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Lawsuit: Permit for Augmented Reality Game Violates Free Speech

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Texas Rope 'Em is not exactly Pokemon Go, the wildly successful augmented reality game that has led millions to search for virtual characters in the real world.

But the virtual poker game does present a new legal twist in an augmented reality lawsuit pending in Wisconsin. Candy Lab, Inc., the video game maker, says a county park is violating its First Amendment right by requiring a permit for its users.

"This 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 company's complaint says.

Say That Again, Pardner

The county is not showing all of its cards, virtually speaking. It contends, however, that the game does not have free speech rights.

"No storylines, no characters, no plot and no dialogue. The player simply views randomly generated cards and travels to locations to get more," the county says. "That is not the type of speech that demands First Amendment safeguards."

According to ArsTechnica, the poker game got caught in the wake of a Pokemon Go craze that resulted in a Milwaukee county park being overrun by players. Now the county requires augmented reality game-makers to get a special use permit if their apps lead players to county parks.

Not the First Rodeo

Pokemon Go, which was downloaded 75 million times the first month it went live, has already been to court over its use. Players have sued for a variety of reasons, such as leading users to injuries down dark alleys, into traffic, and off cliffs.

In response, the company developed strong warnings to users. Meanwhile, the courts have held users responsible for their own actions when living through an augmented reality.

The boundaries seem to have been set since at least 2011, when a federal court in Utah dismissed a case against Google. A woman sued, alleging that Google Maps gave her bad directions when she walked into traffic and was struck by a car.

Google argued it had a First Amendment privilege for its publication, but the judge did not decide the issue. The court said the company did not have a duty to the plaintiff, who was responsible for her own actions.

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