First Amendment protections of free speech and the press have long been applied to newspapers, magazines and the Internet, but yellow pages?
Yep. As of this week that same protection has officially been extended to telephone directories.
In a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued Monday, the yellow pages are "fully protected expression."
Yellow pages have seen declining use as more people have turned to the Internet to look up businesses, but there are still people who use the paper directories, and plenty of companies that continue to publish them.
At issue was their unasked for appearance on porches and doorsteps. To counter the litter and paper use, cities like Seattle and San Francisco were beginning to restrict their distribution. The case considered by the court was over Seattle's 2010 law mandating that phone book publishers advertise an opt-out registry on the directories' covers and pay a fee per phone book for the city to maintain that registry.
The publishers challenged the law as an unconstitutional restriction of their free speech rights. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed:
"Ultimately, we do not see 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. A profit motive and the inclusion or creation of noncommercial content in order to reach a broader audience and attract more advertising is present across all of them. We conclude, therefore, that the yellow pages directories are entitled to full First Amendment protection."
So even if your fingers no longer do the walking, you'll still have to do some walking to the recycling or garbage bin.