As you may be aware, Seattle passed an ordinance in October which required yellow pages print directory companies to pay for an annual license and to allow consumers to opt-out of receiving print yellow pages phonebooks from being delivered to their properties. The Yellow Pages Association filed a motion in federal court last week, seeking to have the ordinance canceled on the basis of unconstitutionality.
The YP industry claims that the print directories should be considered protected speech, and that their content is also primarily informational content, with a lower percentage of advertising content than magazines and newspapers.
I think that the YPA may technically be right, but are putting themselves in direct opposition of an influential demographic which are irritated by directory books getting dropped on their doorsteps, apartment buildings and in their places of business. The argument is somewhat facile — rather like me saying that I can write nearly whatever I wish and it’s protected as free speech — however, that doesn’t give me the right to spraypaint it upon the side of someone’s home. It’s the method of transmission of this free speech that’s being contested.
For many in Seattle, the ordinance doesn’t sound like an unduly heavy limitation for the YP companies. After all, only a minority of recipients are likely to opt-out of delivery, and the licensing fee is very small. (more…)