Catch ‘Em All Somewhere Else, Homeowners Say

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Makers of the popular “Pokemon Go” game plop virtual creatures on private property without permission and encourage players to trespass on private land, property owners claim in a federal class action.
After taking the world by storm in the 1990s, the Japanese video game is back with a vengeance for a new generation and nostalgic millenials.
Now an application for smartphones and other mobile devices, the “augmented reality” game uses GPS and camera functions, setting goals for players to catch virtual characters in the real world.
San Francisco-based software developer Niantic released “Pokemon Go” on July 6, and Jeffery Marder claims in a July 29 complaint that he had five people knock on the door of his West Orange, New Jersey, home in the first week, asking for permission to “catch” Pokemon in his backyard.
“Pokemon Go” designates GPS coordinates on private properties as “Pokestops” and “Pokemon Gyms” where players can pick up in-game items, according to the complaint.
But Marder says the game makers failed to consider the consequences of “populating the real world with virtual Pokemon characters” without obtaining consent from property owners.
The 16-page filing cites reports about of people inappropriately playing the game at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and at a cemetery in Alabama, prompting complaints.
Earlier this month, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland banned people from playing “Pokemon Go” on its grounds, calling the behavior “disrespectful” at a site memorializing the deaths of more than 1 million Jews killed in extermination camps during the Holocaust.
Marder’s complaint notes that the exceedingly popular “Pokemon Go” was downloaded more than 23 million times and earned more than $35 million in revenue as of July 23.
He says the game makers profit from the unauthorized use of people’s private properties and encourage millions of players to make “unwanted incursions” onto private land.
The complaint accuses the game makers of nuisance and unjust enrichment.
Marder seeks to certify a class of all property owners or abutting property owners in the United States who had “Pokemon Go” designate GPS coordinates on their land or abutting land without consent.
Aside from class certification, Marder also seeks an injunction and damages, disgorgement or other monetary relief.
He is represented Jennifer Pafti of Pomerantz in Beverly Hills. Pafti has not returned a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.
In addition to Niantic, Marder’s federal class action also names as defendants Nintendo and The Pokemon Co.
Representatives for Nintendo and Niantic Inc. have not returned emails seeking comment.
Niantic also faces opposition in New York where Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday directed state authorities to prevent nearly 3,000 registered sex offenders from playing “Pokemon Go” while on parole.
In addition to requiring sex offenders to divulge their home addresses and internet identifiers, including email addresses and screen names, the New York Department of Corrections and Community Services is avoidance of “Pokemon Go” a condition of supervised release from state prison.
According to a report by the Associated Press, “the division has sent about 52,000 records related to 18,544 sex offenders since 2008 that have been used to remove names from social media sites.”

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