A group of Huffington Post bloggers led by Jonathan Tasini filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against AOL, Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post over their unpaid status.
The suit, filed in the Southern District Court of New York, accuses Huffington, AOL, HuffPo and HuffPo chairman Kenneth Lerer of "unjust enrichment and deceptive business practices." (Click here for a full copy of the lawsuit.)
Tasini and the group are seeking $105 million — or a third of what AOL paid to acquire the Huffington Post in February.
"The lawsuit is wholly without merit," HuffPo spokesman Mario Ruiz wrote in an e-mail. "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 people go on TV shows: to promote their views and ideas. HuffPost bloggers can cross-post their work on other sites, including their own. Aside from our group blog, to which thousands of people from around the world contribute, we operate a journalistic enterprise with hundreds of paid staff editors, writers, and reporters."
Last month, Huffington scoffed at a different group of unpaid bloggers who threatened to go on strike if she did not share part of the $315 million with them.
“The idea of going on strike when no one really notices,” Huffington said. “Go ahead, go on strike.”
The Newspaper Guild then sent a memo to its 26,000-plus members urging support for the strike and calling on other unpaid contributors to stop blogging for free.
If Tasini's name sounds familiar, it's because he was the lead plaintiff in 2001's New York Times Co. vs. Tasini, a landmark Supreme Court case involving the rights newspaper freelancers in the then-burgeoning world of online archives. The judges eventually ruled in favor of Tasini.
News of the pending suit was first reported by Forbes. As Forbes notes, Tasini, who has been contributing to the Huffington Post since 2005, stopped blogging for them on Feb. 10, three days after AOL's purchase of HuffPo.