9th Circuit Strikes Down Seattle Yellow Page Opt-Out Ordinance

Take that Seattle.  In a decision, which has been expected for some time, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals released a unanimous decision today which holds that under the First Amendment, Yellow Pages directories are “fully protected speech” and not “commercial speech.”  The appeals court determined that print directories are entitled to the same standards under the First Amendment as newspapers, magazines, etc. Needless to say, this is a major win for the industry.

We noted back in August 2011 that Seattle’s effort to force a city run opt-out program and recycling fees on yellow page publishers was both legally questionable and irresponsible especially since the industry had already initiated an opt-out program and website.  To compound matters, the city then sent out 280,000 post cards (or 4 TONS OF PAPER) to inform residents of this effort, none of which is believed to have been recycled.

The Local Search Association, which has fought a long, hard, expensive battle on behalf of its members is “extremely pleased to announce that a full victory has been achieved by our Industry”, and will now move quickly to bring this appeals court decision to the attention of the San Francisco U.S. District Court (which is also within the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit) to vacate their opt-out program.

The Association believes the City of Seattle now has only two options:

  • The  City could seek a rehearing before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court      of Appeals.  However, in cases such as this where there is a unanimous decision, a rehearing is rare.
  • The City of Seattle could seek a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I think a third option would be for the city to apologize to the industry and all of their tax-paying residents for all of this nonsense and start working with the industry on ways to improve recycling rates.  But that probably won’t happen as several of the city leaders that championed this effort clearly have higher political office in mind.

Congratulations to the Local Search Association staff, and especially, Dex One and SuperMedia for fighting the war that needed to be fought….


2 responses to “9th Circuit Strikes Down Seattle Yellow Page Opt-Out Ordinance

  1. In today’s Seattle Times, City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who led this witch hunt directed at the Yellow Pages indicated that:

    1) The city may appeal, “I think comparing the yellow pages to The New York Times challenges most of our perception of what the yellow pages really are,” he said. “I think the city clearly has a compelling government and public interest in regulating how the yellow pages are distributed.”
    2) The publishers opt-out lists don’t work because they aren’t well advertised or enforced

    To which I have two comments Councilman —
    1) At what cost? I don’t think you’ve looked at the true ROI for this effort. If so, you would have pursued bottle manufacturers, cardboard manufactures, makers of electronic equipment, even sellers of baby diapers, as those items make up a much larger percent of your city’s waste stream. But they aren’t an easy target are they Councilman??
    2) Can you name a function of government that does work well, or is advertised as well?? Note to the Councilman: most people find their government contact information IN THE PRINTED DIRECTORIES, WHERE THE PUBLISHERS PROVIDE THE INFORMATION AT NO COST TO THE CITY. On what basis are you claiming that the publisher efforts aren’t working? Where is the data??

  2. Pingback: Judgement Day for City of Seattle Opt-out Folly | YP Talk - The Voice of the Yellow Pages Industry

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