Niantic, the developer of Pokémon Go, has settled a class-action lawsuit from Californian homeowners that claims the game incentivises trespassing on private property (via The Register).
In 2016, the lawsuit began with 12 homeowners suing the augmented reality developer for encouraging players to trespass while searching for Pokémon in the surrounding area. Pokéstops, in-game pit stops attached to real world locations that distribute items and attract Pokémon around them, had been placed on their private property. One plaintiff said that five players knocked on their door in five separate instances, and asked to be let into their back garden to catch Pokémon.
Though it has not accepted liability for the violations, Niantic has settled the case by paying $4 million. Almost all of this will go toward legal fees, and the plaintiffs themselves will receive $1,000. The judge considered that the requested $2,500 was too much, but also did not accept Niantic’s defense that it was not responsible for the actions of Pokémon Go players. As such, the legal situation is murky, and there is no exact conclusion on how virtual objects in the real world work within property laws.
On top of the $4 million, Niantic must integrate an online reporting system so that property owners will be able to send trespassing complaints to the developer. It will respond to 95 per cent of trespassing complaints within 15 days of receiving them, remove Pokéstops that are near to family homes, and delete any existing ones that fit the criteria. The game tells players to avoid ‘dangerous areas while playing Pokémon Go’, but Niantic will add a warning about trespassing and to observe the hours of public parks.
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