The Newspaper Advertising Act (45 Pa. C.S.A. §301 et. seq.) provides for certain guidelines for legal advertisements and notices. Failure to comply with these guidelines renders the legal proceeding, matter or case in question to be non- binding and ineffective upon any interested party.
Legal Advertisements: A legal advertisement is an advertisement, abstract, notice or other statement required either by:
- resolution of a corporation, unincorporated association (such as a partnership) or government unit; or
- ordinance, law, rule, order or decree of court that is required to be published for money, in either a newspaper of general circulation, a legal newspaper or an official newspaper. Examples of legal advertisements include: charters of incorporation, estate notices, sheriff's sales, school board meetings, shareholders meetings and requests for contract bids.
Many common legal advertisements must be printed in newspapers of general circulation. A newspaper of general circulation contains all of the following characteristics:
- has a name or title;
- conveys reading or pictorial intelligence of passing events, local or general happenings, printing regularly or irregularly editorial comment, announcements, miscellaneous reading matter, commercial advertising, classified advertising, legal advertising, and other notices;
- is a newspaper issued daily, or not less than once a week;
- intended for general distribution and circulation to the public;
- is sold at fixed prices per copy per week, per month or per annum;
- is sold to subscribers and readers without regard to business, trade, profession or class
- is four or more pages long;
- must have been printed continuously for the past six months (or a successor of a paper that meets this requirement); and
- either entered or entitled to be entered under the Postal Rules and Regulations as second class [now, periodical] matter in the United States mails.
Most newspapers fall within the definition of a newspaper of general circulation. However, there are two major exceptions. They are:
- Free Newspapers: A printed paper or publication, regardless of size, contents, or time of issue, or number of copies issued, distributed and circulated gratuitously, is not a newspaper.
- Non-periodical materials: A printed paper or publication, not entitled to be entered, or which has been denied entry, as second class [now, periodical] matter in the United States mails under the Postal Rules and Regulations of the United States is not a newspaper.
The Newspaper Advertising Act requires that legal advertisements only be printed in as many newspapers as are required by applicable law. Advertising in more newspapers than the law authorizes is prohibited. Therefore, placing additional announcements in smaller newspapers or free newspapers is not allowed. However, publishers may circumvent this prohibition by placing the relevant information into news-stories or other forms of free publicity.
Location of Legal Advertisements :
Requirements for legal advertisements vary depending upon the act that created the requirement for advertising. Typically, legal advertisements must be published in the classified section of the newspaper. Layout ads, flyers, and pullout ads are typically not permitted.
Internet Advertising :
The Newspaper Advertising Act does not make any mention of prohibitions on Internet advertising. The primary advertisement must be placed in a "print" newspaper, but if the price of advertisements in the newspaper includes an advertisement in the internet version of the newspaper, placing the notice in the internet version of the newspaper would seem to be legal.
The general rule regarding advertising rates is that all official and legal advertising shall be charged for at an established or declared rate. When there is no established rate, then the rate charged for official and legal advertising cannot exceed the normal rate charged for commercial, general or any other type of ads.
An exception to this rule is when official and legal advertising is usually published according to a prescribed form or classified under a general heading. If this is the case, it is permissible for newspapers to set rates for official and legal advertising regardless of the space required or rates charged for commercial, general or any other type of advertising.
Establishment and Change of Advertising Rates
All newspapers of general circulation accepting and publishing official and legal advertising, are hereby required to fix and establish rates and charges for official, legal and all other kinds of advertising, offered or accepted for publication. Publications shall furnish, on demand, to any person having use for the same, detailed schedules, stating the rates and charges which shall be deemed to be in force and effect until changed or altered. When these rates are changed, the publication shall give the person authorized or required to publish advertising, notice that the rates for advertising have been changed before demanding or receiving compensation at any increased rate.
All charges, costs and expenses connected with legal and official advertising are taxable, collectible and payable just like other court costs and administrative expenses.
Inclusion of Common Geographical Names
Official or legal advertisements must include the common or local name of every road, street, highway, bridge, municipality, village or boundary named in the advertisement. Any errors in the common or local name will not invalidate any matter or proceeding, as long as it is properly and lawfully executed in all other respects.
Unauthorized Advertisements Not to be Published
Only government advertisements authorized by law may be published. In addition, advertisements may not be published in more newspapers than the law authorizes.
Miscellaneous provisions that apply to legal advertisements by state government
- All advertisements published by any officer of the Commonwealth must be published in the regular advertising columns of the newspaper only, not as display ads.
- Officers furnishing a legal advertisement for publication must also supply an order giving the number of lines or space the advertisement takes up and the number of insertions required.
- The auditor general may not issue warrants to pay for any authorized advertisement unless the bill includes the written or printed order for publication, together with the affidavit of the editor or publisher of the newspaper publishing the advertisement affirming that it has been inserted as ordered.