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US Court Says Yellow Pages is Protected by Free Speech Legislation

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A US court has ruled that the phone directories provided by Yellow Pages are protected by the country's laws on freedom of speech and that the city of Seattle was wrong to require the delivery company to comply with an opt out scheme if they didn't want a copy.

The city of Seattle had set up a system that allowed residents to say they didn't want a copy of the phone directory, and some 79,000 residents and businesses had signed up.

In addition, the city charged a per-directory charge to the companies for the cost of disposing of unwanted copies.

However, the phone-book companies sued the city arguing that while their directories were commercial products, they contained enough local information of a non-commercial nature to be protected under the USA's First Amendment protecting free speech.

"Although portions of the directories are obviously commercial in nature, the books contain more than that, and we conclude that the directories are entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment," Appeals Judge Richard Clifton wrote in his decision. "As a result, when we evaluate the ordinance under strict scrutiny, it does not survive."

The directory companies operate their own opt-out scheme and objected to legislation being foisted on them by the city government.

The city had said that the companies own opt-out scheme was not well known or advertised, and that it had to set up its own system to deal with what it said was the problem of unwanted phone directories.

The city may appeal the court decision.

The city of San Francisco also has a similar law, which is also subject to court appeals by the phone directory companies.

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Tags: seattle  yellow pages  USA