Cult mobile game Pokémon Go, which uses 'augmented reality' to allow players to use their smartphones to hunt and capture cartoon monsters or Pokemon characters in the real world, has left the streets of Warrington filled with people staring at their phone screens. But the huge and very rapid growth in game players is causing problems. There have been reported cases of Pokémon players having to be rescued from caves and filling some parks and public spaces with noisy crowds as players seek Pokéstops and rare Pokémon.
As a result, the team at FDR Law has put together a guide for both players and the owners of businesses and properties in which the Pokémon are lurking.
Can you catch Pokémon in any public space?
Just because a Pokémon appears on a piece of land, the normal laws of privacy don’t cease to exist. It’s trespassing, and the resident has grounds to call the police. While common sense would suggest that, if they have directed people to a place that happens to be someone’s property, Nintendo would be responsible in this instance, legally, they’re probably not. It’s likely that there’s a clause in the terms and conditions that states that players don’t break local law to play the game. Make sure you have permission from any property owner before you go hunting!
Can a shop or business bar people from playing Pokémon Go?
While McDonald's are rumoured to be seeking to turn their restaurants into Pokémon gyms, businesses are entitled to determine their own terms and conditions when permitting any person to enter their premises. It would logically follow that a business or shop could therefore stop users of Pokémon Go from entering if they are not valid customers. To be safe, always check with the staff before playing.
If you’re injured while playing Pokémon Go, who is liable?
Despite the game beginning with a warning that you should take care while using the app, there’s always a chance that someone will get injured. The question then is: whose fault is it and who is liable? The law states that an occupier (or owner) of any premises could potentially be held liable for a player's injury as the law imposes a general duty upon them to ensure that people are not foreseeably injured while on their property.
A player could argue that it was foreseeable that the premises would be frequented by gamers distracted by their hunting activities. However, a business owner would potentially succeed in arguing there was a contributory fault on part of the gamer which could serve to defeat a gamer's entire claim.
The most effective steps a business could take to protect itself are either to put up clear signage highlighting the risks of playing Pokémon Go on its premises or to prevent players from entering in the first place. This has happened in other countries, such as the US.
What are the limits for Pokémon Go players?
Obviously there are certain places that it's better not to look for Pokémon; some are legally off-limits, some are unsafe; others are simply inappropriate. Also, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t search for Pokémon while driving. You could be issued with a £100 fixed penalty notice and three penalty points. If the offence was serious enough to go court, you could be banned and get a maximum fine of £1,000.
A number of employers have banned employees from playing the game at work including Boeing who announced this ban during July, with a number of companies who provide staff with Smartphones blocking the app. FDR advises that employers should make it clear to employees that the game should not be played on work devices or during work hours.
Criminals have already been using Lures, a means of bringing Pokémon and other players together.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing to be done legally to prevent it from happening. Pokémon Go may be dressed up as a game but in essence it’s another social media platform. In that respect, we’d recommend people to deploy the same sense of online safety as you would with any other social network. The app states that children must be 13 years of age or over to apply.
The app asks for personal information such as your child's date of birth and email address. Parents or guardians have the right to contact the creators to stop them from using their personal information. The game also aims to bring people together, therefore strangers meeting face to face, FDR advises children are always accompanied by a adult when playing the game.
The key with Pokémon Go is for both players and property owners to apply common sense. The game does not provide players with immunity from the law, nor does it give property owners the absolute right to punish any minor infringement of privacy. It's important to understand the spirit of the game and treat players accordingly.
For further information please contact a member of the team at FDR Law on 01925 230000