Patterico's Pontifications

1/6/2011

Pac-Map App: A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 10:12 am



[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

For like two seconds I thought this was kind of cool.  Then I started to think about it.

You see some company has created a Google Droid app called Pac-Map, where it uses GPS tech to apparently play real life Pac-Man.  That is right, your position is where the “Pac-Man” is, your city is the maze, and imaginary ghosts are projected on it, and its your job to try to avoid them and get your Pac-man to eat pellets.  You can see video of how this is supposed to operate, here:

And at first blush, it all sounds like a fun retro-ish augmented reality concept.  And then I realized how idiotic this was, from a liability viewpoint.

So let’s say you are getting into it and you are so anxious to get away from Winky that you make a hasty turn and…  run down a little girl on her bicycle?  Okay, yes, that would officially make you a moron, but in the eyes of the law, it also is extremely likely to get the game company in trouble.  The whole thing recalls the suits against Dominoes Pizza related to its 30 Minutes or Its Free guarantee.  And while parts of that story are apparently an urban legend even Snopes says that concerns for liability did drive the decision to end the policy.  And of course in this country, the moment you get sued you almost always come out a loser—it’s just a matter of how much you will lose. Now there are relevant differences between Domino’s and this game company, not the least being that the Domino’s cases involved drivers who were their employees. Still, I am fairly certain that this will still give rise to a lot of suits, if not a lot of liability.

If I was advising this company, I would tell them to immediately stop selling this game and find a new way to make money.

Anyway, hat tip to Joystiq.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

7 Responses to “Pac-Map App: A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen”

  1. Not to be a lawgeek or anything, but . . .

    The case that this made me think of was not one of the Dominos cases, but Weirum v. R.K.O General Inc, 15 Cal.3d 40 (1975), involving a radio contest run by disk jockey “The Real Don Steele” that encouraged people to race around catching Steele at public appearances. Result: a ruling saying that the radio station owed a duty to people whose lives it foreseeably risked by inducing Steele-listeners to drive recklessly.

    Ken (2e87a6)

  2. Don’t forget about liability for trademark infringement (Pac-Man vs. Pac-Map) and copyright infringement with respect to the graphic art.

    Ira (28a423)

  3. The goal seems to be to get as many points as possible within a time limit. So it directly rewards speeding. Dumb.

    roy (f572a6)

  4. What a foolish app to sell. Does Google limit what apps can show up on their store the way Apple does? Because those are some very deep pockets.

    I would modify the program to only work when off streets. Users could map out trails in parks and share them, and then run around instead of jerking their cars around to play the game.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  5. Google does not put many limits on what apps show up in their store. Very clear legal problems — usually copyright violations — will get an app kicked, and there are some weird rules about gambling, but mostly they prefer to err on the side of allowing access. It’s one of Google’s selling points.

    roy (d946db)

  6. Ken excellent point!

    Dustin, google is, by my understanding, pretty free range.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  7. Ira

    yeah, i didn’t investigate whether they had permission or not.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)


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