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 …

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Actually seems reasonable to me

If you want to organise an event, even in a so-called public park, you generally have certain responsibilities relating to the welfare of those people and the land. And just because you are bringing people by means of messages on mobile devices saying "go to place X to score points in this game" and not by, say, erecting a stage and having a live music performance, does not diminish your responsibilities.

The local council are responsible for the "residual level" of occupancy; but if you are going to bring large numbers of additional people (complete with mud-churning boots, full bladders and bowels and bags of over-packaged food and drink that will end up as litter) then that places an onus onto you.

There were already rules in place for doing things; and even if you think you have found a new way of doing more or less the same thing in a new way that requires the use of an electronic device, those rules still apply to you.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

On the other hand, a manufacturer of Frisbees, Skateboards or Bikes has no requirement to pay off any park that might or might not allow the use of those articles. Instead it's the user of those items that have to pay attention to the laws in place, and/or request any exceptions for events etc. that they might want to organize.

Nor are the manufacturers required to modify their equipment with "geofences" that would prevent them being used in certain locations.

In addition, the people using these apps and visiting these parks are almost certainly residents of the areas the parks are in, and therefore paying for these facilities through their taxes.

Augmented reality apps normally require people to walk around looking at a smart-phone, generally no different than anyone else who visits a park these days!

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

On the other hand, the manufacturers of frisbees are not trying to organize thousands of people to turn up for an event in the park. If they do organize an event, to have hundreds or thousands of frisbee owners to turn up in the park, they need to first obtain a permit and they need to have liability insurance for the event, they need to ensure that they have enough toilets and parking etc.

And they need to pay for any damage caused to the property during the course of the event.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

Frisbees (other flying discs are available) and balls are not geolocation limited. They work anywhere.

Plus a variety of percentage of parks have "no ball games allowed" up, so yeah, learn to compare apples with apples.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

Likewise, the makers of any AR app that determines pick-up locations for each user individually should not have a problem. It is up to each user to decide whether to use the app and make the pick-up. Pokémon Go's system of offering the SAME item to ALL users at the SAME time is similar to an organized event.

So, the logical legislation is this: Geospatial pickups limited to X users within Y hours for a given location with radius of Z distance (in standard Reg units, of course). As X users hit one spot, the next X users will have to go Z distance away for the next drop until Y time passes. Let X, Y, and Z be variable based on geography, population density, et cetera. This sets upper limits acceptable at the crossroads between rural farms and the urban parks downtown and everywhere in between.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

But the manufacturers of Frisbees, cricket bats and stumps, bicycles, portable radios, spacehoppers, kites, footballs, rollerblades, musical instruments, play weapons and assorted outdoor toys are not encouraging anyone towards a specific place, and the kids who play with them, and the adults aupervising them, really are among the already-planned-for park occupants. Creating an Augmented Reality game that requires the player to attend a specific location is rather different.

You can ride a skateboard or strum a guitar more or less anywhere, and if a particular park looks a bit crowded, just go somewhere else or come back later. But tying a game to a specific location is more like setting up an event that will drive additional traffic there. And organising an event on someone else's land is exactly the sort of thing that requires prior arrangement, precisely because you will be expecting more people than normal, therefore more need to provide for their welfare and mitigate against damage to the land.

If you tried to organise a fun day in a public park without so much as informing the council of your intentions, you might well expect consequences ..... Especially if you are a business based in another jurisdiction (and so paying rates to a different council) and you are charging admission.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

Pokemon does not offer the same item to all users. Quite a few did complain at last count that they could not get anything without travelling 20 miles to the nearest town.

Limiting by location and time also is not a solution. It creates more of a rush not less. As more people want to get there before the timer or location limit runs out. Where as a constant unlimited drop feed in all locations means not one rushes anywhere. They just go where they would normally. They only travel in general more often. They don't crowd.

You lot need to learn to avoid unintended consequences and shooting your own feet.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

You don't show 1000 people an item is a location X, then count down 12 visitors and say the limit is reached.

You show X users that the object is there, the next X1 users are shown the object at Y1, which is Z away from Y and so on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

Still the same problem. Is X Y Z or "out of my arse" any better than the actual people who own the park or shop or location? You all look about as clever as Google and Steam in thinking an algorithm can outsmart actual data.

The location will have a limit to how many people can go there. The users will have a limit on travel distance (some may have a disability). Your game/algorithm and you cannot guess it. Either know these things and work with them, or just allow a random drip feed that is equal for everyone but made to look less random for gameplay reasons.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

Exactly. This was not an organized event. It was people taking their personal property and using it in a public space.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

There's nothing to stop a park from putting up signs "No augmented reality games allowed", if it comes to that.

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Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

On the other hand, a manufacturer of Frisbees, Skateboards or Bikes has no requirement to pay off any park that might or might not allow the use of those articles.

When they have an organised event, yes they do actually. At least in most locales I am aware of. If you have a large beach, you'll see a relatively small number of people (probably less than 1% but I am guesstimating!) with frisbees/balls etc, and these people generally limit themselves to a small area where they're not harrassing other users of the area. They're "in competition" with one or two mates, or just having a bit of father/son time, that sort of thing. But the people at organised events (including the AR stuff this article is about) are in competition for a limited resource (I assume they don't put enough cards for everyone in every location), and as such you'll see competitiveness which leads to combativeness which, in large/stupid enough crowds, leads to injury and damage.

Likewise, a mountain bike track will see a small number of people use it every day. An organised event will see thousands more people there, but there are rules of conduct, rate-limiting (they send one person down every few seconds, each racing the clock; not several at once trying to race each other!), emergency staff on hand to treat the inevitable injuries, and of course responsible people who clean up after the event and do what they can to mitigate/repair damage. Vastly different to what happened with the Pokemon stuff from what reports I saw (very few TBH), and vastly different from what these games have the potential to cause if not managed. (I have no problem with AR games, they're a larger version of the "treasure hunts" and the like I enjoyed in my younger days, but those events were managed, limited numbers, people to make sure damage was prevented or dealt with etc, and I expect the same of any company wishing to organise any event)

In addition, the people using these apps and visiting these parks are almost certainly residents of the areas the parks are in, and therefore paying for these facilities through their taxes.

I pay all sorts of road etc taxes. Is it OK for me to grab a pick-axe and start digging up the street? I pay rates, can I put a hole in a nearby water main? A portion of the taxes I pay goes towards the fire service and the maintenance of the local parks. Can I carelessly toss matches around?

No?

Same diff.

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WTF?

Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

The location will have a limit to how many people can go there. The users will have a limit on travel distance (some may have a disability). Your game/algorithm and you cannot guess it.

How can that work? If the game (or other app) cannot tell where phone is located, then by definition/really simply logic that even you should be able to grasp, it cannot tell if the person has reached the location.

It doesn't need to guess. We have this thing called "GPS" which is good enough to be able to tell where you are within a very short range, down to a few metres. That's how it knows you've "picked up" or "caught" the item in question.

As to limits on travel distance, the game is hardly likely to be pointing people to stuff any considerable distance from where they are, and it's trivial to set up things like "don't put stuff more than 20k from users". Few people with disabilities would be likely to be traipsing around the countryside anyway, though the quality of your argument suggests you might be talking from the POV of those who are "differently abled".

You can make an app that when a person registers, they tell it of their own travel limits. Or do you think computers are quite limited and can only handle one item at one location no matter how many users are registered or where they are? Trust me, even crappy computers can keep track of several hundred items, locations, and users.

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What a wonderful opportunity.

The Government/authorities should do two things.

a) pass the long overdue laws that executives and management of companies/corporations/organistions are personally held liable for, and prosecuted for, criminal acts they commit, cause to be committed.

b) partner with such as Candy Lab to provide the augmented reality service to the subsequent inmates so that they can visualise themselves as being out in he free world rather than being locked up in chokey.

At a cost of $X per annum where X=personal assets pre crime/years of sentence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a wonderful opportunity.

Actually, what they should do is tell their citizens, "Hey, I see you've been enjoying our parks a lot more lately. Would you mind contributing an extra couple dollars to their upkeep, so you can continue to enjoy them?"

Surprisingly, people are a lot more willing to pay taxes for services they know they use, rather than the abstract ones that someone else's kid uses.

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Thumb Up

Re: What a wonderful opportunity.

"Hey, I see you've been enjoying our parks a lot more lately. Would you mind contributing an extra couple dollars to their upkeep, so you can continue to enjoy them?"

That's a great idea, though people might not be so willing to contribute as much as they could.

What could be done though, is that they could be charged a micro-payment, like say $1/app, and that money goes to the manufacturer who then divies it up and makes payments to the counties where the app is used, based on number of users and so on.

Which brings us back to.... :)

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Let the fun begin

So this is a park. Should a 'game' that provides a head-up display with pulse rate, breathing, distance travelled, etc., for joggers be banned? Surely not, that's a health app, right? What about one that encourages you to go further with XP and levels, sharing results, and so on? Still a health app, or now a game? Should it be banned?

What about one that encourages people to run in small groups, that gave XP to the whole party? Ban now?

And so on.

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Re: Let the fun begin

"So this is a park. Should a 'game' that provides a head-up display with pulse rate, breathing, distance travelled, etc., for joggers be banned?"

Is it a game that specifically encourages people who would not otherwise be jogging to all congregate in one particular location within that park? If so, then probably yes. If not, then it's no different from Strava and other similar apps which include many aspects of these games but which do not result in large mobs trashing places they wouldn't normally visit at all. Indeed, while Strava allows people to create sections for others to follow and compare times on, it also allows them to be marked as dangerous and removed if it turns out their in a place that people shouldn't be encouraged to trample all over.

In fact, Strava is a perfect example of exactly how these things should be done. You can encourage people to get out and do things, you can allow them to compare efforts and play around with various gamified things, but you can do so in a sensible manner that doesn't involve getting thousands of people to trash public spaces for no reason.

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Jack Thompson... pwned

Leigh Alexander... pwned

Leland Yee... pwned

I think I'm going to bet on the gamers.

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BOLLOCKS. If I choose to publish an app that overlays a Santa Claus at the top of the Eiffel Tower whenever you point your phone at it, guess what, I don't need your permission to do that, and you don't get to impose any rules / taxes / whatever your black little heart desires on me. NONE. You're welcome to arrest and/or lock away anybody crazy enough to try to climb the tower to touch Santa, but that's not my problem and you can't make it so.

Which is not to say I can't see the irrelevant busybodies emit stern dictats excommunicating all of the above (oh, of course I can) I'm just saying I recognize NONE OF IT as legitimate, and am willing to do exactly just enough to keep myself out of trouble, not thinking twice about taking the first loophole I can find (then the next one if you close the first). It's - not - your - call.

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Anonymous Coward

Your app:

Does not cause a crowd at a location. Your app puts a change to a location. You are applying information and communication.

If your app requested, through points or gameplay or by design, all users to go to a specific location, you will be liable for that request.

But just saying a user can go to a location and can see some data or media is different to the proposal. However if your app cries fire in a crowded area, expect someone to get angry about it (though legally unenforcable).

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Under French law, you actually almost certainly would need permission for your app. Because in France, taking photographs of things that belong to other people is not a right but a privilege, bestowed by the owner of those things; and if the Parisian authorities want to charge tourists a few Euros for a selfie with the Tower in shot, the Law is on their side.

If you wanted to put a real Papa Noël on the Eiffel Tower, then the Parisian Authorities would have to be involved. You might have found a way not actually to have to pay someone to wear a red suit and a white beard and say "Ho Ho Ho" a lot; but the people who will be turning up to the Tower to see your virtual Santa are no less real, and neither are the consequences.

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That is a slightly simplistic interpretation of the law.

It's not just France, applies to all countries that have adopted s.4 of the Berne Convention.

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FAIL

I don't need your permission to do that, and you don't get to impose any rules / taxes / whatever your black little heart desires on me.

What's your address? I want to nominate your garden1 as one of these locations. You can't impose any rules etc on me just like others can't impose rules on you..

And I'll make sure no one pays for any damage, because that would be "imposing a tax", even though I hope to make a considerable amount of damage.

Oh of course, that's different isn't it? Ok when it destroys places others care about, but not so nice when your own enjoyment is at risk.

1 Or bedroom, if you don't have a garden. I'm sure someone will find something of interest in there!

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Getting an Eiffel

I thought it was reported here... photographing the Eiffel Tower is now out of copyright; however, the lights on the Eiffel Tower at night are a legally protected copyright artwork. Sticking Santa Claus on top doesn't alter that, but you may be able to claim a parody defence. Unless they put a Santa on the real tower first.

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"What's your address? I want to nominate your garden"

There's a distinction to be had here, chap, between private and public access to property.

I don't have the legal right to enter your garden to take pictures, for example, but there's no law to stop me taking a picture of your garden from outside the boundaries. You could of course put up a fence to prevent me doing so, that's your right, and I'd have no legal right to circumvent that fence to obtain a picture, but as it stands, if your garden is 'on view' in a public space, I can take a picture of it.

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I don't have the legal right to enter your garden to take pictures, for example, but there's no law to stop me taking a picture of your garden from outside the boundaries.

The point I was replying to was where the OP said :

I don't need your permission to do that, and you don't get to impose any rules / taxes / whatever your black little heart desires on me.

Given the "you" here would indicate local councils and the like, it would indicate that the OP doesn't believe he should follow the law of the land. So, if it's OK for him to ignore whatever rules he likes about property that belongs to the rest of us, especially rules to protect that property from damage, then why should we be bound by those same rules to respect his property?

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"Congressional Caucus on Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Technologies for the 115th Congress."

Shouldn't that be the Caucus on Virtual and Augmented Reality with Mixed and Integrated Technologies (VARMINT)?

I thought Congressfolk always went for acronymous groups and legislation.

That aside, I think I probably agree with the "ban" and most of the various requirements set by the county in question.

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Pint

VARMINT!!

Excellent! Have a pint!

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I say, let them have their ordinance. then go to town on it. A 1 million liability policy is super cheap. I carry 2 million on myself and its a couple hundred a year. Order in a few hundred porta-potties and have them placed on the park, occupying all sorts of space. Tie up resources from the city or county in managing all of it. when it starts to cost them money, they may just change their tune...

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when it starts to cost them money, they may just change their tune...

Yeah, "Now a $2million bond with $200,000 application fee". Or "Outright ban, anyone caught participating will be liable to no less than $1million fine or one year in prison". Etc etc.

(Again, I would much rather see these AR games succeed and get people off their over-wide couches and outside exercising (including me!) , but done in a way that minimizes/mitigates risk/damage)

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Headmaster

Could you not argue rights of assembly?

Rather than free speech?

If you can penalise game companies for driving a massive horde or gamers though a public park

Then could they not do the same to the GPS maps people who drive a horde of traffic thought some tranquil little backwater?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Could you not argue rights of assembly?

You could. But I'm not sure doing so in some of the places listed is still a right?

Shops for instance?

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Re: Could you not argue rights of assembly?

Even the freedom of assembly can be restricted in the name of the greater good. That's why parades need to be organized and sanctioned. Even "impromptu" assemblies like picket lines usually are limited in where they can demonstrate. Fire codes impose occupancy limits for buildings to help prevent crushes in the event of an emergency, and so on.

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Wont somebody think of the flowers?

So - this county wants to ban AR games, because someone irresponsible might walk on their flower beds while playing them.

However I bet they don't want to ban sales of assault rifles because someone might use them to commit murder.

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Re: Wont somebody think of the flowers?

Priorities, man! Priorities!

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I'm not surprised in the drop in users of Pokemon Go. My 9yo loved - we would walk for miles with the app, visiting historic sites around the area, but with each 'update' it would become more and more buggy, crash (or fail to start) more often, up to the point where it became unusable and none of the 'fixes' infact fixed anything.

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I almost hit a number of people as I was biking near a park in my home town during the height of the Pokemon-Go craze. These were not just kids, but mainly grown-ups (including parents setting a wonderful example) who just rushed off the pavement onto the bike lane without looking. Fortunately I had my wits about me and my brakes are in excellent order, and I managed to dodge at least 6 different people in just 5 minutes. Not ideal by any standards.

First and foremost, it is the users of the AR app that are responsible for their own conduct, but it is a good idea if companies think about the locations they set, and avoid certain spaces. I am not sure how, or even if this should be legislated, but observations suggest that merely relying on common sense of users is not sufficient, alas. Here in the Netherlands the users could be fined under the catch-all clause of "endangering traffic", even as a pedestrian, and if they trample things they could also be charged with vandalism, but I do not think the companies could be charged with anything.

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That's interesting

As I understand the intent of these restrictions, it could also ban flash mobs organized by smartphone and Twitter.

Verizon delenda est, eh?

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Silly

It's not about organized events - the Pokemon Go example was players of the game spreading news of hard to get Pokemon being in that particular park area. Obviously unfortunate timing as the rare Pokemon happened when game at peak popularity / numbers and a big (but shortlived) craze: Essentially a flash mob type of scenario (would be no different to say a very rare bird arriving in a park and the news being spread and lots of keen bird watchers going to park to see it)

Niantic (makers of Pokemon Go) do have some organized events (can't speak about PoGo, but I know they do for another AR game of theirs, Ingress). For the organized Ingress events there is always liaison / permission from relevant authorities for the events (which tend to be city wide, not in a small area).

Can't speak about the Candy poker game, but Niantic AR games have locations all over the place (over 5 million locations in Ingress when someone produced figures a while ago).

So most AR locations do not get huge numbers of people attracted there.

Ironically, locations chosen are often things "of interest" (FSVO interest, obv. opinions vary) but aim to get people out in the fresh air walking, so would be churches, statues, plaques etc. Parks often have statues and other things of interest so quite common locations.

But hey, extremely rare events are often drivers of bad legislation (stares at certain UK politicians response to terrorism)

It's not about organized events - the Pokemon Go example was players of the game spreading news of hard to get Pokemon being in that particular park area. Obviously unfortunate timing as the rare pokemon happend when game at peak popularity / numbers and a big (but shortlived) craze: Essentially a flash mob type of scenario (would be no different to say a very rare bird arriving in a park and the news being spread and lots of keen bird watchers going to park to see it)

Niantic (makers of Polemon Go) do have some organized events (can't speak about PoGo, but I know they do for another AR game of theirs, Ingress). For the organized Ingress events there is always liason / permission from relevant authrioties for the events (which tend to be city wide, not in a small area).

Can't speak about the Candy poker game, but Niantic AR games have locations all over the place (over 5 million locations in Ingress when someone produced figures a while ago).

So most AR locations do not get huge numbers of people attracted there.

Ironically, locations chosen are often things "of interest" (FSVO interst, obv. opinions vary) but aim to get people out in the fesh air walking, so would be churches, statues, plaques etc. Parks often have statues and other things of interst so quite common locations.

But hey, extremely rare events are often drivers of bad legislation (stares at certain UK politicians response to terrorism)

Disclosure, Do not work for Niantic / have any affiliations with them, but have played their game Ingress & attended organised (fully cleared with authorities) events.

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Facepalm

Re: Silly

Yep. Someone organising free food in a park is not a problem and less a risk. Someone offering a million dollars in the middle of a busy motorway with the ticket glued to the ground asking for VR confirmation is.

Yes it's a silly example, yes it's the fault of the users as well. But they did put pokemon in the lakes!

Since when has it been the fault of the user 100% of the time?

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My take

While the content of virtual reality games can and should enjoy First Amendment protection, wandering around a public place with your nose stuck in a smartphone or tablet, at the risk of bumping into people, constitutes action, not speech, and is properly subject to regulation.

That the kind of regulations proposed could indeed make VR gaming of the type seen in Pokemon Go impossible may indicate that they're unreasonably onerous, but that is an area where quite rightly the courts are loath to second-guess legislators.

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Difficult one

I can see both sides to this. On the one hand such games do indeed attract more people to a park than the park may be able to handle without additional facilities. But on the other hand that is not much different to what happens when a TV documentary or popular YouTube video features a particular venue, and we would not ask the maker of a documentary that shows XYZ park in a very good light to provide additional facilities to cope with the extra people it will inevitably attract.

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Re: Difficult one

What about the aforementioned Eiffel Tower scenario where the owner demands a takedown?

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Anonymous Coward

I will add in my next location based game the whole Milwaukee County in the list of off-limit-areas. until the citizen in that county pressure the county sdupervisor to revoke that ordinance.

Of course that exception would also be listed in the appstore in the game description so that nobody in that county would download for playing in that location.

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Anonymous Coward

Then what happens when they hear about the game and download it while visiting family in Chicago, THEN go home and find it doesn't work, and the app has no way to know this ahead of time? Sounds like asking for trouble and possible lawyers.

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This is so obviously a crucial milestone. The law, which I agree with, is a gamechanger in more ways than one: if it prevails the rise of the machine he's will be rightly stopped. If not, then expect the other thing to happen real quick

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It's a Public park

A public park is meant to be used. If individuals are causing damage to the park they should be individually held responsible for the damage.

If I started a kite company near a park and people bought my kites by the thousands and went to fly them in the nearest park, I am not responsible for the damage those people cause. They are individuals, individually participating in the same activity. I didn't tell them to go to that park. That's where they chose to go as there was open space and wind.

When a flower bed gets trampled by a kite flyer or a AR player it doesn't matter which they were doing, the person trampling the flower bed is responsible for the damage. If the city or state tried to hold me responsible for the damage they would get laughed out of court. Same for the AR company.

The AR company should work with the parks system to create an experience that works for everyone. Randomly created objects should be shunted to the nearest footpath or parking area. So players can enjoy the park and not cause damage. A system should be developed where an organization can send a set of areas and where the game content can be safely moved to to preserve safety and security. It could be an online map where you outline an area, draw on the safe zones and in 15 minutes the game is updated.

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