Yellow Pages publishers sue to overturn Seattle’s unconstitutional phone book law

Dex One Corp., SuperMedia and the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to challenge a Seattle phone book ordinance on the grounds that it restricts publishers’ fundamental right to free speech.

The complaint, filed by lead attorneys David Burman and Kathleen O’Sullivan of Seattle-based Perkins Coie, LLP, asserts that the ordinance enacted last month violates the First Amendment, which prohibits government from licensing or exercising advance approval of the press, from directing publishers what to publish and to whom they may communicate, and from assessing fees for the privilege of publishing. The suit also claims that the Seattle ordinance unlawfully interferes with interstate commerce and violates the privacy rights of Seattle residents.

“We agree that residents should have a choice of whether they receive a Yellow Pages directory, but the Seattle City Council has passed a law that violates the most basic freedom in the United States,” said Neg Norton, president, YPA. “Even as we oppose the ordinance in court, we are moving forward with plans to provide a first-class, national consumer choice website at This website will easily enable consumers to opt-out of unwanted phonebooks and will add no costs to taxpayers anywhere – in Seattle or across the country.”

Directory publishers have made significant investments in sustainable production practices since launching industrywide Environmental Guidelines in 2007. Successes include:

  • Launching consumer choice programs to give consumers a choice to reduce or stop directory delivery.
  • Using paper that contains recycled content and fiber derived from lumber byproducts making it unnecessary to use new trees to produce directories.
  • A 29 percent reduction in the use of directory paper since 2006 as a result of advanced pagination systems and programs to reduce the number and size of directories.
  • Using soy-based inks and non-toxic dyes that pose little threat to soil or groundwater supplies and adhesives in the binding process that are eco-friendly and non-toxic.
  • Supporting recycling and up-cycling programs that ensure directories have a life after use.