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Location-based augmented reality games now protected by First Amendment

US judge rules it unconstitutional for laws to block where AR titles may be played

A court ruling in the United States has been hailed as a victory for developers making augmented reality games, deeming it impossible to enforce restrictions on AR and location-based titles.

The case centres around Milwaukee Country, Wisconsin, which adopted an AR ordinance back in February demanding developers behind games such as Pokémon Go purchase a permit before their apps could be used in the county's parks.

Ars Technica reports that this prompted a lawsuit from California-based studio Candy Lab as this affected its own title Texas Rope 'Em, a poker-themed titled with location-based and augmented reality functions. While the permits were introduced to prevent parks from being overrun by too many players, the studio argued that the process of acquiring a permit was nigh on impossible.

Milwaukee County was asking developers to estimate crowd size as well as the dates and times these crowds were likely to descend upon the parks. Studios were also required to specify their plans to handle on-site security, medical services, garbage collection and even bathroom use. And the developer would have to pay $1,000.

Ars Technica reports US District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller has issued a preliminary injunction this week that prevents Milwaukee Country from enforcing their law.

In the official documentation for the injunction, the judge deemed that Candy Lab "has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of its claims... for violations of the First Amendment".

This is only a temporary measure until the result of a trial, set for April 2018. Milwaukee Country is disputing that Texas Rope 'Em and similar location-based augmented reality games should not be protected by the First Amendment.

"It does not convey any messages or ideas," a statement reads. "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."

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James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
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