New Jersey Man Files Lawsuit Over Pokemon Go After A Few Players Politely Knocked On His Door

from the horrible-pain-and-suffering dept

Since Pokemon Go launched last month, we've seen an endless stream of players oddly forget that "augmented reality" doesn't mean the rules of traditional reality no longer apply. Players have spent the last month playing the game in some admittedly "inappropriate" places, while wandering in and out of private property or unsafe areas in a quest to capture virtual monsters. This did, as you might expect, involve a slight learning curve for the nation's police departments as they slowly figured out what augmented reality was:
Apparently fed up with the phenomenon (or just looking for a payday), a New Jersey man last Friday filed a lawsuit in California federal court against Niantic Labs and Nintendo. The 16-page complaint is quick to play up complaints about Pokemon Go players catching monsters in places like the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and says the game makers actively invited "unwanted incursions" on to private property when they populated reality with augmented reality monsters:
"Niantic has encouraged Pokémon Go’s millions of players to make unwanted incursions onto the properties of plaintiff and other members of the class—a clear and ongoing invasion of their use and enjoyment of their land from which defendants have profited and continue to profit."
The lawsuit is seeking class action status, an injunction and damages, disgorgement or other monetary relief. And it's no wonder; plaintiff Jeffery Marder's own experience with the game sounds utterly terrifying; involving five whole people politely knocking on his door to ask if they could capture monsters in his yard:
"At least five individuals knocked on plaintiff's door, informed plaintiff that there was a Pokemon in his backyard, and asked for access to plaintiff's backyard in order to 'catch' the Pokemon. Defendants have shown a flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokemon without seeking the permission of property owners."
How the plaintiff survived such a harrowing ordeal is not spelled out in the complaint. Marder's lawyer and the law firm representing him (Jennifer Pafti of Pomerantz) have been busy on the class action front, having lead class actions against everyone from Fitbit to Etsy in recent years. For what it's worth, the guidelines for the game urge players to "not trespass, or in any manner gain or attempt to gain access to any property or location where you do not have the right or permission to be."

So while potentially annoying, there's no actual harm being done by the game manufacturers, who at least make an effort to remind players that the rules of reality still apply in augmented reality games. Either the players are trespassing, harassing others and violating the law here in the real world -- or they aren't. There's (clearly) no law prohibiting people from being annoying or stupid, and while Mr. Marder's experience of having five people politely knock on his door certainly must have been traumatizing, it's a stretch to suggest Niantic and Nintendo are actively encouraging public stupidity.

Filed Under: class action, pokemon, pokemon go, trespassing
Companies: niantic, nintendo

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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 4 Aug 2016 @ 1:50am

    No Permissible Space Available

    Well, I think the real issue is that, in urban areas, there just isn't very much land which isn't presumptively private. In the real world, the government buys land, and sometimes tears down buildings on that land, in order to create public roads, public parks, and other amenities. The average householder simply does not want strange people in his back yard. As for residential streets, when push comes to shove, people go to gated communities, which are just a logical extension of urban apartment buildings with secure stairwells. Niantic's problem is that a game based on recognized arterial streets would be too dull. Many arterial streets, when they have sidewalks at all, have cheap and nasty sidewalks, the kind of sidewalks where you always have to be alert to avoid being run over by an automobile. Niantic is essentially "stonewalling," after the fashion of a receiver of stolen goods, very much in the same fashion that AirBnB is doing.

    If Niantic were honest, they could simply lock out areas which are zoned to the exclusion of storefront businesses. Similarly, they could restrict zones which were more or less confined to business in "normal business hours," where it would not be permissible to open a tavern, for example. In such areas, Pokemon Go play could also be restricted to business hours. I imagine the zoning maps are probably available in machine-readable form, Unfortunately for Niantic, that would tend to create "no-go zones" anything up to a mile in extent. "

    There used to be, back in the days before cell phones and all, a reprehensible prank which consisted of going into a public men's bathroom, and writing on the wall: "For a good time, call Jenny X, tel xxx-xxxx." The result was that Jenny X would start getting a lot of harassing telephone calls from strange men, calling from public telephone booths, who insisted that she was a prostitute. I think this is an essentially analogous case.

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