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Paul Festa

Staff Writer, CNET

The state of California said its fight to preserve a key regulatory distinction between newspapers and the Web is over.

A spokesman for the state’s Department of Real Estate on Monday confirmed that California won’t appeal last month’s federal court decision that struck down a prohibition on certain kinds of real-estate information posted to the Web. He declined to comment further on the state’s decision.

The Nov. 18 ruling, by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, said the state was not justified in requiring Web sites to have a real-estate broker’s license in order to publish real-estate advertising and other information while allowing newspapers to do so.

The Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public-interest law firm that represented plaintiff in the case hailed the state’s choice not to appeal the ruling.

“The Internet should be treated like traditional media,” said Steve Simpson, a senior attorney at the firm. “There’s no justification for licensing publications of either type. We hope other states recognize this simple truth as well.”

The decision comes as the traditional real-estate industry faces increasing Net-based competition and as the courts take a closer look at commercial prohibitions on the Internet.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging state restrictions on Internet wine sales. About half the states have such restrictions.