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Free Speech Handbook, A Worthy Read

Free speech law is critically important for on premise sign regulation. Signs are an expressive form of free speech protected by the free speech clause of the Federal Constitution. Courts decide how local governments can regulate signs, including on premise signs, in order to ensure the principles of freedom of expression are observed. If free speech requirements are not met, courts will hold an on premise sign law unconstitutional.

The above quotation comes from Free Speech Law for On Premises Signs, by Daniel Mandelker (August 10, 2012). This quote reminds us of the importance of understanding the protections afforded to on premises signs by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Professor Mandelker, a friend of this blog, just completed and released his sign handbook comprehensively analyzing the interplay between the First Amendment’s free speech law and on premises signage. His sign handbook is a must-have resource for all land use and municipal lawyers and practitioners.

Professor Mandelker’s handbook begins by discussing U.S. Supreme Court cases that have decided the basic principles of free speech law, including the tests developed by the Court for regulating commercial speech. The book also explains the prior restraint doctrine that applies to the process in which decisions about the display of signs are made, including the standards that must be used to make these decisions. The handbook discusses basic issues concerning on premise sign ordinances, such as how a municipality can demonstrate that an ordinance advances its aesthetic and traffic safety objectives, the importance of a statement of purpose, how on premise signs should be defined, sign exemptions, and the treatment of on premise signs under the Federal Highway Beautification Act. The handbook reviews the law that applies to the different types of signs that can be displayed on premise, such as time and temperature signs, portable signs, and digital signs. Finally, the handbook discusses the regulations that apply to on premise signs, such as size, height, and spacing regulations.

You can download the book for free on the United States Sign Council site here, or at Professor Mandelker’s blog at


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