A few weeks ago, I walked out my front door to see a phone book dropped on the front step. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I'd seen one. But I picked it up and walked it straight over to the paper recycling bin, where I deposited it. That's what an awful lot of people do these days. Apparently, the city of Seattle passed a law recently creating a "do-not-deliver" list for residents, that would bar phone book providers from delivering the books to their homes. However, the Yellow Pages Association has now sued the city
, claiming that this law is a First Amendment violation:
The complaint... asserts that the ordinance enacted last month violates the First Amendment, which prohibits government from licensing or exercising advance approval of the press, from directing publishers what to publish and to whom they may communicate, and from assessing fees for the privilege of publishing. The suit also claims that the Seattle ordinance unlawfully interferes with interstate commerce and violates the privacy rights of Seattle residents...
The Seattle ordinance unfairly singles out the Yellow Pages industry with regulations and fees that are not imposed on other media, including discriminatory license fees for the right to publish and unprecedented "advance recovery fees" that previously have been limited to toxic or hard-to-recycle materials. The ordinance also mandates that publishers turn over consumers' private information to the City of Seattle and imposes obligatory cover language dictated by the city government.
Now, I'm a pretty big First Amendment supporter, but I'm not sure how a bar on dropping a phone book on someone's property -- at their request -- is a free speech violation. Perhaps I'm missing something? In the meantime, the group actually says that it's not against
letting people opt-out, and is actually creating a website to let people do just that. It just doesn't like this particular law.