First Amendment suit halts anti-'Pokémon Go' law

A judge ordered an injunction against the ordinance pending a lawsuit.

A legal battle against AR games like Pokémon Go has been brewing in Wisconsin and this week, the games scored a win. In February, Milwaukee County introduced a new law that required AR game makers to get a permit before their games could be designed for use in the county's parks. The move came after the parks saw large increases in traffic after the release of Pokémon Go last year.

But Candy Lab, maker of the AR game Texas Rope 'Em, sued the county and claimed that the ordinance was a First Amendment violation. They also asked the courts for an injunction of the rule before the lawsuit goes to trial next April, which a district judge granted on Thursday. In the ruling, the judge said, "Greater injury will be inflicted upon [Candy Labs] by the denial of injunctive relief than will be inflicted upon [Milwaukee County] by the granting of such relief."

Milwaukee County has argued that this isn't a First Amendment violation because the game and its makers don't have First Amendment rights. "Texas Rope 'Em is not entitled to First Amendment protection because it does not convey any messages or ideas. 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," said Milwaukee County in its motion to dismiss the case. It also claims that the game isn't protected by the amendment because it constitutes illegal gambling.

The permit Milwaukee County began demanding treats AR gaming like a special event, requiring start and end times, expected numbers of participants, portable restroom supply and fees for things like garbage collection. All of which seem rather ridiculous to ask of a game developer.

In response to the judge's injunction approval, Candy Lab's attorney told Ars Technica, "I think it's a huge win for the medium of augmented reality as a whole. It's a strong affirmation that AR is a medium for creative expression."