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Condo Associations Want Pokémon Players to Go…Away!
The Pokémon Go craze began this summer and became a global phenomenon overnight. The interactive game starts once a player downloads the game’s app on a smartphone and sets off, either on foot or otherwise, to search for and attempt to capture the invisible and elusive digital cartoon creatures. For some condo associations it might seem as if Pokémon has invaded the planet as hordes of zombielike players, who are glued to their smartphones, trespass on private property at all hours of the day.
Unsurprisingly, Pokémon Go has created vast legal issues worldwide which have resulted in multiple class-action lawsuits being filed against the Pokémon Go developer, Niantic, Inc. The lawsuits are premised on two main legal arguments. First, Pokémon Go is placing Pokémon and related game activities on private property, inviting the game’s users to commit criminal trespass. Second, people who have been harmed in the act of trying to capture Pokémon, or another individual trying to capture Pokémon, are suing Niantic for negligence.
The primary legal question is whether Niantic, and other developers of augmented reality games, could be liable for criminal actions of private citizens for creating an incentive to trespass or negligently cause injury or damage to persons or property.
Niantic argues that any criminal acts or damage which result from playing Pokémon Go are caused solely by individuals and not by the game. Should alcohol distributors be liable for crimes committed by intoxicated individuals abusing the privilege to drink alcohol? Should car manufacturers be liable for car accidents caused by drivers who negligently operated their vehicles? Holding game developers responsible for acts committed by individuals playing their games would potentially cause a slippery slope for all types of industries. On the other hand, augmented, virtual reality games are a fairly new concept and modern day laws and rules clearly have not addressed potential issues resulting from this new cyber world.
To date, there have been no legal rulings on any lawsuits against the creators of Pokémon Go. Nor are there any updated official guidelines for the gaming industry to follow when creating these cyber universes. Other countries have handled the issue more forcefully. For example, Iran has banned all of its citizens from playing Pokémon Go all together.
Many of our Law Firm’s Condominium clients have sought our legal counsel in handling the Pokémon Go craze. We have been advised that users are breaking into locked areas (ie. pools and clubhouses), loitering on condominium private property, and often creating noise nuisances and other violations at all hours.
Unfortunately, condominium associations, like other private property owners, should probably wait for the outcome of the already existing classaction lawsuits before deciding whether to initiate legal action against Niantic. However, the good news is Niantic seems to be removing certain Pokémon and related game activities from areas when enough requests are made.
Pokémon Go has been downloaded an estimated 500 million times worldwide. And with the unprecedented success of Pokémon Go, augmented reality games appear to be the future of gaming. If you have any questions in regard to this or any other topic concerning your community association, please do not hesitate to call and we will be happy to assist you.