back to article When can real-world laws invade augmented reality fantasies? A trial in Milwaukee will decide

In the blue corner: Candy Lab, a maker of augmented reality games, which doesn't want people banned from playing its distractions in public places. In the red corner: attorneys representing Milwaukee county, which wants to protect its parks from being trashed by boozy, stampeding gamers. Candy Lab thinks free speech …

Anonymous Coward

The first pic

I am giving you about 15seconds before the plod takes interest in you with that thing on your screen at that location in the current climate.

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Re: The first pic

It could be argued that it is somewhat tasteless, certainly.

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Re: The first pic

Lord spare us from those who are offended on our behalf.

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Re: The first pic

Well maybe, as a someone who spends every weekend shooting pics on the streets of London at all times of the night and day, the coppers are the most thoughtful and respectful people I know. They know the law, they've had the right training to deal with the public and, touch wood, I've yet to meet a bad copper while I've been out shooting even during stressful times. I met a couple of very cheery coppers the day after the Westminster attack, we had a good chat and they were all about calming people and letting them know that it's all business as usual for everyone. Nice blokes.

The ones you need to worry about are the private security guards with 0.4 secs of sensitivity and "legal" training who think they know the law better than anyone and simply think cameras are illegal, full stop. The others are the paranoid nosey mob who will run and tell every copper going that someone ( shock, horror! ) has a camera and is using it in a public place!

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Coat

Re: The first pic

Marauding mobs of twitchers in pursuit of a rare bird can and have caused environmental damage, caused an affray, the death of the bird in question, and terrorised old people in their gardens. Those responsible for advertising and directing mobs to environmentally sensitive locations bear a responsibility for any damaged caused.

http://web.onetel.net.uk/~wcswift/

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If this stops future Pokemon Go games I'm all for it.

Otherwise in the current climate you'll have HuntTheJihadi type games where you go around mosques and find the Muslims.*Other religions are available.

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Devil

Don't forget...

...atheists are the first to go.

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Facepalm

"If this stops future Pokemon Go games I'm all for it."

Why? Don't you like Pokémon Go? I get that.

Personally, I f'in loathe football. All those crowds in the city with their stupid chanting and drinking.. and the damage and litter they cause! Utterly unbearable.

If this stops future football games I'm all for it.

[In case you missed the sarcasm, there is some there if you look hard enough.]

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a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

Really, Really? That is the best they could some up with?

So in short, private companies want to monetise public spaces with no responsibility for the consequences and they wonder that the guardians of those public spaces have said 'Bog off'?

Most people stop scraping the barrel when they wear a hole in the bottom, others it seem decide that the barrel is of infinite depth and so anything in or under the barrel is theirs to mine

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

Apart from the taxes on purchases made in the area, I find all of the requirements fairly sound.

If you, as a company, are going to send hundreds or thousands of people trapsing over a piece of property, then you should take responsibility for their actions, should they cause damage.

If, for example, the "cards" are placed in the middle of a flower bed and hundreds of people trample the flowers, then the company should be responsible for compensating the owner of the gardens, the council in this case.

Providing toilets and organising parking are borderline, but sensible, if you are sending thousands of extra people into an area. If you throw a concert, you have to pay for a permit, you have to organise security and you have to provide toilets and parking. Those don't affect the first amendment rights of the artist. I don't see much of a difference here, if the games company wants to have huge crowds of people congregate in real locations.

If it is 1 or 2 users a month, that is something different, but if you are talking about hundreds or thousands extra on a given day, it is only fair that they are responsible for additional costs incured at the location.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

I completely agree with your comparison to a concert - this is the same thing. You are attracting people to a location for entertainment purposes, so you need a permit. To get that permit, you need to provide facilities (toilets and parking) and security, or pay for them to be provided. Just because the crowds will be people intently staring at their phone screens instead of a stage doesn't change it.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

>So in short, private companies want to monetise public spaces

Like those National Geographic bastards with their pictures encouraging people to visit national parks

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

To offer a counter-argument, just for the sake of being awkward, there is no way of telling how popular your game is going to be when you're making it; which is presumably when you're supposed to be getting all these permits and lodging $1m. It's a lot of money up front to add to an already risky business and would have the effect of totally carving out the little guys.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

These days, people at concerts tend to be staring at their phone screens (while taking horrible quality videos of the gig).

Actually, I wonder if that counts as AR and we can make Apple/Samsung/Google liable to pay for the toilets etc...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

If you, as a company, are going to send hundreds or thousands of people trapsing over a piece of property, then you should take responsibility for their actions, should they cause damage.

The company was very irresponsible and insensitive - having "placed" things in military bases, in restricted areas of hospitals, police stations, the 9/11 monument, the Holocaust Memorial Museum.....

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Go

Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

@ moiety - just a small counter argument:

"there is no way of telling how popular your game is going to be when you're making it;"

That is also true of holding a concert or any sort of live event - but either way you still need to get a permit and put up the cash to hold the event, whether your expecting to sell out a 40k person arena, or are just hoping the 200 people you need to break even come through...

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

What about that book that was a treasure hunt, it attracted people to locations.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

"That is also true of holding a concert or any sort of live event"

A counter-counter argument for you....just because I'm feeling cantankerous and not because I have a horse in this particular race...a live event is different in 2 major ways:

Firstly, the physical venue. It'll cost you a certain amount to hire a particular venue -scales up with size- you then know the capacity; and roughly your insurance, security and advertising arrangements. You work to up to your venue's capacity and the ticket price will reflect that. You're not going to go over, because you can stop selling tickets (unless you're an airline and therefore an unprincipled tosspot) and you hope you don't go too far under capacity and drop a bucket of money.

Secondly, you're talking about one venue or cluster of them for a live event. This law is talking about mapping every public park in Wisconsin (or wherever) before you even get started.

----

So as a game developer, do you a) drop $1m up front and make/obtain public park maps of Wisconsin and then get permits for them or do you put a notice in the EULA that you can't download it if you live in Wisconsin?

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

@moety on the other hand, if this is a wake-up call to software developers to actually think about the impact their games can have in the real world and change the way the game works, to minimize the impact on particular locations, then the threat has worked.

These items are virtual, so why send everyone to the same location? Why not send a maximum of a dozen people to one location on one day, once that limit is reached, you choose another location in the area that is a couple of miles away for the next dozen or so and so on. You spread the impact and you don't have any flash mobs destroying property.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

Thank you. Saved me a posting.

It is not like they are shutting down Speakers Corner.

Okay, I am posting.

Active US military wasted our time playing Pokemon Go? Are the skilz transferable to remote killing of enemies of the State?

I see where this could go.

Citizens are connected to a government AR app. The app forms a crowd and sends the crowd after non compliant Citizens. Citizens gain privileges by success in the game. Win win.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

By that standard, putting a military base should also be sued for making the neighborhood a target...

Or a police station for collecting criminals to an area...

A firestation for messing up traffic flow...

A school for attracting delinquents...

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

Just for the sheer sake of debate

Why not send a maximum of a dozen people to one location on one day, once that limit is reached, you choose another location in the area that is a couple of miles away for the next dozen or so and so on. You spread the impact and you don't have any flash mobs destroying property.

You couldn't do it by numbers because you have no idea of how many users you're going to end up having...it only takes someone famous to tweet about it and you have 10x the users overnight.

You could send people to different places as they come in...sort of load balancing...and you could even have a bit of flexibility there so you're not splitting up groups of friends who are playing together. So you'd end up with a bunch of smaller flash mobs, so a partial cure; but that's not the main problem.

The main problem is that you have to map every public park in Wisconsin. That is a large task.

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Boffin

Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

To offer a counter-argument, just for the sake of being awkward, there is no way of telling how popular your game is going to be when you're making it; which is presumably when you're supposed to be getting all these permits and lodging $1m. It's a lot of money up front to add to an already risky business and would have the effect of totally carving out the little guys.

While I agree that $1m up front will be problematic especially for smaller firms, I can also see the problem that should players cause damage then the money is needed beforehand. What if the players cause even $100,000 in a county, and the company folds rather than pays up? Should the taxpayers cover the damage while the owners of the company set up an identical company in another name, with the profits safely in some bank account or other (assuming the area has the sort of "limited liability" companies we have here, ie if the company folds owning money the owners aren't liable for a cent more than they put into the business)?

Make it a bond, ie if there's a reasonable chance that damage is caused by the players at a given time, then the money comes from the bond, if not then the bond is returned after the event.

Given the value of some plants, it's quite conceivable that a group of greedy idiots only caring about getting the "card" or other item in a location, not caring about what is there or getting to said item without damaging stuff around them, will do damage. As the numbers increase, throw in a number of drunken louts, pricks with an over-inflated sense of entitlement/"rights", and a few dozen over-excited but under-coordinated teens rushing about, and you quickly get a lot of damage, especially with any valuable flower beds that normal people would admire, maybe take pictures of, and then move on.

Oh, in some areas, at the right time of year, a carelessly dropped match or cigarette butt, or a hot exhaust of a car parked in the wrong place, and in a few minutes you can have far more than $1m of damage done.

On the bond idea: to aid smaller companies, maybe it can be some form of insurance, fully recoverable from the owners? The better they handle the behaviour of their users, the lower the premium. And with a personal liability they'll surely take care to make sure their players are responsible. Of course, they can nut that out with their insurer, the county could be satisfied that the cover is there and not actually need $1mil up front so long as, if stuff is damaged, they get compensation.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

.a live event is different in 2 major ways:

Firstly, the physical venue.

Lots of "free" concerts are held in public spaces here in NZ. Sports fields, national parks (I think, struggling to recall any), other public spaces (Frank Kitt's park on the waterfront in Wellington being a common one). I'm pretty sure at least someone in the US has figured out a way to monetize such events, and I'm sure someone over there has figured out a way to put a couple of dozen laws around monetizing such events. If you wanted to hold a free concert in a park in Milwaukee, what would you have to do for it to be allowed? Say you can reasonably expect 10,000 people so show up?

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

Why not send a maximum of a dozen people to one location on one day, once that limit is reached, you choose another location in the area..

You couldn't do it by numbers because you have no idea of how many users you're going to end up having...it only takes someone famous to tweet about it and you have 10x the users overnight.

Course you can. It's quite easy. As people come in, they get pointed to the first location. Once you get to your limit (whether in one hit or over the course of a few hours) you start on another. If your game proves too popular then, like so many other websites have been doing for the couple of decades, you either slow down the overall rates or stop any newcomers from arriving, ie only so many connections until you can provide more resources.

you could even have a bit of flexibility there so you're not splitting up groups of friends who are playing together.

How many groups of a dozen or so people would remain together for very long before splitting up into 2 or 3 smaller groups? I haven't ever seen a group that large survive for long on a walkabout before splitting into several smaller groups without some strong oversight, and that was only effective at the first few years of primary school. But yes, build in to the game a group-players thing (with limits in the group sizes, if someone somehow manages to get a group of 10k then your problem is back).

The main problem is that you have to map every public park in Wisconsin. That is a large task.

The state of Wisconsin may be larger than NZ (I simply do not know), however. I have a tablet with a couple of bits of free GPS navigation software, each connected to the freely available "Open Street Maps". They have a large amount of the public parks and other locations/facilities already marked. Some other maps, also freely available, have other stuff already marked as well. I'm sure these could be used as a starting point (with appropriate donations made to the makers if you actually do get money for a product that uses them, only scum make large profits of the backs of other's voluntary labour!). And again, it's about taking responsibility for your users actions. Make it reasonable safe, expect (and be prepared) to pay to mitigate damage, or don't make it at all.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

The $1 million is in "general liability coverage". It's not a fee that you actually have to pay up front, it's an insurance policy that you have to take out against the likelihood of being sued at a later date.

Seen in that light, it's very reasonable. Probably not much more expensive than 3rd-party car insurance.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

Load balance them across the Milwaukee City Council members addresses. The don't freak out with all the folks randomly showing up and getting drunk at summer fest.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

"A counter-counter argument for you"

When a city plays host to a major sporting event, and thousands of visitors descend on said metropolis, who is liable for the cleanup? The sporting club? The owners of the venue? The City authorities? Is a surcharge applied to the ticket price to cover the *anticipated* costs of damage and litter?

If some of those attending such an event then cause criminal damage to the civic amenities in public areas, who is liable? Do the authorities pursue those committing the damage or the club hosting the event?

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

"The main problem is that you have to map every public park in Wisconsin."

Not really. Just the places which may require permission to use AND you choose to use them.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

"While I agree that $1m up front will be problematic especially for smaller firms,"

A $million of liability insurance doesn't actually cost a £million you know.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

"While I agree that $1m up front will be problematic especially for smaller firms,"

A $million of liability insurance doesn't actually cost a £million you know.

The way I read the article was that they wanted a million bond or somesuch, not insurance. Fully agree the insurance would be much better.

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Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

> with their pictures encouraging people to visit national parks

Actually, they are providing pictures so that you don't have to visit national parks.

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I rather approve of a ban.

The regulations appear basically to prevent AR games from being set in public park areas at all unless a game company very much wants to go to that place. And that seems to me to be quite a good solution. The game would simply have to avoid putting any game resources in the park geography (probably including other game players).

On the other hand, there are worse places to play these games in - such as public streets.

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Boffin

Re: I rather approve of a ban.

I agree. it would be very easy to put up geo-spatial boundaries around private property and public areas.

However, here's the thing.

The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

Its going to be a tough call.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I rather approve of a ban.

All they need to do is to make sure the game involves chasing objects in the augmented reality world at speed through park, then name the game pARkrun and world+dog will be pitching into to complain at anyone daring to try to stop it!

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Stop

Re: I rather approve of a ban. @IanGumby

"The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park."

Yes but you and I would be stopped from, say, selling beer in the park. If this game has in-app purchases then it could fall under the same regulations.

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Re: I rather approve of a ban.

The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

Yes and no, if the game is causing thousands of extra people to be going through the area, and possibly causing damage (E.g. walking over plants to get to hidden items), the company has a responsibility to cover any excessive "wear and tear" to the area and any damage caused by inconsiderate gamers.

Whether the company then tries to identify the inconsiderate games and get their money back is another matter.

If I want to throw a concert or other event in a location, I have to get permits and liability insurance, how is this any different?

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Re: I rather approve of a ban.

However, here's the thing.

The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

Its going to be a tough call.

People have a right to go through the park; but on the other hand, someone wanting to organise an event -- especially one for which admission is charged -- in the park attracting people there would have to apply for permission, which may be granted subject to conditions. For instance, you may be required to supply additional portable toilet facilities, arrange any necessary liquor and public performance licences and provide security and medical personnel.

What did they use to call it, when somebody arranged a gathering on someone else's land, inviting people in the name of entertainment; and not caring that the grass was being churned up to mud, the bushes were being pissed and shat in, the flower beds puked in and the local residents pissed off, because they would not have to pay for any of the damage?

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Re: I rather approve of a ban.

The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

That's the long and short of it right there. Why they do so do is their business.

Also, the company didn't trash the park, the people did. They should have been fined, not the company.

This case fails on so many levels. and is a frivolous lawsuit. But I'll bet they win it. I hope I'm wrong.

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Joke

Re: I rather approve of a ban.

On the other hand, there are worse places to play these games in - such as public streets.

I dunno. Given the apparent nature of many playing some of these games, it could be a huge boost to the gene pool while also a significant population reduction, with flow-on benefits to reducing pollution, housing demand, unemployment and so on..

(Wonder how many will ignore the "joke alert" icon.. Seriously, I mean it as a joke! Costs way to much to clean up the damage an idiot does to the front of the car!)

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Re: I rather approve of a ban.

The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

vs "people have a right to damage the park"

Which is the problem.

Get a small crowd together, 99% of the time you'll be fine. Get a crowd where the object is to "capture" some item somewhere in the vicinity and you'll have problems. Get a large crowd, and you'll have all sorts of problems.

I can think of a huge number of parks within walking distance that I have every right to use. Doesn't mean I can take my bike and do burn-outs on the cricket pitch, pull out the flowers for use in my own home, take a dump on a pathway just because I don't want to wait due to a lack of provision of toilets etc etc.

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Trollface

Re: I rather approve of a ban.

All they need to do is to make sure the game involves chasing objects in the augmented reality world at speed through park, then name the game pARkrun and world+dog will be pitching into to complain at anyone daring to try to stop it!

HOW DARE YOU! Surely you know it's a capital offence to promote exercise in the presence of Americans!

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Re: pARkrun

I see that you refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkrun#Conflicts_with_local_authorities

Controversial! :-)

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What about just no. AR is nice and all that, but rather keep it at home (or in a controlled environment) but just not in public spaces.

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Flame

How dare they

expect us to take responsibility for problems we cause!

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Anonymous Coward

"[...] but just not in public spaces."

In a more general way AR is useful in public spaces. It allows the equivalent of expanded "blue plaques" or other information on features of interest.

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But that is very different to causing flash mobs and causing damage...

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Do you remember ....

.... When small, cheap drones were thought of as a cool new thing that would be useful and fun? Then idiots started using them and doing stupid and dangerous things with them.

P.S. "...it's not so much game visuals invading the real world, ..."

Well, no. If that did happen, there would be an urgent need for legislation.

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Re: Do you remember ....

If that happened, there wouldn't be an urgent need for legislation, there would be an urgent need for taking less hallucinogens.

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