U.S. freelancers file $105 million class action lawsuit against Huffington Post over unpaid blogging
The freelance writer and union organizer who took on the New York Times -- and won -- in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case is now leading the charge against the Huffington Post. Jonathan Tasini, whose name is forever attached to the case Tasini et al vs New York Times*, is heading up a $105 million class action lawsuit against HuffPo, Ariana Huffington herself and AOL, which recently bought the company. A story by Jeff Bercovici was published on his Forbes.com blog.
The NYT case was very similar to the Robertson case in Canada, in which freelancers sued a whole range of media companies for damages for reselling their articles without negotiating secondary rights or compensation. The case being made against HuffPo is that it was built upon the work of unpaid bloggers and then sold to AOL for $315 million.
At the same time, The Newspaper Guild, representing 26,000 U.S. media workers, has asked unpaid bloggers to erect an "electronic picket line" by refusing to continue to supply free content.
"We feel it is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing. Working for free does not benefit workers and undermines qualify journalism."
Tasini, a former president of the National Writers Union, was apparently a six-year contributor to the Huffington Post until he stopped posting on February 10, three days after the AOL sale; his past blog posts can be found there. (Although for how much longer is anyone's guess.) According to Forbes, Tasini has vowed to make Huffington*Ironically, the Tasini case was something of a Pyrrhic victory; following the decision, the Times announced that it would expunge thousands of articles from its database unless writers gave explicit permission to leave them there -- without compensation -- and many did.
"Anyone blogging for the Huffington Post now is a scab," Tasini was quoted by Bercovici. "They're a strike breaker. They're producing content for somebody who is attacking workers.