A preliminary injunction blocking a Milwaukee County ordinance preventing augmented reality games like Pokemon GO from being used at local parks has been issued by a US District judge. The injunction will allow the continued function of augmented reality games in county parks until a trial can decide the ordinance’s constitutionality, tentatively planned for next April. The county is arguing that AR games are not entitled to First Amendment protections.
Those fighting the ordinance were not tied to Pokemon GO in any way, however. It is augmented reality game Texas Rope ‘Em developer Candy Lab that filed the lawsuit to overturn the law. Candy Lab is arguing that the ordinance infringes on the company’s First Amendment rights, as video games are protected as a form of media due to a 2011 Supreme Court decision.
According to the county’s argument, Texas Rope ‘Em is not a video game and as such is not protected by the First Amendment:
“Texas Rope ‘Em is not entitled to First Amendment protection because it does not convey any messages or ideas. Unlike books, movies, music, plays and video games—mediums of expression that typically enjoy First Amendment protection—Texas Rope ‘Em has no plot, no storylines, no characters, and no dialogue. All it conveys is a random display of cards and a map. Absent the communicative features that invoke the First Amendment, Candy Lab has no First Amendment claim.”
While the response is specifically directed towards Texas Rope ‘Em, as it was Candy Lab that filed the lawsuit, the implication is that all AR games should not be treated as video games.
The ordinance itself is extremely prohibitive to AR games’ use within the Wisconsin county. It demands game developers acquire permits for a games or apps that require players to visit Milwaukee County parks, like how Pokemon GO requires players to go to Gyms or PokeStops at specific locations. The permit is prohibitively expensive, as much as of $1000 per park, as well as requiring plans for things like bathroom use, garbage collection, medical services, and security — as if a PokeStop is a hosted park event.
As noted, the lawsuit will apparently go to trial as soon as April, with Judge J.P. Stadtmueller’s injunction allowing AR games to continue without permits in this county until the trial is finished. Candy Lab, according to comments made to Ars Technica, believes this is a “huge win for the medium of augmented reality.”
Meanwhile, Niantic, developer of Pokemon GO, is apparently working with Milwaukee County to meet their expectations regarding locations and park hours. That’s a disappointing approach for the leading game developer in the AR market, considering the county is arguing that AR games don’t deserve First Amendment rights. A single Wisconsin county isn’t likely isn’t much of an issue when it comes to the success of Pokemon GO, however.
Expect more information on the lawsuit and trial as it progresses, as far out as April 2018.
Source: Ars Technica