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We present City of Titans, a spiritual successor for the superhero MMORPG City of Heroes, being developed by Missing Worlds Media.
5,003 backers pledged $678,189 to help bring this project to life.

Law and the Superhero

Posted by Missing Worlds Media (Creator)
47 likes

From Know Your Powers, Know Your Rights: Legal Issues for Superpowered Beings

A Publication of the Titan City Department of Public Safety

From Page 5, Legal Status of Superhuman Beings

    Question 3: Are there any laws against being super or any requirement of registration just for existing as a superhuman being?

    A: No.  Superpowered status is a constitutionally protected classification, along the lines of race or religion.  You are not required to register simply because you are not a baseline human being.

In New York v. Tygron (1970) and United States v. Spess (1970), the Supreme Court held that “superpowered status” is constitutionally protected “suspect classification” under the Fourteenth Amendment.  The Court struck down the New York City and Washington, D.C. requirements that all superhuman beings register with local governments, regardless of their powers, as unconstitutional.  States and municipalities cannot impose special requirements on superhuman beings absent a compelling state interest. Titan City, of course, follows these laws and does not require universal registration.

Tygron is better known, however, for establishing that species is also a protected classification.  Tygron, a tiger-like humanoid created by strange scientific experiments, had been required to undergo additional layers of registration.  The Supreme Court struck these down as well, holding that all sentient species are entitled to equal protection under the law.  Notably, California v. Prototype 8-A-1 (1979) extended the term “species” to cover sentient robots and AI’s.  Other cases created extensive tests to determine legal “sentience.”  In general, if a creature is self-aware, can reason, and can communicate with humans, it is entitled to the same legal rights as a human.

If you are unsure of your sentient or nonsentient status, consult an attorney specializing in superhuman law.

From Page 15, Regulation of Use of Superpowers: Registration

Question 21: When does a superpowered being need to register powers, if ever?

A: Any dangerous or intrusive power must be registered before public use for a nonemergency purpose or within thirty days of first use for an emergency purpose (including initial manifestation).  This includes weapons and gadgets, magical abilities, and even special skills, as well as inherent powers.

Titan City law requires registration with the Department of Public Safety before using dangerous or intrusive powers in public for a non-emergency purpose and thirty days to register after using them in public for the first time for an emergency purpose. Initial manifestation counts as an “emergency purpose.” The Department of Public Safety handles the registration process.

Registration does not involve any background checks or psychological assessments; it is a recordkeeping operation.  Additionally, registration carries no other obligations.  However, many registrants choose to engage in crimefighting because of the extensive legal protections registration confers, such as arrest powers and limited immunity from civil suits.  Refer to Page 35, Questions 60-68, for more details.

You do not need to disclose your real name upon registering, but if you choose not to, you must select an appropriate alias.  See Page 25, Question 40, for details on choosing an alias.

Question 22: What powers must I register?

A: Any dangerous or intrusive power.

Registration applies to dangerous or intrusive powers of all types, whether derived from a device (magical or technological), a ritual or operation, or the wielder’s inherent abilities.  

“Dangerous” powers are anything that could be used as a deadly or dangerous weapon.  This is broadly construed and includes items that are part of your body or training, such as the fists of martial artists.

“Intrusive” powers are those likely to interfere with the privacy or peace of ordinary, reasonable people.  These include special senses, including extrasensory powers and telepathy, and powers whose use would constitute a noise or light complaint if used after 11 p.m.

If you are registering a power that provides flight by means of a device, you should also consult the Department of Public Safety/FAA Joint Publication, “Aeronautics and Aviation with Human-Portable Aircraft” (available on our website).

If you are unsure if your powers must be registered, consult an attorney specializing in superhuman law, or refer to Appendix 4, “List of Dangerous and Intrusive Powers” (pages 60-135).

From Page 23, Confidentiality of Registration Records and Secret Identities

Question 31: If a registrant testifies in court, does he have to disclose his identity or remove his mask?

A: No.  The Supreme Court has ruled that testimony in a costumed identity, even in a costume that conceals the witness’s face, is permissible, so long as “independent guarantees of identity,” such as a powers registration record, are present.

The Confrontation Clause of the Constitution (“the accused shall have the right to … be confronted with witnesses against him”) provides a further concern for registrants with secret identities.  The courts have generally interpreted this rule strictly, requiring that all witnesses’ faces be visible to criminal defendants.  However, from the days of the first boom in superpowered heroism in the 1930’s, the courts have held that this rule does not require a hero to unmask in court so long as “independent guarantees of the witness’s identity and truthfulness” are available to the judge.  After much litigation throughout the twentieth century, the Supreme Court settled in Moebius v. Massachusetts (1996) that status as a powers registrant furnishes such guarantees.  Moreover, the courts have also held, citing privacy and safety concerns, that registrants need not answer questions about their identities on the stand.

From Page 29, Arrests, Searches, and Other Police-like Operations by Registrants

Question 43: How do freelance crimefighters arrest criminals?

A: A person is “under arrest” whenever he’s in a situation where a reasonable person would not feel free to leave.  This can happen when a superpowered being says, “You’re under arrest” and flexes his super-muscles, when the superbeing has knocked the person unconscious, or any one of a huge range of situations.  This rule, by the way, is the same for police and non-police.

Question 44: When can a registrant legally arrest someone?

A: Whenever he has probable cause to believe the person has committed any felony or has committed a misdemeanor in his presence.  “Probable cause” means more than mere suspicion but much less than certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Question 45: When can a registrant use deadly force, such as a “dangerous power,” against a foe?

A: Whenever the registrant reasonably believes that his life or the life of another is in danger (notably, when the foe is using deadly force, too), or when the foe is a fleeing, violent felon.  These criteria have historically been interpreted in favor of the registrant.

Registration is not just a way for governments to track powers.  It also confers major legal benefits on registrants.  This section discusses benefits for registrants who choose to investigate crime and apprehend criminals: in other words, superpowered crimefighters.

In general, if a hero captures a foe, whether by grabbing him, beating him senseless, or just telling him, “don’t go anywhere,” that counts as an arrest.  Heroes can make such arrests whenever they have “probable cause” to believe a person has committed a crime.  (Whether the person actually committed a crime is irrelevant.)   Probable cause is more than mere suspicion but far less than the formal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applied in trials.

If you have further questions related to arrest, an attorney for the arrestee specializing in superhuman law is likely to contact you.

(Comment on our update here: http://cityoftitans.com/forum/discuss-law-and-superhero )

Robert Hughes, Philip Moyer, and 45 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. crow on

      @peacrmacck u mean government sponsored weirdos

      sorry cant help something laughing

    2. Missing avatar

      PeaceMack on

      In some ways this registration seems pretty lenient. There are places that have stricter gun registration laws than this IRL. And some super powers can do a whole lot more damage than a gun in the hands of a regular person.

      I can see how the rest of the population would be rightly concerned with trying to preserve their safety. At least it's not like in Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart where the supers run rampant and what's left of the rest of society treats supers as natural disasters.

    3. crow on

      Law and the Superhero remind me keene act 1977

    4. Tessachan of Phoenix Rising on

      I am stunned at how amazing a game can become when it's created by gamers who love it! This intense background is part of that. We have a winner :)

    5. Missing avatar

      snate56 on

      What part of government isn't hypocritical?

      Is there actually going to be in game effects regarding whether your hero is registered or not? Can we assume that is part of being a villain; not registering?

    6. Unjust on

      We're gonna have a well painted history from what I see.

    7. Missing avatar

      e-sabbath
      Superbacker
      on

      The Goddamn Batman took it.

    8. Missing avatar

      Blademaster on

      Where's my goddamn lore book? Lol, nice update, but registration seems rather flaky. Registration of powers but universal registration is illegal... It sounds hypocrital. Also I'd be more interested if the laws actually didn't specify, creating a legal battle of intrigue while the game is played, answering the question of basic rights to non-humans, the definition of sentience, etc.

    9. Missing avatar

      Blademaster on

      Where's my goddamn lore book? Lol, nice update, but registration seems rather flaky. Registration of powers but universal registration is illegal... It sounds hypocrital. Also I'd be more interested if the laws actually didn't specify, creating a legal battle of intrigue while the game is played, answering the question of basic rights to non-humans, the definition of sentience, etc.

    10. Missing avatar

      Jason King on

      I LOVE this Update! Ignore the "I'm Not Interested in It, So I Shouldn't Have to See It" crowd. This is EXACTLY what we need to see to be able to transition into the new world and hit the ground running. Particularly those like me who have characters they intend to reprise from ... the departed game.It also helps me because I am writing stories of a comic book style world, and am having to make the metahuman interaction rules up as I go. This gives me a great place to start. Keep up the great work!

    11. Missing Worlds Media Creator on

      #1: Yes, Sapient, not Sentient. The second word is often misused to mean the first. You got us.

      #2: On the matter of WHEN and WHAT you have to register, note that there are two things.
      A: You have to register WHEN
      "Titan City law requires registration with the Department of Public Safety before using dangerous or intrusive powers in public for a non-emergency purpose and thirty days to register after using them in public for the first time for an emergency purpose. Initial manifestation counts as an “emergency purpose.” "

      B: WHAT you have to register:
      "“Dangerous” powers are anything that could be used as a deadly or dangerous weapon. This is broadly construed and includes items that are part of your body or training, such as the fists of martial artists.

      “Intrusive” powers are those likely to interfere with the privacy or peace of ordinary, reasonable people. These include special senses, including extrasensory powers and telepathy, and powers whose use would constitute a noise or light complaint if used after 11 p.m."

      So, you don't have to register dangerous powers until before you intend to use them for a non-emergency purpose, or until AFTER you use them for an emergency purpose.
      And you don't have to register "able to hum at exactly 2600 hz" at all.

      If you're putting on spandex, you better register. Or choose not to and deal when you get busted.
      If you're just walking around town, you're pretty cool, even if you look like a dinosaur or can fly. (Just obey traffic laws)

      - Warcabbit

    12. Missing Worlds Media Creator on

      @Mark - the key language is "power." While not defined in this writeup, a power in this context is some ability beyond that which a normal human being can reach. Bruce Lee, as great a martial artist as he was, would not have to register his fists. Any person with enough training could match him. However if Mr. Lee were to become a crime fighting sidekick for a rich playboy, then he would need to register.

    13. David Guillot on

      I love this update. This needs to be put on the website and in the instruction booklet (if there is one) if for no other reason to show how in Depth how much thought6 you have put in to this game world's background.

    14. Steven Lopez on

      My understanding of this Mark is that a martial artist would only have to register if he was going to use his fists to fight crime, or within 30 days of using his fists to stop a robbery (an emergency situation).

    15. Missing avatar

      Mark Andrew Edwards on

      Wait, wait, wait.

      You DON'T have to register that you're a superhero but you DO have to register your...powers. Which are part of you. Like your...fists...

      How is that NOT universal registration? How does that not violate the rulings previously mentioned? Now I know places like DC and Chicago are prone to pretty much ignoring the spirit of the the law or even the letter of it but this seems seriously abusive.

      It's one thing to require licensing of people who want to go around 'fighting crime', I can see that. But requiring a Brick to register just because he's strong or a martial artist just because he's a trained athlete is fascistic BS.

    16. New World Alchemy - David A. Lupo on

      Finally a flavor based update that doesn't bore me to death.

      Even though I enjoyed this one I'm thinking flavor updates should be part a separate news letter that is optional to subscribe to, so the real updates don't get lost in the noise.

    17. Keovar on

      So apparently, PETA took over the government in this world? Sentience is the ability to have subjective experiences, such as to feel pain. Most animals can do this. The ability to reason like a human is sapience.
      While I would extend human (personal) rights to any intelligence which has the capacities for self-awareness and varying states of happiness or suffering, I'm not sure about extending them to everything with a nervous system. There's a gradient, so any line we draw will be a bit arbitrary. For myself, I think that apes (bonobos, gorillas, etc), cetaceans (dolphins, whales, etc.) and a few other types of animals like elephants are probably intelligent enough to be given the rights of personhood, while I don't think chickens are. In fiction, elves, 'awakened' animals, extraterrestrial aliens, true AI, etc. would be included. Beings which may be intelligent but able to reshape reality so as to avoid any variance in states of happiness or suffering (if there were any gods, basically) can take care of themselves and don't need to be part of a social contract. Morality requires mortality.

    18. Malkyre on

      This is a really excellent bit of world-building. Pretty clear there was a good bit of research into legal precedent. Well done!