Dallas sign ban

Censored Windows

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Placing small signs below eye level is not usually an effective way to advertise your business. But that's what a Dallas ordinance requires.

In February the Institute for Justice launched a protest against the city's limits on the size and position of retailers' window signs. A 2008 ordinance says business signs may not be placed in the upper two-thirds of windows or glass doors and may not cover more than 15 percent of the glass. But because the rules apply only to commercial speech, local business owners could conspicuously display I.J.'s posters saying "End the Dallas Sign Ban" without risking fines.

That exception, I.J. argues, only underlines the absurdity of the rules. The ordinance, which I.J. is challenging in federal court on First Amendment grounds, is ostensibly aimed at deterring robberies by maintaining visibility from the street. Yet it neither requires windows nor demands that they be uncovered. It only insists that whatever covers them cannot have anything to do with the products or services sold by the business. 

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