Milwaukee settles lawsuit over Pokemon Go-inspired park ordinance

    
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Pokemon gone?

The Milwaukee lawsuit sparked by Pokemon Go is finally over.

Back in February, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin issued an ordinance requiring video game developers like Niantic to obtain park permits before using those parks as MMOARG destinations, as Pokemon Go does. That was because the influx of visitors Niantic effectively sent to the parks caused thousands of dollars in damage, and taxpayers had had enough. The ordinance required ARG devs to follow the same rules as geocachers when developing game nodes within the park: purchase a permit and carry $1,000,000 in liability insurance for damages resulting from its players’ park use.

But a few months later, developer Candy Lab AR filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging that the ordinance violated and restricted the company’s “right to free speech” via regulation, that it was “unconstitutionally vague,” and that it held companies legally and financially responsible for the actions of players on park lands, the last of which Candy Lab said would be “financially prohibitive.”

In the ensuing lawsuit, the County argued that Candy Lab’s game didn’t constitute free speech, as it was an illegal form of gambling with “no storylines, no characters, no plot and no dialogue,” but the judge nevertheless granted an injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance while the parties sparred. Last summer, the federal judge appeared to side with Candy Lab on the subject of constitutionality, and now, Wisconsin’s Channel3000 reports that the County will settle the suit. The local government has apparently agreed to pay Candy Labs’ attorney fees ($83,000) and to not enforce the ordinance, meaning that local taxpayers will continue footing the bill for either protection from or clean-up after the games that unwittingly direct players to overwhelm state-owned public property.

Source: Channel3000
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AGx-07_162

It’s not the fault of the developers that the damage occurs but they do encourage masses of people to congregate in places that were never meant to accommodate that many people at once. It’s sticky. Another case of laws not keeping up with technology.

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Peregrine Falcon

Aren’t those PLAYERS also taxpayers? Haven’t they been paying taxes for years for these parks that they never use? So now, when they all decide to actually go outside and use the parks, probably for the first time in their lives, the government wants more money. What a surprise!

Here’s a thought. Instead of suing the ‘evil corporation’ how about holding the individuals responsible for their own actions? How about arresting the people who were damaging the park? Whaaaaaaat? Holding people responsible for their own actions in ‘The Current Year’?!?!??

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Ket Viliano

And by the same token, the company ought to take responsibility for having drawn those people to the park. Using public resources for private gain, without payment of maintenance fees, has been an issue for a long time now.

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Jerry

Free to Pay gamers pay taxes? Don’t they have to get a job 1st?

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HNN

Not everyone that plays games are under the age of 18 you know. Also even if they’re they have parents that pays the taxes too

Ernost
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Ernost

Can they not just charge an admittance fee like museums or theme parks? Or if there is already such a fee just increase it to account for the increase in visitors/damage.

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silverlock

The only issue there is the selfish well to do people who live near the parks getting angry over the peasants daring to show up in their park. I mean the public using a public park the nerve!

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Does not check email

You are correct. It would see trespassing hours, code enforcement and waiting for the fad to pass would have been enough.

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Jerry

Rich people live nowhere near the peasants. Public parks are far from affluent safe spaces.

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Robert Mann

As simple as this: If it’s a problem, you start taking the people making the problem and they pay for the damages plus some. Maybe some community service, and a night on a couch at the police office.

Simply put, it isn’t the activity that is the problem, it is the people who act like thoughtless jerks.

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Leiloni

Well I live in Center City Philly and the parks here get patrolled by the cops and I know of at least one that has security cameras. I mean isn’t that common sense?

We also have a number of non-profits that spend money updating the parks, putting on events, and a whole host of other things. That’s why we have so many great parks.

If you want your city to look nice, you have to do it yourself. This lawsuit sounds ridiculous.

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Rheem Octuris

The problem with such an ordinance is when people damage public property, there is no way to know if they were playing a specific game, or in fact any game at all. What they should do instead is hire security guards and arrest people breaking the law, not going after game studios.

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Sally Bowls

“hire security guards and arrest people” except security guards can’t arrest people. (My business law professor said a source of problems is businesses hire off-duty cops as security personnel and sometimes the cops, understandably, occasionally make mistakes regarding the differences in the rights and duties of private security employees vs sworn police officers.)

It would need to be police

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pharfig

Or, if it’s actually a State Park, they can assign Park Rangers. Federal and State Park Rangers have arrest powers. Or rather, Federal do. CA State Park Rangers do, Wisconsin Rangers may or may not. YMMV.

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Ket Viliano

Citizens arrest is a thing. Some states do it by statute, others by common law.

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Siphaed

The can detain someone breaking the law under a “citizen’s arrest”, alert the proper authorities, and have the cops come to make the arrest official. Damaging public property in a park is a breach of the peace, which is covered under citizen’s arrests.

An off-duty police officer can make a citizen’s arrest as a hired security officer, but would have to contact an on-duty officer in order to finalize the arrest and further process and prosecute the suspect(s) in question. In fact, they -the off-duty officers- have more immediate understanding of the legal ramifications revolving arrests and the treatment of suspects than a normal citizen would have in the same situation.

Sorry to say, but your business law professor is wrong.

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Little Bugbear

Wow, that really sucks for the taxpayers of Milwaukee Wisconsin.

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Katriana

The free speech argument is bogus. The unenforceable argument is kind of spot on. But here’s an idea: how about holding the players and/or their patents/guardians responsible for any damage caused? Just because you’re playing a game doesn’t mean you don’t have to obey litter/trespassing/vandalism/etc laws like anyone else. Still difficult to enforce I’m sure, but targets the real problem.

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McGuffn

That’s what they should have done in the first place. But they wanted an outside party to pay for the bad behavior of its residents.

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Leiloni

I have to wonder what they did to prevent this to begin with. If you know it’s a popular Pokemon Go spot, then increase police or park ranger presences and other similar measures. They can not only catch people in the act, but deter people from doing it to begin with. That’s what you do with other crimes, or even just other large public events/public hangouts. I mean this isn’t a problem that cities don’t see every day. I feel like it was just easier to sue a big company because normally you don’t have such a seemingly easy target in these instances.

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styopa

I know they’ve written the rule to avoid it, but in a practical sense this smelled a lot like a bill of attainder, very specifically prohibited by that US constitution, and likely that of the various states.