go law.

Here’s a roundup of some of the pertinent legal writings on how the app’s runaway success is intruding into the field of actual law:

Legal theory and pocket monsters

The new world of augmented reality
TechnoLlama (surprisingly, not a type of Pokémon) addresses this emerging gaming format and its relevance to privacy, data protection, property rights, security, and liability. The post warns:

Pokémon Go may be nothing more than a large exercise to gather data from otherwise recalcitrant Millennials.

Is it even legal? 
That’s the question Kevin Daley asks in the context of “attractive nuisance” torts.

Is the property owner liable for tolerating an attractive nuisance? Does Pokemon Go even fit the conventional definition of attractive nuisance?

Summing up your rights
Rachel Stockman at LawNewz addresses Pokémon Go’s liability for what happens when you use the game (it’s not), privacy rights (you hand some over), trespassing (surprisingly, still illegal), and legal disputes (arbitration). 

Your company’s HR nightmare

No uncertain terms
Casey Sullivan at FindLaw has taken a look at the app’s terms of service. These ones, you might want to read. One issue (which has been fixed) is that Apple users accessing it through Google accounts unwittingly gave the app access to everything on they did on that account:

That’s access to emails, attachments, Google Docs, even what YouTube videos you’ve liked.

Sullivan goes on to point out that the ToS gives the app’s maker permission to share your information with the government and other third parties.

Public services and transportation

Please don’t jump off the bus
Yes, public transportation riders are jumping off buses in Washington and Oregon, prompting police to say, and this is a direct quote, “traffic is NOT virtual – it’s legit.” One local fire district has even had to warn people not to park in restricted spaces, as it impedes volunteer firefighters from doing their job.

Let the Dutch treat
The Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam had to politely ask Pokéhunters to stay out of areas where no visitors are allowed. “There is a sick Pokémon in the AMC – we will care for him. We would appreciate it if you don’t visit.”

Virginia is for Pokémon lovers
One police department did their own tongue-in-cheek roundup via the app and observed on Facebook, “Individuals appear to be walking aimlessly in circles while staring at their phones.” It was paired with a warning about crossing the streets:

If you become road kill who will train the Pokemon?

Who indeed?

True crime

Dead bodies are not a species of Pokémon
A woman in Wyoming on a virtual quest instead found a man face-down in a river, deceased (though no foul play is suspected).

Taking the lure feature at face value
Gamers who want to bring more people can add a beacon, which attracts hunters to a particular stop. Four people in Ohio used that feature to try to trap and rob other gamers. They’re charged with first degree robbery, a felony.

More warnings
Do not trespass into businesses, churches, government buildings or people’s yards, or other private property. Do not Pokémon and drive. Do not walk intro traffic.

What do you think?

The intriguing thing about the rise of Pokémon Go is that kids of all ages aren’t even back to school yet. Imagine the disruption it could case, even at law schools. Professors, be warned – if you find that students are coming to your office “just to chat for a minute,” they may have found Pikachu on your bookshelf. Don’t fall for it.

If you’ve got a thought on how Pokémon Go and augmented reality relates to the law, we’d love to have you write for us. Check out our guidelines and e-mail me at adam.music@americanbar.o….



Adam Music Adam Music is the web editor of Before the Blog. After 20-plus years in the online side of print journalism, he joined the ABA in July 2015. His experience includes stints at the Chicago Sun-Times, RogerEbert.com, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.