A boycott against the Huffington Post has turned into a class-action lawsuit claiming the website denied thousands of bloggers just compensation despite profiting from their content.
The lawsuit, filed in New York Tuesday by labor activist and former Huffington Post blogger Jonathan Tasini, seeks at least $105 million in damages from the Huffington Post and AOL for approximately 9,000 bloggers that Tasini says helped boost the website’s value to the $315 million AOL paid for it in February.
“TheHuffingtonPost.com has been unjustly enriched by engaging in and continuing to engage in the practice of generating enormous profits by luring carefully vetted contributors, with the prospect of ‘exposure’ (which TheHuffingtonPost.com deceptively fails to verify), to provide valuable content at no cost to the HuffingtonPost.com, while reaping the entirety of the financial gain derived from such content,” the lawsuit alleges.
Tasini won a similar case against The New York Times in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001, preventing newspapers from licensing the work of freelancers for distribution via electronic databases without explicit permission from, or compensation to, the writers.
But the Huffington Post says this time Tasini’s lawsuit is “without merit.”
“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. It’s the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows to promote their views and ideas,” Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz told FoxNews.com.
Ruiz said the Huffington Post Media Group agrees media professionals should receive fair compensation, and awards that to its nearly 1,300 full-time editorial staffers, but also makes a distinction between those staffers and its group of bloggers.
"There's no commitment; they can post as frequently or infrequently as they would like to. The Huffington Post makes no claim of ownership over their posts, and they can cross-post on other sites, including their own," he added.
Still, Tasini said Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington is a “hypocrite” who built a brand decrying the growing divide between the rich and poor that she’s now helping to create, and he’s suing her for the sake of “class warfare.”
“In this case, blogger-creators are slaves on Arianna’s plantation -- one that she built on the backs of thousands of creators,” Tasini told FoxNews.com in an email. “She marched away with her loot, and her Marie Antoinette response to polite requests that she share a portion of the value created by thousands of workers was, essentially, “screw you.”
The lawsuit follows calls from the Newspaper Guild and National Writers union for all unpaid writers to stop contributing to the Post.
Tasini wrote on his website Tuesday that he’s working with both groups “to meld all the tactics (boycotting the site, legal efforts, organizing writers) so we win.”
“Tomorrow, I will be publishing an open letter to a long list of (named) progressive leaders who blog for Huffington Post, asking them to respect the picket line. We will praise those who do so -- and ‘out’ those who are breaking the union.”