Tapu Wooloo asks:

How do you suppose property rights over Pokemon work?

Easy.  They don’t.  Next question, please.

…yeah, all right, fine

Anything I say about this is, to some extent, bull$#!t.  I mean, obviously the Pokémon games and anime don’t really care about, like… the legal conventions around Pokémon training, because it’d take a weird kind of nerdy child to look at a world where kids make friends with magical creatures and say “yeah, but can we hear a story about their lawyers?”  But I don’t think they consider Pokémon property, the way pets are considered property in the real world.  I mean, even in the real world, that is contentious, right?  Some animals – mostly primates and cetaceans – now have specific legal rights or even full legal personhood in some countries, and there are pressure groups that are actively trying to see more legal rights extended to common pet animals like cats and dogs.  If treating animals strictly as property doesn’t fly in our civilisation, I doubt it would in the Pokémon world.  A lot of the things you can do with your personal property – destroying or abandoning it, for instance – I think would be widely seen as… if not illegal, then at the very least extremely sleazy if you tried to do them with a Pokémon.  We “release” a lot of Pokémon in the games, especially if we’re breeding them, but I think this is a conflict between the games’ mechanics and their ideals; Lusamine actually calls us out for this in the climax of Sun and Moon (well, kinda – she believes it’s fine to treat Pokémon like property and says that the player’s own actions prove we believe it too; she’s also the closest thing those games have to a villain, though).

I don’t think you can sell them either, normally; you can trade Pokémon, but then you’re sort of exchanging two things that are, like… both priceless in the same way.  In the anime trading is rare, and part of what makes trading a good idea is if the Pokémon buy into it (Ash’s Aipom for Dawn’s Buizel is the textbook case).  Yeah, there’s a few counterexamples for selling Pokémon, but I think most of them are… well, iffy?  The most obvious one is the Magikarp salesman, who is, like… clearly trying to scam you, and is explicitly portrayed as a con artist in the anime.  And you can buy Pokémon for coins at generation I and II game corners, but the original game corner was set up by Team Rocket to launder stolen Pokémon, and I think maybe in Hoenn and Sinnoh it occurred to the developers that “hey, this is actually not consistent with the ethos of the world we’ve created; let’s not keep it.”  I think these should maybe not be our standard for interpreting law and custom.

So yeah, I don’t think property law is really applicable at all.  I can’t prove it, but I think the legal status of children and cultural expectations placed upon parents are a better analogy (though obviously still not perfect).

12 thoughts on “Tapu Wooloo asks:

  1. In your knowledge, had there ever been a time a character has reference the idea of inheriting Pokemon? It strikes me as something someone might’ve said at some point that a single Pokemon could’ve been passed down through the generations but I can’t recall any examples.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm.

      I feel like it’s probably happened, but my instinct is that it would be less “this Pokémon was mine, so it Belongs To You Now,” and more “this Pokémon was mine, so it is now your Grizzled Mentor Figure.” Which is narratively more interesting anyway, and now I kind of want that episode to exist if it doesn’t already.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep, looked at the dialogue from Bulbapedia and Falker explicitly states that the Bird Pokemon he’s battling with are his dad’s. In the original games his dad is just supposed to be ‘travelling’ which makes it sound like a temporary arrangement, but in BW2 he says he hopes his father is “watching from above” which sounds like his dad died sooo… maybe?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Enough time passed between previous games and BW2 for the statute of limitations on all of the crimes Giovanni committed to run out, and Falkner is too early a gym leader for there to be any overlap between his original team and one he’d use in an endgame area.

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          2. Yeah, I feel like the games are not going to give enough detail to be able to say anything meaningful about it. From memory, the subject doesn’t come up in Falkner’s anime appearances.

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    2. In Ultra Smoon, there’s a small event where an Aether employee entrusts you with a Poké Ball that was left behind by an old man who passed away, and asks you to deliver it to his family on Ula’ula Island. According to that employee, when a Trainer can’t come back for their Pokémon, the standard practice is to either find relatives who can care for it, or to release it if none can be found. And indeed, the deceased man’s granddaughter seems to take ownership of the Dartrix upon receiving it from you.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. but wasn’t that also the case of the Dartrix not wanting to be released, so they ask you to find the trainer’s family, as the Aether Foundation doesn’t know who they are?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That Youtube follower? That’s similar to how I feel when someone follows me on FimFiction, and even on DeviantArt where I’ve at least posted some things I still go over to their profile to express my confusion. (I also have one follower on each where I pointed out that this is either likely to turn antagonistic or already was)

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