A former Huffington Post blogger has filed a $105-million class-action lawsuit against AOL and the Huffington Post media Web site on behalf of fellow unpaid bloggers whom he characterized as "modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington's plantation."
Jonathon Tasini filed the suit Tuesday on behalf of more than 9,000 bloggers in a New York federal court. Tasini blogged for the Huffington Post from late 2005 to Feb. 10 of this year, just a few days after AOL announced it was acquiring the Web site for $315 million.
Effectively, Tasini's claim is that he provided Huffington Post with articles for free, with no promise of royalties or payment as far as I know.
Tasini was part of a successful lawsuit against the New York Times, which was, and still is, a profitable operation and should have been paying from day one.
While I understand and appreciate Tasini's sentiment and the correctness of his point that the unpaid bloggers at Huffington did significantly contribute to the success of the site such that Huffington was able to sell the site to AOL for some $315 million, Tasini's suit gets bogged down in a detail: no written contract promised him or anyone else royalties should the site become successful.
The interest I have in this is not that I blogged at HuffPo. I was never invited, even tho I'm smarter and funnier than many of the writers there. No, it's that I get approached fairly regularly by large commercial, for-profit sites to submit articles to them.
I just turned down one very attractive offer this week, in fact. I was asked by a certain Internet service to join their staff, in exchange for a share of whatever ad revenues my blog would earn. This is a site that has thousands of bloggers writing for them, each with their own advertising account, each a ready-made source of revenue for both.
In exchange, my audience would have been bigger there than here.
Here's the thing, tho: when I logged in, I was confronted with a confounding interface, the need to do all my own coding in addition to my own writing, I had to promise "first run" articles (meaning I couldn't simply copy my stuff from here and drop it there), and create my own links to advertising!
All this, and do my own editing and provide images to go along with every piece I wrote, which had to be hosted on their servers. I couldn't even post a link to a photo (meaning my own photos would be making someone else money, despite the fact that I was using them over my own words).
In short, I'd be a little fish in a big sea, only slightly less big than the one I post here in. My chances of making any money there were only slightly higher than making any more here, plus I'd have to give them a cut off the top.
Tasini, likewise, probably had no reason to expect HuffPo to pay him anything, and in exchange he got the chance of exposure to thousands of people hourly. Now, it may be that HuffPo has to pony up some money, but I really doubt this lawsuit stands a chance in hell of succeeding.