Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Slaves on Arianna Huffington's Plantation"

Forbes has the scoop on a $105 million dollar lawsuit filed against AOL and Huffington Post. The gist of the lawsuit (copy of complaint here) is that people blog for HuffPo but don't get compensated.... and that's unfair. As Jonathan Tasini, the labor activist heading this thing up, describes it:
[T]he Huffington Post’s bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation . . . She wants to pocket the tens of millions of dollars she reaped from the hard work of those bloggers . . . . This all could have been avoided had Arianna Huffington not acted like the Wal-Marts, the Waltons, Lloyd Blankfein, which is basically to say, 'Go screw yourselves, this is my money.'
The suit alleges "deceptive business practice" under New York statute, and unjust enrichment.

A quick search for unjust enrichment in New York defines a prima facie case as: "the defendant benefited at the plaintiff's expense and . . . equity and good conscience require restitution." That's not particularly helpful is it? There's no doubt that the bloggers enrich HuffPo, but I'm having trouble seeing how it's "unjust." The Complaint alleges that the site marketed itself as "a forum for news and ideas" but then *shocker* it actually intended to make money! The Complaint also claims that HuffPo hides page view, traffic, and exposure data from the bloggers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was once cited and linked to on HuffPo... so I should be getting at least a few million from this lawsuit, right? Right!?

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.