Pokémon Goes to Capitol Hill

The association with a hand in everything from Pokémon Go and Princess Leia's holographic messages to the NFL's virtual line of scrimmage advises Congress to "embrace and empower these emerging technologies by allowing them to iterate, grow and flourish so they can reach their full potential benefit to the American society and economy."

That advice came in prepared testimony Wednesday at Congress' first hearing on the new digital realities—virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR)—by Stanley Pierre-Louis, senior VP and general counsel of the Entertainment Software Association.

He said that when it came to balancing the welfare of children, the responsibilities of parents, and freedom of speech and expression, the new digital reality technologies, specifically the AR and MR technologies, "fit neatly within existing legal frameworks."

Translation: No additional laws needed. Actually, no translation was necessary. He summed up his testimony with the advice: "[A]void any redundant and unnecessary regulation that would have a chilling effect on this nascent and promising industry."

He pointed out that the Supreme Court in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association said "video games are expressive works that enjoy the same First Amendment protections as 'books, plays, and movies.'"

He said the court rejected the suggestion that video game interactivity presented "special problems" and had noted that interactivity had always been an element of expressive works, saying: “[T]he better it is, the more interactive.” Pierre-Louis said that the court had "left little doubt that our foundational laws governing speech are well-equipped to address emerging technologies like AR and MR."

Pierre-Louis' testimony was a primer, of sorts, for those new digital worlds, which he pointed out could constitute as much as a $182 billion market by 2025 and extend far beyond entertainment.

VR is an immersive 3D world, while AR layers virtual objects onto the real world (Pokémon Go), and MR creates environment-aware interactive 3D objects. For example, said Pierre-Louis, "imagine hiking on a nature trail with a virtual companion who cannot only tell you where to go but teach you about your surroundings."

He also pointed out that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is an advisor to ESA member Magic Leap, which he says is at "the forefront" of MR.

Pierre-Louis planned to assure the senators—the hearing was in the Senate Commerce Committee—that his members were committed to "meaningful privacy and data security protections" and to giving consumers the information and tools to make informed choices about using the products, saying that should be a culture of "self-regulation and informed consent," something he said his industry has already embraced, suggesting that is an embrace that is sufficiently tight.

"Our industry has long adopted practices that go well beyond what is required by law to inform consumers about our products and privacy practices," he said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.