Milwaukee Is Being Sued Over Mandatory Augmented Reality Permits

Summons-1

Apparently developing an AR game in Wisconsin isn’t as simple as it seems.

Friday was a historic day for virtual and augmented reality. Developers of Candy Lab AR took the entirety of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, to court over a bizarre permit requirement they claim impedes on their first amendment rights.

Originally proposed back in December, the new ordinance requires AR & VR developers to go through a screening process to determine the “appropriateness of the application” and submit a “certificate of insurance” covering $ 1 million in general liability insurance. Not only that, but there’s the strong possibility of additional fees as well.

Check out the full statement:

“Virtual and location-based augmented reality games are not permitted in Milwaukee County Parks except in those areas designated with a permit for such use by the Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Culture. Permits shall be required before any company may introduce a location-based augmented reality game into the Parks, effective January 1, 2017. The permitting application process is further described on DPRC’s website for companies that create and promote such games. That process shall include an internal review by the DPRC to determine the appropriateness of the application based on site selection, protection of rare flora and fauna, personal safety, and the intensity of game activities on park lands. Game activity shall only occur during standard park hours, unless otherwise authorized by the DPRC Director, who has the authority to designate special events and activities within the Parks outside of the standard operational hours.”

This proves to be an issue for Candy Lab AR who’s augmented reality location-based poker game, Texas Rope ‘Em, requires players to visit various real-life game spots to collect cards. The company claims this is not only a restriction to free speech, but “unconstitutionally vague.” They go on to stress how augmented reality isn’t conceptually new, having seen considerable use in cars and in football game broadcasts for years. The full statement regarding their lawsuit reads:

“The restriction impinges on Candy Lab AR’s right to free speech by regulating Candy Lab AR’s right to publish its video games that make use of the augmented reality medium. The Ordinance is a prior restraint on Candy Lab AR’s speech, impermissibly restricts Candy Lab AR’s speech because of its content, and is unconstitutionally vague such that Candy Lab AR does not have notice as to what speech must be approved by permit and which it can express without seeking a permit.”

This new ordinance is a direct response to the Pokemon Go craze that took over not only Milwaukee parks, but most of the modern world. The committee’s approval of the proposal was originally met with little to no resistance, as most citizens were in agreement that the massive crowds and the resulting mess from Pokemon Go craze aren’t repeated.

This ordinance will prevent public parks from being registered as game locations, similar to PokeStops. The only problem is that this new permit system treats all developers objectively equal, meaning in the government’s eyes, there is no difference between smaller organizations like Candy Lab and larger, well-funded developers like Niantic.

It’s highly likely Texas Rope ‘Em won’t reach the absurd level of popularity Pokemon Go did, but under this new ordinance they will be treated as though they already have. According to Candy Lab, “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.”

As ridiculous as this permit sounds, it’s still an important sign of the times we’re heading into. As fleeting as the app was, Pokemon Go has changed the game by bringing light augmented reality, as well as location-based content, into the spotlight. These are important regulations that could alter how we develop and enjoy this type of revolutionary technology for years to come.

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