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As we all know Pokémon Go is all the rage. There have been reports that police stations are common hot spots for gyms and collections. Churches have also been a common hot spot. I think there is also a story where a man bought an old church and now that is his residence. Regardless of whether that story is true it made me think:

What is the legality of someone putting a virtual hot spot on your property without permission? I know we are in uncharted territory, but how would this compare to setting up a contest that would require going on your property without permission? Is it currently legal to say, "Go to person X's house and touch a tree"? If not, does the current law extend to augmented reality?

To me both are attractions which cause a gathering of people.

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    Putting a physical attraction doesn't really seem like a fair comparison, because that actually infringes on the owner's to right to physical control of their property (e.g., maybe the property owner wanted to put a nice birdbath on that spot of her lawn, but some jerk has set up a ferris wheel instead). It might be a bit closer comparison to think of a person who says, "Okay, the first person to run on to Josie's lawn and touch her birdbath wins a fee lunch!" or some similar enticement to trespass (or to enter the property lawfully, if it is not private). – apsillers Jul 12 '16 at 14:23
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    Furthermore, could a property owner be sued under "Attractive Nuisance" doctrine if they do nothing to stop trespassers and one gets injured? – Chris Cudmore Jul 12 '16 at 18:25
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    My brothers both play it and they seem to be able to get them from the adjacent street most of the time. The building seems to be more used as a reference point than actually intended that you have to enter it to get the thing. – Random832 Jul 12 '16 at 18:28
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    Here's a blog post on that subject: Is PokemonGo Illegal? – ChrisW Jul 12 '16 at 20:44
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    @simbabque As an old Ingress player, I can add a bit to that. Ingress allows players to submit new portals to the database, and police and fire stations et al are explicitly identified as invalid candidates for the player submission process, but the Ingress portal database used data from the [Historical Marker Database](www.hmdb.org/) for its initial seed, which data included some existing police stations, fire stations, and post offices, and those portals remain in the game. – Dan Henderson Jul 14 '16 at 19:59
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What is the legality of someone putting a virtual hot spot on your property without permission? I know we are in uncharted territory but how would this compare to setting up a contest that would require going on your property without permission?

The existence of a game does not authorise entrance to private property, barring some agreement with the owner.

That is - if it is trespassing without Pokemon Go (or, for that matter Ingress), then it is trespassing while playing them.

That being said, the creators of the game are free to place their in-game targets anywhere they please, and it is hard to imagine a scenario where they would be liable for their users' actions, unless they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent their users from doing so - Niantic clearly instruct their users to respect the law and also, only require that their users be within a certain distance of these points, not actually be at them.

Is it currently legal to say Go to person X house and touch a tree? If not, does the current law extend to augmented reality?

Nope, unless it can be done without entering private property (which includes the airspace above the property, to some extent). And there are no special cases for augmented reality.


Now, there is some possibility that if they create a private nuisance - by being too loud, or by otherwise interfering with the use of the property - owners of a property could bring a claim in tort against players for doing so - or charges for a public nuisance, when done in a public area.

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    They could bring a claim against the players for being a nuisance but could they not doing anything about the game? You'd think it'd count as some sort of harassment if they kept spawning things on/around your property drawing a crowd. – DasBeasto Jul 12 '16 at 16:31
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    @DasBeasto it's not like the game itself is illegal - consider eggs and toilet-paper - sure, it can be a nuisance if used to egg or TP a house, but that doesn't meant that eggs or toilet-paper themselves should be banned – user2813274 Jul 12 '16 at 16:45
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    @user2813274 True, but I'm referring more to the game developers putting a static attraction on/by someones house. So in that example it'd be like the egg company printing "Go egg 12 South Main Street for rewards" on all the cartons. (perhaps a bit hyperbolic but the point is they are in a way "inciting" this behavior) – DasBeasto Jul 12 '16 at 16:49
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    @DasBeasto Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be a criminal offence like incitement, encouraging crime, or similar, and a judge may very well decide that the game studio (or its CEO) has committed that offence. – Alexander Jul 12 '16 at 18:29
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    @user2813274 Eggs and toilet paper are not sold for the specific, intended purpose of vandalism. The specific, intended purpose of this game, however, is to encourage players to visit specific real-world locations. And if this set of locations includes a place where visitors are not welcome... – Mason Wheeler Jul 13 '16 at 21:16

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