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Until recently, Washington, D.C., maintained what most would regard as a perfectly ordinary licensing scheme for tour guides. In 2014, the D.C. Circuit declared the scheme unconstitutional under the First Amendment in a remarkable case entitled Edwards v. District of Columbia. The court announced that the District's regulations must be reviewed under intermediate scrutiny because they burden speech; the regulations made it "illegal to talk about points of interest or the history of the city while escorting or guiding a person who paid you to do so" without first obtaining a license. Licenses were awarded to those who passed a test and paid a $200 registration fee. After a rather scathing review, the court concluded that the regulations failed directly to advance the government's interest in protecting D.C. tourism from dishonest or unsatisfactory tour guides. It found that the private market - operating through rating sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor - was instead sufficient to turn "the coal of self-interest" into "a gem-like consumer experience," thereby rendering the District's scheme superfluous.
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