updated 2/17/2004 5:15:46 PM ET 2004-02-17T22:15:46

A federal appeals court upheld the government's do not call registry Tuesday, dismissing telemarketers' claims that it violates free speech rights and is unfair because it doesn't apply to charitable or political solicitations.

In an anxiously awaited opinion, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the registry "a reasonable fit."

"We hold that the do-not-call registry is a valid commercial speech regulation because it directly advances the government's important interests in safeguarding personal privacy and reducing the danger of telemarketing abuse without burdening an excessive amount of speech," the court said.

The do-not-call list, which took effect in October, contains more than 56 million phone numbers. Officials in the telemarketing industry did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The appeals court overturned U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham of Denver, who said the list violated the telemarketing industry's free-speech rights by barring calls from businesses but not charities.

"As a general rule, the First Amendment does not require that the government regulate all aspects of a problem before it can make progress on any front," the ruling said. The court also said there was no evidence suggesting charitable or political callers were nearly as troublesome as general telemarketing calls.

The registry "offers consumers a tool with which they can protect their homes against intrusions that Congress has determined to be particularly invasive," the court said.

"Just as a consumer can avoid door-to-door peddlers by placing a 'No Solicitation' sign in his or her front yard, the do-not-call registry lets consumers avoid unwanted sales pitches that invade the home via telephone," the court said. "We are convinced that the First Amendment does not prevent the government from giving consumers this option."

Industry officials have said they expect about 2 million of their 6.5 million workers will lose their jobs within two years if the courts uphold the do-not-call rules.

People can register numbers or file complaints at the do-not-call Web site or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Companies that call numbers on the list face fines of up to $11,000 for each violation.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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