The Sydney suburb of Rhodes was transformed to what resident Joyce Wong described as a “place of carnage” with hundreds of people wandering around like “zombies” from a quiet neighborhood within one week in July.
“The car hooting noise was incessant, on weekends you felt like you were under siege and the rubbish and litter all over the public areas was terrible,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email from her home in the Australian city.
And Pokemon Go, the latest craze in augmented reality, is the reason for the constant disturbance.
As animated creatures began appearing in the most unexpected places – all through the lens of a smartphone, the game took the world by storm this summer.
Debates on land rights, the legal boundaries of private property, and what constitutes trespass have been fueled by the global popularity of the game and other video games that put digital “characters” into real places – from private homes to shops, parks and even monuments and museums.
Experts say that nobody really knows what the rights of property owners are when digital characters or structures appear on their land and the inter-section between virtual reality and property law is not clear.
“A lot of people are convinced that because they own their property, they ought to be able to control the virtual space,” said Brian Wassom, a lawyer at Michigan’s Warner Norcross & Judd LLP with expertise in augmented reality.
“I think they’re going to come to the answer which I have come to, which is: no, you can’t,” he said in a phone interview.
Only when there has been something or someone physically present on the property do the land rights apply, he said.
However, as more and more examples of the power the digital world can hold over specific geographical spots emerge, this distinction is becoming blurred.
For example in the United States there has been a myriad of problems including unwanted visitors and police searches as certain properties have ended up as default locations for millions of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, a computer’s public address.
Consternation when they appeared in some surprising spots, including Washington’s Holocaust museum, New York’s Sept. 11 memorial and a Cambodian genocide museum have been fueled by the placing of Pokestops – places where players collect virtual Pokeballs to help them move forward in the game.
Pokemon Go was rolled out further afield and downloaded more than 500 million times following its initial launch in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand on July 6.
More questions about how virtual games impact property rights by Pokemon Go which is the most popular to date and developed by U.S. software firm Niantic Inc. even as it not the first augmented reality game.
(Adapted from Reuters)