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Milwaukee Stifles 'Pokémon Go': Niantic Labs Now Needs Permit To Use Parks As Monster Hunting Grounds

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Pokémon GO players living in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area might soon see their journey to becoming Pokémon Masters become more difficult due to an ordinance that has been approved by the Milwaukee County Board.

As an effect of the ordinance, developers such as Niantic Labs will be required to first secure permits before using parks within the county as locations for augmented reality games.

Milwaukee County Requires Permit For Pokémon GO In Parks

The ordinance will require Niantic Labs to seek permission before continuing the usage of parks in Milwaukee County as locations for monster-catching areas, PokéStops, and gyms in the popular smartphone game.

The requirement of a permit is in response to the damage that was done by players to Lake Park upon the release of Pokémon GO last year. The massive onset of people on Lake Park, as they walked around the public space trying to catch Pokémon, pass through PokéStops and take over gyms, caused damages worth thousands of dollars. There were instances of massive amounts of trash left behind in the park by players, along with trampled turf. There were also complaints of unauthorized vendors, congested traffic, and late-night activities at Lake Park.

The Milwaukee County Parks Department tried to hold Niantic Labs responsible for the damage that was dealt to Lake Park by the influx of Pokémon GO players, but it failed to do so. As such, the bill for repairing and cleaning up Lake Park was passed on to the county's taxpayers.

The ordinance, however, will not prevent the public from accessing park areas. Only game developers will be affected, with the permit requirement put in place so that the usage of Milwaukee County's parks in games will be regulated.

Will The Ordinance Remain In Effect?

While the reasoning behind the ordinance is solid, as the county is trying to protect public spaces from being damaged and having to pass on the repair expenses to taxpayers, the Milwaukee County Board might be violating the First Amendment right to free expression of Niantic Labs with the requirement of a permit.

Josh King, the chief legal officer of Avvo, previously said that Niantic Labs, or any other developer, is allowed to associate any real-life property with a so-called virtual signal, as it is within the First Amendment rights.

The ordinance passed by the county essentially prevents Niantic Labs from using Milwaukee's parks in Pokémon GO, which is akin to the board passing an ordinance that prevents the placement of images of the locations in books and the inclusion of the parks in maps.

Niantic Labs or another developer might have to file a lawsuit to be able to overturn the ordinance, but so far, no action of such a sort has happened.

Pokémon GO Staying Strong

Pokémon GO is no longer as popular as when it first launched in July of last year, but it is staying strong. The app recently broke the record to become the fastest game to bring in $1 billion in revenue, claiming the milestone in just six months.

The feat is made even more impressive by the fact that Pokémon GO is not yet available in China. Players, meanwhile, continue to receive updates for the augmented reality game.

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