You hear the “kerthunk!” at your door and you know the dinosaur has landed. And by dinosaur of course we mean the Yellow Pages and by landed we mean the ginormous book you likely no longer need because of a thing called the Internet has been chucked onto your property. It seems they won’t stop kerthunking, either, as a judge says it’s totally constitutional for the directory’s publishers to keep bombarding consumers with the obsolete books.
A federal appeals court ruled today that a Seattle ordinance that required publishers to obtain permits and pay certain fees before delivering the often unwanted books was unconstitutional, and violated the 1st Amendment rights of the publishers, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Those fees were earmarked to pay for a program that would’ve allowed residents to opt out of getting the Yellow Pages, but the directory’s publishers said that wasn’t copacetic with the 1st Amendment.
The court did acknowledge the inconvenience of consumers having to deal with an unsolicited bundle of paper in its ruling.
“The Yellow Pages telephone directory was once a ubiquitous part of American life, found in virtually every household and office,” wrote Judge Richard R. Clifton, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. “But times have changed, and today phone books, like land-line telephones themselves, are not so universally accepted.”
However, just as newspapers are protected by free-speech rules, so too, are phone books. Because who’s to say what’s valuable for someone else? Many a phone book has been used as a door stop or booster seat, right?
“The 1st Amendment does not make protection contingent on the perceived value of certain speech,” the court said.
Yellow Pages protected by 1st Amendment, court says [Los Angeles Times]