A federal appellate court Tuesday issued a ruling upholding Los Angeles' citywide billboard ban, handing a rare victory to the city in its uphill battle to regulate outdoor signs.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the city's 2002 outdoor advertising ban does not violate a sign company's 1st Amendment right to free speech, reversing a lower court ruling.

Outdoor advertising company Metro Lights LLC had argued that the city could not prohibit new "off-site" signs -- images that advertise products not sold on the immediate property -- while at the same time selling advertising space on city-owned bus benches and kiosks. Metro Lights had accused the city of auctioning off "1st Amendment rights to the highest bidder."

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