Jonathan Tasini, a social activist and commentator, is suing AOL and its newest purchase, the Huffington Post, over claims that he and other writers weren't paid appropriately for their work.
Tasini's suit, which is seeking class-action status and was filed on Tuesday in a New York U.S. District Court, argues that none of the $315 million AOL paid to buy the Huffington Post has gone to the writers and producers of the news and opinion website, while estimating that about $105 million should have.
Between December 2005 and February 2011, Tasini said in the suit that he contributed 216 "pieces of content" for the Huffington Post and was never paid for any of his work. Tasini also alleges in his complaint that as many as 9,000 other "content providers" have also worked for free for the Huffington Post.
"TheHuffingtonPost.com has been unjustly enriched by engaging in and continuing to engage in the practice of generating enormous profits by luring carefully-vetted contributors, with the prospect of 'exposure' (which TheHuffingtonPost.com deceptively fails to verify), to provide valuable content at no cost to TheHuffingtonPost.com, while reaping the entirety of the financial gain derived from such content," the complaint said.
The suit also alleges that, of the $315 million AOL paid for the Huffington Post, "the value
added by the content provided by Plaintiff and the Classes to TheHuffingtonPost.com's price
was at least $105 million, none of which was shared with Plaintiff and the Classes."
Mario Ruiz, a spokesman for the Huffington Post, said the suit was 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," Ruiz said. "It's the same reason hundreds of 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 staff editors, writers, and reporters, all of whom have commensurate responsibilities -- and all of whom are paid."