An army of unpaid bloggers who helped build the Huffington Post into an online media empire has revolted and is suing the magazine.
The court brief describes Arianna Huffington as like a “slave owner on a plantation of bloggers,” and the slaves want more than $105 million in damages on behalf of 9,000 unpaid bloggers.
The case is being brought forward by blogger Jonathan Tasini who claims that thousands of writers and other contributors have been wrongly denied any compensation for the value they created for the Huffington Post.
The Post was bought by AOL for $315 million and Tasini says the volunteers are entitled to a cut of that action.
If he wins, the case could could set an important standard about the rights of freelancers on the world wide wibble..
Tasini told Wired that without the bloggers there was no Huffington Post, and there would be no sale to AOL. Huffington has decided to rob all these bloggers of a fair share of the profit-making venture.
A Huffington Post spokesperson, Mario Ruiz, dismissed the complaint as “wholly without merit.” The logic is that its bloggers get their work seen and can promote their views and ideas to a wider audience. They can cross-post their work on other sites, including their own.
But the work was not just done by bloggers. The post runs a journalistic enterprise with hundreds of paid staff editors, writers and reporters, Ruiz said,
Tasini and his lawyers are having a go with two separate legal claims. The first is “unjust enrichment” under federal law, and the second is a claim for “deceptive business practices.”
The “unjust enrichment” argument is based on the fact that Huffington built her business and reaped tens of millions of dollars off the back of unpaid labour. At least in the UK, the NUJ would have a fit.