HuffPo Lawsuit Is ... Bunk

Says Jeff Bercovici . And Jack Shafer. And Glynnis MacNicol.
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2011 11:24 AM CDT
Huffington Post Lawsuit Is Bunk
Arianna Huffington is likely smiling after reading these takes on the suit.   (AP Photo/Carlo Allegri)

Jeff Bercovici calculated that if the $105 million class action suit against the Huffington Post ends in a burst of glory for the site's 9,000 unpaid bloggers, they'll each get a check for $11,666. But, writing for Forbes, he has a warning: "Don’t go spending your share of the award just yet." He thinks the case, helmed by Jonathan Tasini, is a long shot, and he's not alone. Some opinions:

  • The claim of "unjust enrichment" is at the center of the case, and that's a problem, continues Bercovici. He paints a picture of how this works: You're a mechanic whose client hasn't paid for the repairs you made to his truck...which he then uses to make deliveries that he earns money on. That money he earned is unjust enrichment, "but the core of the case is his failure to pay his bill, a breach of contract." And "if enough bloggers feel they got exactly what they bargained for when they volunteered to write for free, it could prevent Tasini’s bid to be recognized as a representative of the class."
  • The suit is downright "Winklevossian," writes Jack Shafer for Slate. The twins were a-OK with their settlement until they saw bigger dollar signs. Similarly, "Tasini helped himself to the HuffPo platform, no questions asked, until he saw a Brinks truck arrive with the AOL cash." Quips Shafer, "the proper time to negotiate payment for an article is before publication, not years or months after the fact, something Tasini's solidarity-with-labor shouting can't erase."
  • All those unpaid bloggers don't deserve a penny, writes Glynnis MacNicol for Business Insider. And she should know: She was one. And she was never made any "promises about future payments." Instead, "the understanding was Arianna provided the platform, I provided the content, and the hope was (on my part anyway) that at some point the combination of the two would land me a paying gig." To MacNicol, the whole thing seems a bit like "the guy who writes regular letter to the NYT editors suddenly deciding he wants a piece of the paywall profit."
(Read more Huffington Post stories.)

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