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AR Game Maker Sues Milwaukee, Wisconsin for Legal Response to Pokémon Go

posted on by Karen Ressler

U.S. game company Candy Lab sued the county of Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Friday over an ordinance that requires virtual and location-based augmented reality games to have a permit in order to operate in Milwaukee County Parks. Candy Lab is challenging the ordinance on the basis that it violates its First Amendment right to free speech.

The county adopted the ordinance in January in response to the popularity of Niantic Labs' Pokémon Go smartphone game, which launched last July and brought heavy traffic to Milwaukee County's Lake Park. According to the ordinance, the process for attaining a permit includes a review "to determine the appropriateness of the application based on site selection, protection rate of flora and fauna, personal safety, and the intensity of the game activities on park lands." It also requires game activities to occur only during standard park hours.

Candy Lab claims that requiring a permit to introduce the game is a violation of free speech, and the ordinance is "unconstitutionally vague" because it does not fully explain what Candy Lab needs to do in order for its game to be approved. The complaint also notes that augmented reality has many other applications, such as automobiles' navigation systems.

Candy Lab's complaint continues:

No company "introduces" a piece of software "into" any physical location. The fact that a particular software application is "location-based" merely means that it will perform certain functions or display certain content, based on where the device running the software is located at any given time. The developer's role in distributing that software, however, ends with making it available for download in a software app store. Physical entry into a location only occurs when an individual carries his or her mobile device with them into the location.

Candy Lab launched its own location-based augmented reality game, Texas Rope 'Em, in March.

Pokémon Go developer Niantic Labs disabled the game in some locations, such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., after complaints. In August, a New Jersey resident filed a lawsuit against the developers for enticing players to trespass on his private property. The game is also banned in Iran due to security concerns, and a Russian man was arrested for playing the game in a church.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter (Eriq Gardner)


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