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Access to ‘Pokemon Go’ Pokestops could be protected by the First Amendment

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In February, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin adopted a local ordinance that required developers of augmented apps to secure permits if their games were to be played in public parks, in response to the popularity of Pokemon Go. Now, a judge has ruled this legislation as unconstitutional, citing the First Amendment.

When Pokemon Go was at its peak last summer, parks around the country were being swarmed by players looking to catch new monsters and take their unhatched eggs for a walk. As these public spaces became overrun with Pokemon trainers, the county drew up permit requirements, according to a report from Ars Technica.

Developers were asked to provide estimates of how many players parks could expect to receive and at what times, which is obviously very difficult to predict with any accuracy. What’s more, applying for a permit could cost as much as $1,000 — which is small change for Pokemon Go developer Niantic, but only because the game is incredibly lucrative.

Studios responsible for less prominent augmented reality titles simply did not have the resources to comply with the ordinance. As a result, Texas Rope ‘Em developer Candy Lab decided to sue Milwaukee County in an attempt to have the permit requirement thrown out.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller issued a preliminary injunction that will prevent Milwaukee from enforcing the requirement until the case goals to trial, which is expected to happen in April 2018. His argument was that the current status quo will harm developers more than the injunction will harm public enjoyment of county parks.

However, Milwaukee County looks set to make a case for the permit requirements to be upheld. It argues that Texas Rope ‘Em should not be protected by the First Amendment as it does not convey “thoughts or ideas,” with its gameplay purportedly focusing solely on the collection of randomly generated cards, without any plot.

The next year is going to be make-or-break for AR, as Apple attempts to bring the technology to new heights with its ARKit development platform. As such, it is time that rules and regulations pertaining to this kind of software are hashed out — even though it will be several months until a verdict is reached in this particular case.

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Brad Jones
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Brad is an English-born writer currently splitting his time between Edinburgh and Pennsylvania. You can find him on Twitter…
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