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The Local Search Association filed suit today against the City and County of San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Edwin Lee asking the U.S. District Court to overturn the city’s recently passed opt-in ordinance. The suit claims that the city’s rationale for the ordinance is unconstitutional on the grounds that it is “arbitrary” and “irrational.” For example, the suit claims that the city “singles out Yellow Pages while other sources produce 99 percent of paper waste.”

The YP industry has fought against opt-in since the legislation was first considered in February. By the end of March, the industry received a small victory after a vote was delayed to commission a study on whether opt-in would economically harm local SMBs. Ultimately, the city won the battle. Now the industry is pushing back through its only recourse, the courts.

In a blog post announcing the decision to sue, LSA President Neg Norton said: “This is not an action we take lightly. For years, we have worked to improve the San Francisco community by providing residents with important local civic and business information. We are disappointed that we now need to sue the city in order to provide our services to its residents and local businesses. That said, we believe there are limits to any city’s ability to control how we distribute community information, whether it is print or online.”

 The ordinance’s architect, San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu, told the The SF Appeal online newspaper that he expected the city to win the suit.

“I am confident San Francisco’s new law will stand up to court scrutiny…We carefully crafted the legislation to address the significant environmental harm and blight caused by mass over-distribution of yellow pages while still allowing for them to get into the hands of all who want them,” Chiu told the Appeal.

The suit’s prospects are unclear. In Seattle, where the city has passed a robust opt-out ordinance, the Yellow Pages industry has lost the early rounds of that legal battle. However, the industry seems confident that the more draconian opt-in measure is on shakier legal ground.

In a related development, the Association of Directory Publishers announced it has established the Delivery Rights Defense Fund. The DRDF will receive, hold and disburse voluntary financial contributions for the industry’s legal challenge. ADP has sought legal counsel from Jeffrey Yablon, of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, concerning the tax-deductibility of contributions. Yablon advised that funds from publishers and partner members deposited into the account are tax-deductible as long as they are not used to influence legislation.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I think the Local Search Association has a huge point here and should win this lawsuit. I’m certainly an advocate of online yellow pages, but I throw a ton more of newspapers away. A TON MORE quite literally.

    I pray that the LSA wins this. They should just on principal. This new law or regulation is highly prejudiced and, in fact will hurt local businesses and consumers.

    Even though many people now use the Internet, there are still a lot of people who don’t have access to the Internet or just don’t use it for many of their own reasons. There is still a large audience for print Yellow Pages.

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