Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember O’Brien responds to yellow pages opt-out ruling
Earlier today a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel of three justices ruled that Seattle’s yellow pages opt-out system violates the free speech of yellow pages publishers. Read the ruling here. Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, sponsor of Seattle’s opt-out ordinance, disagrees with the ruling.
“I am disappointed in the panel’s ruling. I have deep appreciation for our First Amendment protections and believe that freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we enjoy in the U.S.,” said Councilmember O’Brien. “The people of Seattle also should have the right to say ‘no’ and right to privacy when unwanted yellow pages land on their doorstep.”
Seattle’s opt-out system has been in place for more than a year now with overwhelming response. So far more than 25 percent of households and businesses have opted out of more than 435,000 phone books, saving over 400 tons of paper.
The yellow pages publishers challenged the law in Federal Court. The industry lost its initial challenge in a U.S. District Court in Seattle. The District ruling said that Seattle’s opt out system does not impede the free speech of yellow pages publishers or violate interstate commerce protections.
“Today’s ruling continues a troubling trend that, in effect, promotes the interests and profits of corporations over the choices and rights of our people. Common sense tells us that phonebooks are not speech and that protecting free speech means respecting people’s right to say they no longer want a phonebook delivered,” said Councilmember O’Brien.
In 2010 and 2011, the City Council passed Ordinances 123427 and123532, creating an opt-out system to help residents stop receiving unwanted phone books. The Stop Yellow Pages site launched in May 2011.