Bloggers sue over $315 m HuffPo deal

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The Guardian UK has some great quotes in its story about how Arianna Huffington, her website and AOL have been slapped with a $105 million class action suit. The suit was brought by a bunch of bloggers who are majorly pissed that she sold the Huffington Post for $315 without sparing them a dime. And the story shines more light on the growing dilemma facing members of the "new media," a world in which a "full-time employee" is as rare as a 100-page issue of a print newspaper.

"Huffington bloggers have essentially been turned into modern day slaves on Arianna Huffington's plantation" complained Jonathan Tasini, who humself wrote hundreds of unpaid posts for HuffPo until the website was sold to AOL this year.

"People who create content ... have to be compensated,” Tasini argued. He and his attorneys contend that some 9,000 people also wrote for the site on an unpaid basis – and their work helped contribute a third of HuffPo's eventual sale price.

Tasini reportedly led a successful suit on behalf of freelancers against the New York Times a decade ago, winning a 2001 supreme court ruling that copyright for print and online versions of an article are separate. And now he’s taking on Huffington and Ken Lerer, who founded HuffPo in 2005, featured some well-known writers, but relied heavily on unpaid bloggers, too.

In a press release, HuffPo said the lawsuit was "completely baseless".
"Our bloggers utilise our platform to connect and ensure that their ideas and views are seen by as many people as possible,” the website claimed. “It's the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows – to broadcast their views to as wide an audience as possible."

But Tasini vows to "picket” Huffington’s home.

Comments

Here in the Bay Area, the Guild that represents freelance workers has hailed Tasini's suit.

"The Guild shares Mr. Tasini's goal of equitable compensation for individuals who contribute content to the Huffington Post. We believe that constructive dialogue and good faith negotiations are the best method for ensuring both the success of the Huffington Post and the financial well-being of its contributors," the Guild said in a press release.

To stimulate that dialogue, expect to see freelancers and other media workers leafleting outside the Moscone Center on Wednesday, April 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Why? Because Huffington is scheduled to be inside the center addressing a convention on digital marketing from 9-10 a.m.

Posted by sarah on Apr. 12, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

Three of us from the Guild -- the others were Rebecca Rosen Lum and Don Lattin -- did indeed hand out leaflets outside Moscone Center West while Huffington was speaking.

Moscone Center security guards tried to shoo us away from the building-adjacent lanes of the sidewalk -- away from the steps leading to the building entrances -- saying those lanes were Moscone Center property.

We told them that because all lanes of the sidewalk are routinely used as pedestrian thoroughfare, all lanes were legitimate territory for our activity.

One of the guards said that unless we moved, he would call the police. I told him not to bother, that I would do that myself, which I did, and the guards retreated inside the building and didn't harass us again.

A police sergeant came by about an hour after I'd called the department. After a brief chat, he agreed with me that we were acting within our rights.

Posted by Richard Knee on Apr. 26, 2011 @ 10:49 am

Huffington Post does such a great job. Sad to see its management tarnished by the public attention on its practices. At the same, it seemed like the writers knew what they were getting into if it was explicitly stated upfront that they would not be paid.

Posted by Great Quotes on Apr. 12, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

as frothing right winger should have steered well away from her.

Dude comparing himself to a slave is pretty incredible too, someone forced him to write blogs for Huffington? Such is the yearning to be the moth near the flame.

Posted by maltlock on Apr. 12, 2011 @ 3:34 pm