Arianna Huffington is like a “slave owner on a plantation of bloggers,” according to the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that seeks more than $100 million in damages on behalf of 9,000 unpaid bloggers who, he argues, should be paid for helping build the Huffington Post into the valuable media property AOL bought for $315 million.
The lawsuit, led by well-known New York labor activist and Huffington Post blogger Jonathan Tasini, alleges that thousands of writers and other contributors have been wrongly denied any compensation for the value they created for the Huffington Post.
While not an unprecedented legal action, the scale of the alleged infractions — and the high profile of both Huffington and AOL — means that the outcome of this case could set an important standard about the rights of freelancers in the internet age.
“This is about justice,” Tasini told Wired.com by phone Tuesday. “Arianna Huffington is like a slave owner on a plantation of bloggers. The truth is, without the bloggers there was no Huffington Post and there would be no sale to AOL. She has decided to rob all these bloggers of a fair share of this profit-making venture.”
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York federal court (.pdf), seeks at least $105 million in damages on behalf of the Huffington Post’s unpaid writers and other contributors. It names AOL, TheHuffingtonPost.com, Arianna Huffington, and Ken Lerer, the wealthy New York investor who co-founded the website with her, as defendants. They have 21 days to respond to the lawsuit.
In a statement e-mailed to Wired.com, Huffington Post spokesperson Mario Ruiz dismissed the complaint as “wholly without merit.” The lawsuit was first reported by Jeff Bercovici at Forbes.com.
“As we’ve said before, our bloggers use our platform — as well as other unpaid group blogs across the web — to connect and help their work be seen by as many people as possible,” Ruiz said. “It’s the same reason people go on TV shows: to promote their views and ideas. HuffPost bloggers can cross-post their work on other sites, including their own. Aside from our group blog, to which thousands of people from around the world contribute, we operate a journalistic enterprise with hundreds of paid staff editors, writers and reporters.”
AOL and Huffington have laid off more than 200 editorial staffers and freelancers over the last month, including some veteran journalists.
Tasini and his lawyers are pursuing a two-pronged legal strategy, with two separate legal claims. The first is “unjust enrichment” under federal law, and the second is a New York state statutory claim for “deceptive business practices.”
via Unpaid Blogger Hits ‘Slave Owner’ Huffington With $105M Class Action Lawsuit | Epicenter | Wired.com.
Word slaves? I don't understand the part where bloggers have to write for the HuffPost or else... or else what?