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Pokemon Go: The Legal Implications

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Pokemon Go: The Legal Implications


Last week I introduced you to Pokemon Go and implored local law enforcement to get up to speed in order to avoid unnecessary encounters with citizens who might appear to be behaving suspiciously, but who are in fact simply playing this latest gaming craze.

This week let’s take a look at other legal issues that have been triggered by this international phenomenon. First, there’s the class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California against the creators of the game, where the lead plaintiff is himself an attorney, alleging, among other things, that Pokemon Go players interfered with the “use and enjoyment of his property.”

The complaint includes the assertion that “during the week of Pokemon Go’s release, strangers began lingering outside of his home with their phones in hand,” and “at least five individuals knocked on (his) door and asked for access to (his) backyard in order to ‘catch’ Pokemon that the game had placed at (his) residence ... without (his) permission.”

Be still my heart! Such horrific claims.

Needless to say, in my humble opinion, this lawsuit represents a rather transparent (and unseemly) attempt to gain access to the deep pockets of the game’s creators and makes me wonder how some of my fellow lawyers can sleep easy at night.

The good news is that there have been other, more legitimate, lawsuits filed, as well, including a Florida teacher who filed suit in state court in Florida against the makers of the game alleging allegations of unfair trade practices relating to how consumer data is handled by the app. Personal injury lawsuits are sure to follow shortly, given reports of people falling off cliffs and getting hit by cars while playing the game.

Then there’s the directive issued by New York’s Governor Cuomo on August 1st to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision requiring that it restrict sex offenders under community supervision from playing Pokémon GO and other similar augmented reality games. As a result of this directive, a new condition of parole will be added for current and future sex offenders under community supervision, including parole, that prohibits them from downloading, accessing, or otherwise using Pokemon Go and other similar types of any Internet-enabled gaming activities.

This directive was issued, in part, based on a 16-page report drafted by New York Senators Diane J. Savino and Jeffrey D. Klein entitled “How Pokemon Go and Augmented Reality Games Expose Children to Sex Offenders.” This in depth report provides a thoughtful and thorough analysis of the game’s inner workings and how sexual predators could use the game to prey on unsuspecting children.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to see our senators acting so quickly on this issue. This game was released less than a month ago and in that short time they not only learned the ins and outs of the game, but also drafted and published a comprehensive review of the issues it presents as it relates to sexual predators. And to have Governor Cuomo act so quickly based on this report is all the more impressive. It makes me proud to live in such a state with such astute and forward thinking leaders. Bravo Governor Cuomo and Senators Savino and Klein! You’ve (temporarily) restored my faith in humanity.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.