Lawyermon! Gotta sue ’em all!

Unless you have been living under a rock (and no judgments if you are – housing isn’t cheap), then you’ve likely heard of Pokemon Go, the “augmented reality” phone app game than brings the pocket monsters into the ‘teens (or is it the twenty-tens?).

Created 20 years ago as a trading card game, it has since spawned dozens of video game titles, an animated series with an eminently catchy 90s rock theme song, a few feature movies, and near bottomless piles for money for its creators (and Apple). Without question, Pokemon is a cultural touchstone for the Millennial generation.

Lawyermon -- (c) 2016 Christina Heim, all rights reserved, used with permission
Lawyermon — (c) 2016 Christina Heim, all rights reserved, used with permission

Pokemon Go adds a big data twist to the franchise, using info gleaned from Google Maps to send players into the real world to track and train creatures for battle. Various public spaces become “Pokestops,” landmarks where in-game equipment and inventory can be obtained. The Pokemon themselves can be found anywhere in the world. On the whole, it seems like good clean fun, and walking through the real world is a great way to get exercise.

However, not everyone is so sure. The use of real world landmarks as Pokestops has led to some crime, as robbers simply wait for players to arrive. Others fear sex-offenders will use the app to prey on children – New York banned convicted sex offenders from playing, and also introduced legislation to prohibit Pokestops within 100 feet of sex offender’s residences.

And just this week, the first Poke-class action has been filed. A New Jersey homeowner sued The Pokemon Co., parent company Nintendo, and game developer Niantic for nuisance and unjust enrichment, alleging that Pokemon can be found on his property and were placed there without permission. As a result, several young players have knocked on his door requesting access to the backyard. The lawsuit notes that none of the locations identified as Pokestops were given a chance to decline — much to the chagrin of the National Holocaust Museum where playing any video game is completely inappropriate.

Homeowners in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, should remember a few things about Pokemon and your legal rights. If players ask permission to enter your property to hunt Pokemon, you may simply tell them no. A simple “No Trespassing” is also legally sufficient to put people on notice to stay away. Of course, you can also allow players on to your property, but then may become liable should the player become injured while on your property. Players who enter your property without getting your consent are committing a criminal offense, and you can call the police.

Players should use basic courtesy and judgment. Ask the resident for permission to enter their property, and understand that the homeowner can say no. Don’t hunt for Pokemon around houses at 2AM — you’ll look like a burglar. If a player doesn’t feel safe at a Pokestop, move on to the next. Stay aware of your surroundings. In other words, use common sense — have fun, but definitely be respectful of others and careful while you catch ’em all!

About the author: Charles Thomas

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