It was big news across the blogosphere when Arriana Huffington pocketed some serious coin by selling the Huffington Post to AOL to the tune of $315M. Perhaps less well known, though, was the fact that a huge number of the unpaid bloggers who contributed to the site felt they had something coming from the deal and went to court to grab a piece of the action. Led by Jonathan Tasini – apparently representing some sort of class action suit on behalf of roughly 9,000 other contributors – the action asked for roughly one third of the sale price as compensation for their contributions. So how did that work out? Not too well.
AOL Inc on Friday won the dismissal of a lawsuit by unpaid bloggers who complained they were deprived of their fair share of the roughly $315 million that the company paid last March to buy The Huffington Post website.
U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected claims by social activist and commentator Jonathan Tasini and an estimated 9,000 other bloggers that they deserved $105 million, or about one-third, of the purchase price.
The lawsuit contended that the work of unpaid content providers like bloggers gave The Huffington Post much of its value, and that the website’s sale allowed co-founder Arianna Huffington to profit at their expense. Tasini said he alone had made 216 submissions to the website over more than five years.
But Koeltl said “no one forced” the bloggers to repeatedly provide their work with no expectation of being paid, and said they got what they bargained for when their works were published.
Honestly, I’m not sure how this even made it as far as a court room. The premise just sounded ridiculous on its face. If you’re doing work for somebody with the expectation of being paid, you generally need some sort of contract. (Or at least a verbal agreement that you’ve got something coming later on for your efforts, no matter how vague the details might be.)
The decision makes it clear that unpaid contributors had no expectation of remuneration monetarily, went into the deal with “eyes wide open” and that their reward came “by publication, not by payment.” Still, that didn’t stop some people from characterizing it as a deal with the devil.
A form of payment that the devil would approve of.
(Although, I must confess, I don’t see a lot of people lining up for the “glory” of cleaning out the storm sewer intakes in the downpours, or putting the electrical lines back up.)
A completely nonsensical comparison if I’ve ever read one. First of all, there actually are people who sometimes go out and volunteer their time to clean up the community. We suffered a century level flood around here last year and there were a lot of folks out there cleaning up in the aftermath with no expectation of payment. They just did it to help. And as to the power lines, that is no job for amateurs.
But even with that said, publication is a very different animal. It’s a tough world to break in to, and sometimes you have to go and write some things for free just to get your name out there and – hopefully – be recognized for your efforts. Just ask the stable of excellent writers here at Hot Air who post regularly in the Green Room. There may not be any cash changing hands, but let’s face it… it’s not a bad way to gain a larger audience, not to mentioning a chance to highlight your other work you may do on your own site.
Yes, most people who write would like to ink a deal and retire to the life of luxury enjoyed by professional writers. (Which should be happening for yours truly any… year… now… *snort*) But if you expect to be paid, you need to make that clear up front. The suit brought by Tasini just came off looking like a childish grab for cash when somebody else suddenly came into a windfall.