If you've been anywhere on social media in the past week, your newsfeeds have likely been inundated with people talking about Pokémon Go, the latest app craze that's taking the world by storm. Released by Nintendo on July 6 for all iOS and Android users, it quickly became the largest mobile game in the United States with 21 million daily active users and resulted in a sudden increase in Nintendo stock.
The game is an augmented reality game in which players capture, train, and battle creatures called "Pokémon." Players view their real-world surroundings, supplemented with computer-generated Pokémon from the game. The game uses the GPS and cameras on smartphones, and is free to play; although in-app purchases of additional items are available.
Along with its exploding popularity came a host of unforeseen problems. Police departments across the nation have issued warnings regarding playing the game while driving, accidental trespassing, and falling prey to criminal activity. One driver in Auburn, New York, crashed into a tree while playing the game, and two players were robbed at gunpoint in St. Louis after being lured by suspects who set up a "beacon" to a "Pokéstop" to attract players. Other players in Wyoming, New Hampshire, and California have stumbled upon dead bodies while looking for Pokémon.
Another intriguing aspect of the game includes its budding legal intricacies and obstacles. Earlier this week, the ABA released an article entitled "Pokémon Go and the Law," in which Adam Music looks at the legal ramifications of the game. Music recognizes the new area, calling out to law students that, "[T]here's a new niche on the block."
Because Pokéstops can exist at locations without the real property owner or possessor's knowledge, trespassing remains a problem. In Music's article, Kevin Daley questions whether property owners can be liable under an attractive nuisance doctrine for any subsequent injuries. Additionally, some have voiced privacy concerns over the information retrieved by the app, including its permission to share your information with the government and third parties.
Currently, the game is less than two weeks old. The app developers have already fixed bugs and put out several versions of the game, and changes will likely continue into the future. Whether the game will sustain its popularity or not remains to be seen, but regardless of the outcome the law will shift and evolve in response.