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Legal Aspects of Augmented Reality Development

Submitted by on Tuesday, 7 September 20103 Comments

AP: Back to managing privacy within AR worlds – how are developers supposed to know that a user is under the age of 13?

John Nicholson:  That’s always tricky.  Many websites and applications actually ask – for example, you might develop an AR product that does special things on someone’s birthday.  You might also ask the user’s age so that you can serve up age-appropriate ads – think content triggered by walking past a toy store, for example, versus bars or other adult-oriented businesses.

If you hold information about a child’s age, it’s pretty easy to say that you need to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, in the U.S.  But it is not that simple.  You might also be developing AR products that are tailored to children – think of animated characters, images like rainbows, and so on – that a reasonable person would consider “targeted” at children under 13.  In this case, affected developers would probably have to comply with COPPA, as well.

What makes COPPA in the U.S. market challenging for AR and other developers is that they must first obtain parental consent to collect and use certain information about children under 13, and also give parents a way to see the their children’s information and a means to revoke the consent.

These legal requirements all have software programming and business implications developers need to consider early at the design stage – it is much harder and far more expensive to re-engineer for them after launch.  Right now, the FTC enforces COPPA in the U.S. and failure to comply can result in fines of $1,000 per instance.  So while COPPA can be challenging to comply with, it’s just another thing certain developers need to anticipate and deal with appropriately.


As you can see, there are a lot of legal issues to consider with some scary consequences. In the long term it never pays to assume that you are complying with the law and ignorance is most definitely not bliss, especially if your software is released in oversea markets. If in any doubt you should always take legal advice from a recognised source.

Thanks to Sean Kane and John Nicholson from Pillsbury Law for taking the time out to talk to us and answer our questions, and to Tom Resau for setting up the interview.

Mr. Kane is a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property practice and a member of the Virtual Worlds & Video Games team. Mr. Kane has represented clients on transactional matters involving various entertainment, communications and consumer products business segments, such as video games, virtual worlds, computer software, the Internet, music publishing, records, motion picture (feature and independent films) and television production and distribution. He also has considerable experience litigating complex business disputes in federal and state courts at trial, appellate levels and in ADR forums throughout the country.

Mr. Nicholson is an attorney in Pillsbury’s Global Sourcing group. Mr. Nicholson helps clients structure, negotiate and document complex sourcing transactions.

He is also a lead member of the firm’s Privacy and Data Protection practice and an active member of the firm’s multidisciplinary Virtual Worlds and Video Games team.

You can contact them or follow the Pillsbury Law blog dedicated to virtual world and games related issues at:

If you enjoy the legal aspects of augmented reality development and want to learn more take a look at information on an online law degree

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