As reported earlier this week, a group of writers who contributed free content to The Huffington Post are suing the publication and AOL (which recently acquired it) based on claims that they are owed money, as the Huffington Post has made a lot of it.
The Huffington Post had put out the following statement:
The lawsuit is wholly without merit. 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.
Now Arianna Huffington herself has written a post about the suit, saying, “I am hesitant to take any time away from aggregating adorable kitten videos to respond….But the suit touches on so many important issues about the current state of the media, the kittens will have to wait.”
“According to legal blogger and UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, ‘Tasini’s claim is a loser,'” she goes on to say. “Slate’s Jack Shafer, decrying ‘that we’re becoming a nation of Winklevosses who file legal motion after legal motion every time a pot of money is spotted,’ describes the lawsuit as ‘bunk’ and ‘full of beans’ and quotes Tasini’s own lawyer, conceding that there really is no there there: ‘The legal theory we’re going on is based in common law. This is not a statutory claim. … This is not a contract claim.'”
“That’s because no contract was broken,” she adds.
It’s worth noting that, as The Huffington Post has also pointed out numerous times, the contributed content is only part of the publication’s offerings. They run paid-for AP and Reuters content and have staff writers on hand.