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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The First Word

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  1. identicon
    Digi, 4 Aug 2016 @ 6:05pm

    To address a few misconceptions I've seen:
    - Niantic absolutely does, and HAS removed pokestops. There was recently some hubub, because a bunch of stops, primarily in graveyards and similar, were removed. So stop saying they don't or won't. They will. They have provided a form on the website for it. Try it. If success is lacking, try to contact Niantic directly. Yes, a stop at a woman's shelter might make things complicated, but holy shit there have not been data breaches. No one is going to find out about your request. And if the stop is removed, no data of it would remain in the game.
    - On the subject of increased foot traffic by Pokemon hunters by, say, a shelter: a lot of this can cause an increase in pedestrians. This may be one of them. They should in no way cause a problem, especially if it's clear that the shelter is not a place to enter (even without knowing what it is. I'm guessing it does not resemble a store, for example. So they'd have no reason to try and enter.) I find it hard to imagine, though, that there would be that many more passerbys. Is there a local park people could be walking to? If so, they aren't going to pay any mind to the unmarked shelter.
    - Pokemon are spawned randomly, for the most part. There are items that can make them spawn around you or at pokestops. More than one person can catch a Pokemon. It's not first-come-first-serve. And there is no trading at this time.
    - trespassing is trespassing, that hasn't changed. Asking Niantic to somehow know the ownership and public accessibility of every location, and the hours thereof, is just insane. Further, you can easily catch Pokemon from outside a restricted location. Asking people to use their brains is not insane. It's kind of a requirement of human society.
    - As mentioned before, I think a lot of people are exaggerating the draw of 'rare' Pokemon. It's not some kind of 'I'll never have this opportunity again!!' Kind of thing. A reasonable person will just walk away from a rare Pokemon in a publicly inaccessible location.
    - knocking on someone's door during daylight hours to ask if they can go in your backyard is a completely reasonable thing to do. Some people are even fine with it. Knocking at night is obviously a dumbass thing to do. Though in most cases, again, nobody likely needs to enter your yard. The range on catching Pokemon is quite high.

    Anything else? -_-

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