Sunday, December 02, 2012

First Amendment Scores Major Victory in Seattle

Attempt to control phone directories rejected

The courts reason that commercial speech can be regulated more than noncommercial speech because government has an interest in preventing commercial harm. That’s why advertisers are not allowed to make false product claims, for example.

The Seattle ordinance, which the court overturned in mid-October, banned the distribution of “Yellow Pages phone books” in the city unless the publishers satisfied certain rules. First, the publisher had to obtain a special license.

Second, the publisher was required to pay the city 14 cents for each Yellow Pages phone book distributed within Seattle’s jurisdiction.

Finally, publishers had to comply with an opt-out registry, permitting residents to decline receipt of future phone books from the publisher.

Seattle defended its regulation by characterizing the phone books as pure commercial speech with little value to society. (Tell that to the homeowner who needs a 24-hour plumber.) Because of the high advertising content in such directories, the city asserted that the books were only entitled to a modicum of protection.

The Ninth Circuit rejected Seattle’s commercial-speech argument, concluding that phone books were not that much different than newspapers and other publications that attempt to create positive cash flow from publishing.

“The First Amendment does not make protection contingent on the perceived value of certain speech,” the court wrote, reaffirming that speech intertwined with commercial activity, such as advertising, enjoys fundamental constitutional protections.

Fortunately, the court could not find “a principled reason to treat telephone directories differently from newspapers, magazines, television programs, radio shows, and similar media that does not turn on an evaluation of their contents.”

The Ninth Circuit should be applauded for rejecting Seattle’s program of speech restrictions. If First Amendment guarantees are not applied fairly and uniformly, governments could too easily characterize unfavorable speech as “commercial” and subject it to myriad restrictions.



Anonymous said...

This has to be the first sane decision by the 9th circus court in years. Did they suddenly read the constitution?

Bird of Paradise said...

City officials should be made to read the U.S. CONSTITUTION and that gose double for the jerk city councils and mayors who pass gun bans while these arogant pompuois peacocks strunt around showing off their arrogance to the rest of us lower birds

Anonymous said...

Is that why TV and radio consists of never-ending waves of commercials? There was a time when watching TV meant, viewing a program that was occasionally interrupted by a commercial message. Today, we're forced to watch commercials that are occasionally interrupted by some program, which is usually not worth watching anyway.

So how did TV networks get the ability to show all the commercials (which = $$$) they want? Ask congress about the middle-of-the-night deal they made with broadcast companies.

Tongue-Tied Watch said...

Bird of Paradise, you must be soooo happy now:

Tragedy struck in the NFL early Saturday morning with the news that Kansas City Chiefs Linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide at the team's Arrowhead Stadium practice facility, after shooting and killing his girlfriend at home a short time earlier, has learned.

Go Away Bird said...

Now to take all those neighborhood authorities that prophibit their residents from owning guns or flying old glory and sue their pants clean off

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