Federal Judge Deciding If Niantic Should Face Charges

Pokemon GO was and still is massively popular, but its developer, Niantic Labs, has gotten into trouble in the past over the fact that some of the PokeStops and gyms were in places that they definitely shouldn't have been, and now the matter is set to come to its logical conclusion as a judge decides whether Niantic should have to officially face charges of "virtual trespassing" and negligence. The game's massive crowds have proven time and time again that they will go just about anywhere the game tells them they can find PokeStops, gyms, or wild Pokemon, up to and including private property, off-limits areas, and even terribly dangerous or deadly situations. Because of this, a number of residents and entities across the US want legal action brought against Niantic over their failure to stop such things from happening.

The suit claims negligence against Niantic in that the virtual contents of their game caused people to come stampeding onto private property. The charge of virtual trespassing is an unprecedented one, however, with residents saying that, essentially, Niantic has intruded on their virtual space by literally putting their homes and businesses on the map. Stories abound of players invading apartment complexes, crowding up or cutting through private spaces, and even asking homeowners if they could go in their backyard or cut through their property, and most of these stories are punctuated by players behaving badly; being loud, leaving trash behind, and even committing criminal acts while roaming about in search of Pokemon.

For Niantic's part, they refuted the idea of virtual trespassing outright, saying that intangible virtual spaces could not be trespassed upon, and that things like dust or noise, which are more substantial than a virtual object superimposed in a digital space, do not constitute a charge of trespassing. While the charge of negligence may hold water with current laws, digital trespassing is unprecedented, meaning that other virtual services could be affected in the future, should this case come to pass as the plaintiffs wish it to. It should also be noted that the relevant laws vary wildly by state, which means that for the case to be successful, some universal precedent or even new federal law would have to be made.

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