back to article Writers sue Huffington Post for back pay

Now that it's got a genuine corporate behemoth as its owner, the Huffington Post is fielding a lawsuit from its unpaid army of bloggers. Blogger Jonathan Tasini has filed a class action on behalf of more than 9,000 bloggers, claiming US$105m for content which the HuffPo used for its financial benefit while not paying the …


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  1. DavCrav

    Lawsuit question.

    Question: Did you give the Post the content, without expecting to be paid for it in the first place?

    Answer: Yes.

    Case dismissed.

    1. Anton Ivanov


      If you think you are that good, blog the summary onto Huff, Forbes, whatever and put the main article on your own website with your own monetisation.

      Your adsense account will show exactly how good or bad you are after that.


    2. Tom 13

      Yes, but only if the case is heard by

      a conservative jurist.

  2. ratfox

    I'd be pissed off too, if I was one of the bloggers.

    But then again, nobody forced them to post there. And whoever wrote the T&Cs certainly thought of a way to protect the site from this.

    This is going to be VERY interesting.

    1. Daren Nestor


      I wouldn't - it's not like the Huffington Post stole their stuff. They gave it to the Post by *ahem* posting there with no expectation of financial reward. Now that it's been taken over they should try and negotiate terms with the new owners - if their content is valuable a deal can be done.

    2. wayneh


      But there are limits to what can be enforced via T&C's regardless of what's in them. If the T&C's breach any local, state, federal laws/statutes etc, then it will not be so cut and dried. In that case it's even remotely possible the T&C's could be null and void all together.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    whatever the merits of this case...

    ...I won't be sad to see HuffPo whacked down. I completely lost respect for (and any trust in) them during the Egypt protests. Right after Mubarak cut off net access and smacked down local TV, in what was widely termed a 'blackout', Huffington ran a breathless article titled, "US blacks out Al Jazeera". That sounded pretty serious - was the US government doing exactly the same thing as Mubarak?

    Well, if all you read was the headline and the first paragraph, that's what you'd think. But it turns out that they were referring to the small number of cable companies offering the channel outside major metro areas.

    So for HuffPo, "no demand for Al Jazeera on cable in Nowhere Gulch, Montana" is the same thing as "US government orders censorship of TV news channel".

    Their disingenouous tactic worked - most of the article comments wrote as if the gov't was indeed censoring - and I'm sure they ratcheted up reader loyalty a few notches. But I don't have any time for a "news" organization that makes Fox look like NPR.

    With friends like these...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Err... clarification

      I was writing that on my BlackBerry and a series of edits ended up screwing up the last bit. I meant to say that HuffPo's bias made Fox News look like The Economist - but the combination of that and a previous comparison rendered the analogy incorrect and confusing.

      I apologize to my vast readership.

  4. garbo

    Get over it...

    As a journalist for 30 yrs, in the beginning I wrote for free to get exposure. My stuff was good enough to attract new business, so I prospered. Many bloggers I read these days should not be paid, their crap is so puerile.

    Litigation is the last weapon of the talentless, lazy hack.

  5. Jean-Luc
    Thumb Down

    did I imagine things or...

    is Huffington Post supposed to be a lefty thingy? Not that I care to follow them*, or Fox.

    If so, "do as I say, not as I do".

    How much would it have cost them to send all those bloggers a $2K thank you check? 18mil, out of 345.

    * (from wiki)

    "Dana Ullman, a notorious homeopathy apologist, actually has a regular blog over at HuffPo."

    Pretty lamo, that.

    1. Peter Murphy

      The Huffington Post are Lefties?

      Yep. Huffington Post is meant to be "left" - or what passes for "left" in the US these days. In practice, they were aligned to the US Democratic Party, which isn't quite the same thing. I think they call themselves "progressives" - standing up for minorities and workers, that sort of thing. But really, the Dems play the same game as the Repubs - suck up to corporate lobbyists for campaign money, and maybe a sinecure after Congress and the Senate. But at least the Dems have a deficit in teatards.

      Jean-Luc: you are exactly right. Letting the Huff Post be bought out for 300 million without even a *thought* of recompensing their writers? That's eighth-circle sixth-borgia out of Dante's Inferno level of hypocrisy. "Lefties" - pah. "Digital sharecroppers" is closer to the truth.

      The whole outfit ain't worth one squirt of Joe Bageant's beer-and-peyote enhanced pee. Now he was the real thing - a genuine working-class socialist out of the foothills of Appalachia. Damned both parties for their corruption and sleaze.

      Rest in peace, Joe. You earned it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huffy, huffy

    Yes, this reminds me of a similar situation that I recently experienced. I was on my way out the door to work, when one of my neighbors stopped me and asked for help with a flat tire. I was really in a hurry, but decided to help anyway. Once finished my neighbor thanked me and we shook hands. I then continued on to my job.

    While sitting at my desk it occurred to me that had I not been available, my neighbor would have had the need to call in a professional. Professionals cost money... So my thought is that I should send my neighbor a bill for my assistance. After all, he would have paid anyway right... (sucks in smirking cheeks).

    Huffy, huffy, Huffington post. You gave it away. It is no longer yours. Get over it!

    1. Jean-Luc

      they can void the lawsuit, that would be fine

      ... and probably wiser in terms of legal precedent as well.

      I understand, and agree, with your point. But regardless of the merits of the case, $345M is a lot of money and would easily allow you to show some appreciation to the folks who got you there.

      Suppose your neighbor had somehow managed to make $20K in a manner _directly_ related to the way you helped him out. You might not wish to either sue him or bill him but would you really be surprised if he got you a $30 gift or something? Would you not be miffed if he didn't do anything to show his appreciation besides the original thank you?

  7. Busby

    Idiot freeloaders

    Can't say I'm a big reader of Huff but I hope they countersue over this frivolous lawsuit.

    The authors gave freely without expecting payment.

    It was mutually beneficial the site got content allowing them to build readers and ad revenue ultimately leading to a sale of the site for large sum of money.

    The writers got far bigger exposure than they could of on their own.

    I would imagine this then leads to increased readership on their own blog. Well that's the theory anyway probably didn't work for all of them depends on how interesting the writing.

    Just because the website got sold for a nice chunk does not entitle them to a piece of the pie. No case to answer as far as I can see (IANAL).

    Unless the Huffington Post has been scraping blogs with permission and passing the stories off as their own I don't see the reason to sue.

    1. Tom 13

      No chance of countersuit

      Time-Warner isn't stupid enough to waste lawyers on a project that has no chance at a financial return.

  8. Adam White

    I for one welcome...

    ...our new royalty-earning commentards

  9. Anonymous John

    I've never been paid for my El Reg comments.

    Anyone want to join my class action?

    1. Peter Murphy

      What's the monetary worth of an "I'll get my coat" post? Especially when ripped off Sid James?

      Articles and comments are not the same thing.

      Articles are for information, more or less. Comments can be informative, but are usually for cheap lulz.

      Anyway, if you are inciting a class action suit for unpaid comments, are you including _your own post inciting a class action suit_ in the suit as well? You know where it's going to end: the first infinite recursive lawsuit in history.Don't go there - that way lies madness.

  10. Blofeld's Cat

    Careful now

    A company I worked for used to write a regular piece for a trade magazine. This was put together in an hour or so by somebody in the sales office.

    The MD, without consulting anyone, decided that this person's time should be paid for, and sent an invoice with the next piece.

    The magazine responded by sending the company a proforma invoice for their "advertisement".

  11. MyHeadIsSpinning

    End of trial period, start of blog

    The authors of Huffington Post's articles might have given their work for free during a trial period, and there might have been a date given for the trial period to end and an option to extend that.

    If the judge decides that the trial was not extended by the author, and if Huffington Post acted in a way which would indicate that they knew they should be paying the authors but didnt', then the case could be decided in the favour of the authors.

    Anyway, why should any of these writers continue writing for the Huffington Post; especially if they feel that the Huffington Post has lost its way?

    Maybe they write stuff of such good quality that they could still get a lot of exposure for their work on their own blogs.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually, we conservatives enjoy watching

    progressives eat their own. Looks like Arriana's time has come. UNDER THE BUS YOU GO! After all, the ravenous beast must be fed.

  13. Ian Michael Gumby
    Paris Hilton

    The lawsuit will get settled out of court...

    MyHeadIsSpinning conjectures that there may have been a contract in place where the works were submitted for free under a trial period and then later at the end of the trial period the writers would be compensated if Huffington continued to use their works. Nice idea, but I doubt such a contract exists.

    While many will shoot from the hip, there's some merit to the lawsuit.

    Did the Authors submit works unsolicited or did Huffington Post solicit work from authors with the initial promise of exposure and the potential for later remuneration?

    I believe that this is the allegation. The lawsuit could be arguing that their works created value for Huffington while Huffington failed to honor their implied agreement for the 'later remuneration'.

    Lets be clear, the value of Huffington is in the content and not in the website itself. This is where there is merit to the lawsuit. One could argue that Huffington has the perfect business model. It finds 'volunteers' to generate content so that their only investment is in creating the site, getting it hosted and recovering their start up costs via ad sales, then sell out to a larger fish.

    However on the flip side, if the agreement was that Huffington would merely give exposure to the authors so that they could find gainful work elsewhere, then the lawsuit is sour grapes. Contractually if there was no promise (written or verbal) of future remuneration, then the case doesn't hold water.

    That would be the first thing to come out in discovery. Huffington and AOL don't want this to go to trial because it could be used to set an expensive precedent.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby


      Figures that some blog post would have a better wording of what I was trying to say:

      "To the extent that the contributors such as Tasini might not have any contractual rights to remuneration from their content, to the extent it has been provided on a free basis, the flip side of this position is that the Huffington Post does not automatically have any right to the content and does not have the right to commercially exploit the content.

      While the Huffington Post was aggregating contributed content to provide a diverse media platform then there was an implicit agreement between content provider and platform that there was mutual benefit but on being sold, the Huffington Post fixed a goodwill value to its site, reputation and content which will have drawn on the collective contributions to the site. So if one stripped the Huffington Post of its content and contributors would it still command and have commanded the value it did and has? - probably not.

      Mediabeak's assessment is therefore that while contributors such as Tasini do not have a claim to a share of the proceeeds of the sale of the Huffington Post they do have the right to request that their contributions be removed from the site (subject to any agreement they may have signed that provides otherwise) post sale to AOL - the argument being that they did consent to and implicitly license the content of their copy to the Huffington Post platform as was but did not consent to licensing and providing their work for free to AOL.



      The url is here:

      The point is that its not a slam dunk against the authors...

      1. Oninoshiko

        You're right even more then you know

        Reading this reminded me of a Yogi Berra line: "It's like deja-vu, all over again."

        It's kinda funny that it happens to be AOL caught up in this, as they had to pay out 15M USD to their "Community Leaders" a group of volunteers that served as moderators on AOL. two of them filed suit for unfair labor practices in 1999.

        So in addition to the "we licensed HuffPo to use it, not AOL" argument, there is also the matter of US federal labor laws. I think AOL will be settling this out of court.

        (Most of the information about that class action has disappeared off the internet, unfortunately I can't find an authoritative source for the 15M number.

      2. wayneh

        read the complaint

        You only have to read the complaint that was filed to see that it is much more complex than the simplistic view put forward here for 2 main reasons (though there are other aspects to the complaint also). These would seem to have the most grounds for relief;

        1. One claim is that the agreement contravenes Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.

        It does seem to on face value. There is precedent to support this claim. If this is the case then the terms of service could???? be completely null and void.

        2. It's claimed that the Huff P engaged in deceptive business practices under New York law in procuring services.

        I can see this one getting up. Part of the terms of service was Huff P would provide contributors with valuable exposure but;

        a. As huff increased the number of contributors, the exposure (thus the value of it) diminished without huff informing the contributors.

        b. Although the agreement was Huff P would provide exposure for contributors. The contributors actually drive traffic to the site because huff encouraged writers to promote their articles using their social media accounts and email lists. The contributors provided more exposure for Huff P than Huff P did for contributors, which was not the agreement. In promoting their articles in social media, contributors actually provided Huff P with SEO, increasing their traffic again. So rather than the contributors receiving exposure (promised by Huff P), Huff P was the recipient of exposure (traffic) from the contributors.

        c. Huff P told contributors they did not have stats available for individual pages, although they did. This was obviously a tactic so contributors could not assess their true worth to Huff P.

  14. Avatar_Jack


    So Huffington is essentially saying no go- be happy you got to sit on the bonnet when we went on our Christmas dinner. And for those of you not a full time employee of Huffington, please keep your hands off the after dinner cherries.

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