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Blogger Suit Against Huffington Post Dismissed
A federal judge dismissed on Friday a class action lawsuit by former Huffington Post bloggers who said they were entitled to part of the $315 million sale price to AOL because the website had profited from their work.
Labor activist and writer Jonathan Tasini led the lawsuit, launched last year.
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Bloggers hoping to put themselves on a more robust financial footing and close the gap between them and fully paid journalists are vowing to fight on after a New York court dismissed their multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the Huffington Post calling for compensation for exploitation of its army of unpaid commentators.
The ruling, slipped out relatively unnoticed at the end of last week, dismisses the argument made by a group of bloggers that their unremunerated contributions had provided a substantial part of the value of the Huffington Post and that they should therefore be entitled to some of the spoils of the site's sale to AOL for $315m. The bloggers demanded a third of the sale price, $105m, in compensation.
John Koeltl, who presides over a US district court in New York, rejected the argument outright. He ruled that the bloggers had been fully aware that their work was to be unpaid when they signed up for it, and so any compensation would be to rewrite the terms of their engagement retrospectively.
The lawsuit was launched last April by a labour activist and writer, Jonathan Tasini, who posted more than 200 unpaid columns for the HuffPo before the AOL deal went through. He framed the suit as a class action on behalf of an estimated 9,000 bloggers for the website. Now living in Sydney, where he is writing a book and blogging at www.workinglife.org, Tasini told the Australian newspaper that he planned to keep up the fight for compensation. "We're using the lawsuit to spark a movement and an organising effort among bloggers to set a standard for the future because this idea that all individual creators should work for free is like a cancer spreading through every media property on the globe."
In his ruling, Koeltl writes: "No one forced the plaintiffs to give their work to the Huffington Post for publication and the plaintiffs candidly admit that they did not expect compensation.
"The plaintiffs entered into their transactions with the defendants with full knowledge of the facts and no expectation of compensation other than exposure. In such circumstances, equity and good conscience counsel against retroactively altering the parties' clear agreements."