When we talked to a man whose property unwittingly became the site of a Pokémon gym within Pokémon Go, he was hardly disgruntled. In fact, the biggest worry on his mind was if his neighbors would think he was a drug dealer. Instead, the Massachusetts resident—whose home was once a Methodist church before it was converted into a house in the ’70s—embraced the weird crowding of individuals upon his home, and even made a few friends along the way. This is the opposite response had by New Jersey resident Jeffrey Marder. After realizing his home was a spot on the app, due to frequent loiterers, he is now leading a class action lawsuit against Niantic, the studio being Pokémon Go.
determine what “space” AR occupies
This isn’t a one-man legal venture, since Marder is pursuing a class action lawsuit (meaning that other disgruntled property owners can join in on the fun too). The class action lawsuit, according to documents obtained by Polygon, centers around the claim that Niantic placed PokéStops and Pokémon gyms within private property “without the consent of the properties’ owners.” It’s not the only time people have grown unsettled by the craze’s smartphone-wielding players swiping upwards in areas where they maybe shouldn’t.
In fact, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. is among said controversies, in probably the most headline-straddling example. The museum has publicly strongly advised against people playing the game within its halls and refraining from loitering by any of its three PokéStops, landmarks in accordance with memorials in the museum. “We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game,” said Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, in an interview with Washington Post.
It’s an interesting lawsuit—and maybe the first of its kind to determine what actual “space” AR occupies—of a person wanting their property to be excluded from the AR world. Where AR is technically the space where digital and physical collide, it’s a question if the physical can really exclude itself from the digital—especially since PokéStops, mostly, were player-curated via Niantic’s former game Ingress (2013). The looming question over the case remains: should property owners have legal jurisdiction to how their homes and lands are implemented in the digital world? Only time will tell, as we see how the courts proceed.