Pokemon Go: How catching them all could catch you out

Unless you’ve been hiding under a Pikachu sized rock all summer, you will be aware of the latest tech craze to sweep the globe – Pokémon Go. Downloaded more than 100 million times since it launched in July, the virtual reality game has inspired millions of normally console-bound, bedroom dwelling gamers out of their homes and on the hunt for VR creatures known collectively as Pokémon.

With 20 million people visiting PokeStops and hunting Pokémon every day, it’s no surprise that some players have found themselves in legal hot water, as they roam here, there and everywhere in a bid to collect their Pokémon treasure.

Here, Aimee Thomas, a trainee solicitor at Cardiff and London based law firm Capital Law, looks at four instances players and businesses could catch themselves on the wrong side of the law while hunting for Charmander and his 150 other Pokémon pals.

 1) Trespassing

 There have been a number of news stories over the last couple of months highlighting how trespassing is becoming a major issue surrounding Pokémon Go. Most recently an incident in Singapore at the Japanese Gardens saw hordes of eager gamers climb over the gates to hunt resident Pokémon after hours.

Trespassers were expelled but similar incidents across the country have resulted in gamers being arrested.  Meanwhile people across the UK have been climbing into gardens, parks, and buildings to catch a Pokémon, and either steadfastly ignoring, or being unaware, of the legalities surrounding trespassing. Players need to understand the legal ramifications of trespassing on private property and the consequences.

2)  Nuisance

 Closely linked and equally as important is the annoyance likely to be caused from the influx of eager gamers descending upon PokeStops and gyms (designated landmarks where players can collect PokeBalls and power upPokémon respectively) which tend to be located at public spaces, such as monuments and other points of interest. Gamers run the risk of being a ‘public nuisance’, and this could involve any behaviour that could be deemed as antisocial, from swearing and being too loud to blocking public spaces.

3) Privacy

While PokeStops and Gyms are meant to be in open, public spaces, more and more are appearing in locations which once would have been public, but are now private, like converted chapels and new apartment buildings.

For this reason, players are beginning to congregate outside people’s homes and work places to find the bestPokémon, meanwhile completely ignoring the rights and privacy of the home owners. A couple in Detroit have launched a suit against Nintendo to prevent the placement of PokeStops on or near private property. They filed the case after being harassed by people visiting a PokeStop opposite their house and found that gamers would flock to their garden to congregate during the hunting process.

4) Personal injury

Where trespassers are concerned, their personal injury might not be top of your priority list, but for businesses, owners have a responsibility to ensure their properties are safe from visiting gamers glued to their phone screens. It’s best to ensure your property or business is as secure as physically possible to prohibit anyone entering, but ensuring that your space is safe should anyone sneak through is good insurance.

There are obviously a number of other laws Pokémon Go players need to be aware of when hunting within the augmented reality world – driving while playing being an obvious one that could clearly have significant consequences if flouted.

Fundamentally common sense should keep most players on the right side of the law but if in doubt, don’t trespass. Not even a Blastoise is worth a criminal record. It might not be as important in the augmented reality world but it will certainly catch you out in the real world.

Image credit: Sadie Hernandez