Ryan Mitchell, Volume 50 Comment Editor
Volume 49, Book 4
The “bundle of sticks” idiom has described the rights of property owners for years. As technology advances, however, the rights collected in that bundle of sticks must advance as well—most notably, what the exclusive right of possession means in an increasingly virtual world.
With the success of Pokémon Go, augmented reality has stepped forward as a predominate technological advancement that is going to expand after gaining the attention and investment of major Silicon Valley companies. As with the public debut of all revolutionary technologies, however, the law is simply unprepared to handle the consequences of augmented reality. As a result, Pokémon Go is causing private property owners across the country to suffer from infringements upon their exclusive right of possession. While some property owners may be able to obtain relief through traditional torts, it is currently unlikely that there is a remedy for Pokémon Go’s placement of in-game locations that correspond to the GPS coordinates of private property without permission or notice to the property owner.
This “virtual trespass” is infringing upon the exclusive right of possession, and it is up to the state legislatures to ensure that property owners are protected. Augmented reality and the issue of virtual trespass is here to stay, and Texas has the ability to put itself at the forefront of effective, efficient virtual trespass legislation that protects private property rights well into the future.