Pokemon Go Legal Battle Leads To Judge Citing Constitutional Rights

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A federal judge from Wisconsin cited the U.S. Constitution in a court case involving the regulation of Pokemon Go and other augmented reality games, issuing a preliminary injunction that gives games such as these protection under the First Amendment.

The ordinance and resulting legal discussion in question wasn't an attack against Pokemon Go specifically, but rather a broad sweep from Milwaukee, Wis., against games such as Pokemon Go that encourage players to go outside and participate in the game at various real-world locations. Back in January, the city grew tired of players populating parks after-hours and supposedly causing damage to the locations and their flora, actions that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of expenses. Their response to the issue was to pass a law that would require the companies that create these games to apply for permits before their games could be played in public areas within the city.

In addition to trying to regulate when and where certain games like Pokemon Go could be played, the process to obtain these permits wasn’t cheap either. After completing the initial application process, companies such as Niantic would half to fork over $1 million in liability coverage in addition to other fees.

As one might expect, video game companies didn’t take too well to the news. Texas Rope ‘Em’s creator, Candy Labs AR, sued the county. The game involves players travelling to different local areas in order to build their card collections, but Milwaukee challenged the lawsuit by saying that the game didn’t have enough expressive property to allow it to be protected by the First Amendment. But according to U.S. District Court judge J.P. Stadtmueller, it and other games most certainly qualify for the Constitutional protection.

"The Ordinance treats game developers like Candy Lab as though they are trying hold an 'event' in a Milwaukee County park,” Stadtmueller wrote. “However, this misunderstands the nature of the problem, since Candy Lab's video game will not be played at a discrete time or location within a park. Requiring Candy Lab to secure insurance, portable restrooms, security, clean-up, and provide a timeline for an 'event' is incongruent with how Texas Rope ‘Em (or any other mobile game) is played."

The judge listed several examples of location-based games ranging from poker to Pokemon, saying that the basic protections offered by the First Amendment don’t change just because the entertainment medium does.