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Unpaid Writers Suing The Huffington Post

April 12, 2011

Huffington Post Sued by Bloggers, Ariana Huffington, AOL, writers file suit against AOL and The Huffington PostI was all set to talk about silly songs that are stuck in my head lately but then this story jumped out at me.

Apparently a blogger and a union activist are suing AOL and The Huffington Post for $100 million because they didn’t pay their freelance writers.

I’ve talked about this on several occasions and firmly believe that these writers who give away their talent, time and skill have hurt all of us who write for a living, however the Huffington Post never held a gun to these freelance writers heads. They, the Huffington Post, allowed these dumbass writers a platform that would get all kinds of exposure on the internet which would surely follow the writer back to their blogs thus increasing their traffic.

“Our bloggers utilize our platform to connect and ensure that their ideas and views are seen by as many people as possible,” spokesman Mario Ruiz said. “It’s the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows to broadcast their views to as wide an audience as possible.”

It never works out that way. The traffic never follows them back.

I’m sure this will be dismissed, as it should be. I’m no fan of The Huffington Post but they didn’t do anything wrong. If a writer chooses to give away their talent then so be it, there is no law against it. The Huffington Post didn’t steal the content, it was written for them freely. I do think it is a little ironic that a very left leaning internet website would act in such a capitalistic manner.

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  • It’s *always* all about the Benjamins when it comes down to it.

    • It should be about doing the right thing and not the money. I see both sides of this and find more fault with the writers than the Huff Post, but ultimately it has been a bungled PR move.

      • Mikewj

        I strongly suspect there’s a lot more to this story than we’re getting from the lawyers right now. Lawyers almost never take cases unless they believe they have legal standing to sue. There’s no money to be made taking cases that have no chance of winning. Even the infamous scalding-hot McDonald’s coffee-cup case actually had a fairly strong legal basis, despite negative public perception. So while it may appear that the writers offered to give away their writing for free, it’s also possible promises were made by HP but not delivered. We’ll see as it winds its way through the courts.

        • I think lawyers are happy to take any case they think will get them publicity and this one is getting a lot of it because of the millions of dollars involved in the AOL buyout. There might be more info but if the writers knew they weren’t getting paid what else is there to consider?

  • I don’t think they’re LEGALLY owed anything, but they might be morally owed. It is a bit hypocritical of Arianna to take all that cash and not share the wealth a little as a thank you. She wouldn’t have even felt it, and the positive PR it would have received? -couldn’t put a price on that. Missed opportunity for her.

    • Her position has been basically if they don’t want to do it for free they can go somewhere else, there are thousands of writers who would love to give away their writing for free (and she is right, there are, sadly). Basically she told them all to eat cake.

  • They should have thought about what their content was worth before they handed it over freely. They are not stupid people. They must have known money was being made from it. This is what happens when you sell yourself short. Still we seem to be living in a time when ‘If it moves, sue it’ is the order of the day.

    • You’re right about the suing mentality these days. Even if they don’t win they will get a lot of publicity, as will the HuffPo so maybe everyone wins?

  • You are 100% right, Jen. Those writers gave away their content to The Huffington Post – for free. They CHOSE to do that. Not a smart move!

    • I find it interesting that such a left leaning website wouldn’t pay their writers, it seems so right wing to me.

  • Tiffany

    Totally agree. Well, not with the part about writing for free–as you know, I’m a huge proponent of the strategic use of free writing, since I’ve built a career on it. But with the analysis of the legal issue, no question. The writers made the deal they made. Unless something was misrepresented, there’s no case.

    • I agree with you about writing for free when it is a strategic move on the part of the writer but there are many out there who don’t understand the ins and outs of writing and just want their name in print and are delighted to be chosen to write for some of these outlets. These sites make a lot of money and more importantly dominate search results because they have so much content. You couldn’t just start a competing site without all those bloggers churning out constant content, Google and other search engines wouldn’t find you.

  • Well the Huff Post is a sell out and can see the hand of AOL behind all of this. Speaking of freelancing, wanna write a gust post, huh?? huh?? 😉

    • For you I would do anything, what do you have in mind?

      • Gawd, anything from your creative and slightly bent mind. We love everything that you come up with.

        Oh boy we just got totally excited, shhhhh don’t tell anyone 🙂 Yippee!!!!