May 24, 2024

Media Decoder: Huffington Post Is Target of Suit

The Huffington Post is the target of a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed in United States District Court in New York on Tuesday on behalf of thousands of uncompensated bloggers.

Jonathan Tasini is leading a $105 million lawsuit against the Huffington Post on behalf of unpaid bloggers.Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times Jonathan Tasini is leading a $105 million lawsuit against the Huffington Post on behalf of unpaid bloggers.

The suit seeks at least $105 million in damages for more than 9,000 writers.

The case raises significant unsettled questions about the rights of writers in the digital age and, at the very least, promises to offer a palette of colorful characters on each side.

The legal battle is being led by Jonathan Tasini, a labor advocate who was the lead plaintiff in a pivotal freelancers’ rights ruling in 2001. On Tuesday, Mr. Tasini unleashed his outrage over The Huffington Post’s practices, likening the Web site’s founder, Arianna Huffington, to a slave owner.

“The Huffington bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” Mr. Tasini said in a conference call with reporters. He vowed to picket Ms. Huffington’s house and turn her into an outcast in the liberal circles where she made her blog so prominent.

“It’s very important to understand the hypocrisy here,” he continued. “We are going to make Arianna Huffington a pariah in the progressive community.”

He concluded the call by addressing Ms. Huffington directly. “Until you do justice here, your life is going to be a living hell.”

Ms. Huffington’s spokesman, Mario Ruiz, said the suit was without merit and disputed the claim that the bloggers deserve compensation. “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,” Mr. Ruiz said. “It’s the same reason people go on TV shows: to promote their views and ideas.”

The Huffington Post became a popular and potentially valuable target for people seeking compensation for unpaid blogging after AOL purchased the site for $315 million this year. That deal enriched Ms. Huffington and many of her business partners, much to the dismay of people who had worked for the site when it was just a start-up.

Mr. Tasini said Tuesday that the sale was what motivated a lot of bloggers to speak up and demand payment.

Mr. Tasini has long been active in politics and labor rights issues. He ran against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 2006 on an antiwar platform. He was the lead plaintiff in a case against The New York Times that led the Supreme Court to rule in 2001 that newspaper and magazine publishers had infringed the copyrights of freelance contributors by making their articles accessible without permission in electronic databases after publication.

Mr. Tasini is himself a Huffington Post blogger, though he has not written for the site since Feb. 10. Mr. Tasini said Tuesday that he would consider anyone now blogging for Ms. Huffington a “scab.”

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