Publishers File Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Stop San Francisco Yellow Pages Ordinance
August 31, 2011 | Contributed by: Neg Norton
Earlier today, we filed a motion for preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court to halt the implementation of the City of San Francisco’s destructive Yellow Pages law until we reach final resolution of the lawsuit we filed against the city in June.
We made the decision to move forward with this motion after considering the real, negative impact of the city’s ordinance, which would make it against the law to deliver Yellow Pages to homes or businesses without advance permission:
- The First Amendment does not permit the city to arbitrarily restrict distribution of Yellow Pages out of a misguided belief that directories are less valuable than other publications. We don’t think the government has a place in choosing which communications can be delivered and which cannot. When put in context, the Environmental Protection Agency says that phone directories make up less than one half of one percent of municipal waste – much less than other paper-based media.
- Thousands of San Francisco residents will be deprived of a valuable resource that links them to vital community services. This ordinance disenfranchises the nearly 30% of San Franciscans who can’t afford Internet access and smartphones – including lower income residents, seniors and international communities – as well as those who simply prefer print directories to find local civic and business information.
- Thousands of local businesses will be hurt by virtually eliminating one of their most effective means of advertising, forcing them to pay more for less effective results and fewer advertising options at the whim of local lawmakers.
- Research from Burke, a premier independent research and consulting firm, shows that 71 percent of San Francisco residents used Yellow Pages directories in the past year to locate local civic and business information.
Although the ordinance’s delivery restrictions do not take effect until May 2012, publishers are suffering economic consequences now. Not only must they plan to invest in expensive methods to solicit opt-ins, but the uncertainty over the Yellow Pages circulation is deterring advertisers.
A preliminary injunction is in the public interest, not only because our First Amendment rights are at stake, but because the ordinance harms the wider community – both the local businesses that rely on sales generated by Yellow Pages ads, and the thousands of San Francisco residents who find the Yellow Pages more efficient than searching the Internet, or who lack Internet access.
Yellow Pages publishers don’t want to deliver directories to people who don’t want them. We have stated this repeatedly to legislators, the media and consumers. And we are backing up that statement with our opt-out site and other distribution initiatives.
We believe the decision to use the Yellow Pages, a newspaper, the Internet, or any other media should be up to the citizens of San Francisco – not the judgment of politicians. Our motion today demonstrates our commitment to continuing to deliver our directories to San Francisco residents who use and value it.
As responsible stewards of the environment, we provided consumers nationwide with a single, easy-to- use site to stop or limit directory delivery to their homes at www.yellowpagesoptout.com. Our association continues to work on the behalf of our members to ensure that our message is being heard in municipalities across the country.