Thursday, December 13, 2012

UPDATE: 2nd Circ. to HuffPo Freelancers: Joy of Writing Your Just (& Only) Reward

English: Logo of The Huffington Post
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit yesterday in Tasini, et al. v. AOL, Inc. et al (Case No. 12-cv-1428) upheld a trial court ruling in March that dismissed a putative class action brought by unpaid contributors to The Huffington Post seeking a share of the bounty received by the news aggregating site when it was purchased by AOL in 2011 (see "TUOL" post 2/7/11).

The appellate court affirmed the trial judge allowance of the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim [Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)] brought by defendants AOL, Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer and The Huffington Post against plaintiffs Jonathan Tasini, Molly Secours, Billy Altman, Richard Laermer and Tara Tublin. The plaintiffs, whose blog posts appeared in HuffPo, sought on behalf of themselves and other uncompensated HuffPo writers, a $105 million slice of the $315 million AOL purchase price.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge John Koetl in a March 30, 2012, decision rejected the plaintiffs claims that the defendants were unjustly enriched by publishing the plaintiffs' work gratis, and acted deceptively, allegedly in violation of N.Y. General Business Law section 349 (see "TUOL" post 4/2/12), holding that the writers were not entitled to payment after the fact and could simply write elsewhere if they didn't like HuffPo.

According to accounts by Reuters and the THR, Esq. blog, the Second Circuit opinion noted that the plaintiffs knew from the get-go that HuffPo was a for-profit enterprise that could someday be attractive to a buyer as it gained traction among news sites and generated a significant advertising revenue stream. More to the point, the court opinion stated: "[A]t all times prior to the merger when they submitted their work to The Huffington Post, plaintiffs understood that they would receive compensation only in the form of exposure and promotion."

The unpaid bloggers are going to have to be content with the sheer joy of  just being published and perhaps, as insiders, the chance to see "side-boob" photos of celebrities before they are posted on the HuffPo site.
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