Earlier this week, we noticed that The Huffington Post's staff hadn't reported or commented on a class-action lawsuit against the website and its parent company, AOL. That changed late last night, when Arianna Huffington herself decided to weigh in on the case.
The Huffington Post never got back to us about why they didn't cover the story initially, but Huffington's post suggests at least one reason. She writes that blogger Jonathan Tasini's suit, which centers on The Huffington Post not paying freelance bloggers but benefiting financially from the content they produce, is "so utterly without merit, and has been so thoroughly eviscerated in the media ... I am hesitant to take any time away from aggregating adorable kitten videos to respond." But respond she does. Here are the three main reasons why she thinks the lawsuit is bunk:
- The Huffington Post is a forum for passion, networking, and self-promotion. Huffington claims "people blog on HuffPost for free for the same reason they go on cable TV shows every night for free: either because they are passionate about their ideas or because they have something to promote and want exposure to large and multiple audiences." She adds that contributors "own the rights to their work and can repurpose it in any way they choose."
- That kind of forum is at the heart of new media. What Tasini's lawsuit "completely ignores (or perhaps fails to understand)," Huffington writes, "is how new media, new technologies, and the linked economy have changed the game, enabling millions of people to shift their focus from passive observation to active participation--from couch potato to self-expression ... Free content--shared by people who want to connect, share their passions, and have their opinions heard--fuels much of what appears on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Flickr, and YouTube."
- Tasini's lawsuit is cynical. Huffington cites emails (not produced in the post) that Tasini sent her over the years, praising The Huffington Post's ability to drive readers to his website. "Without a shadow of a doubt (legal or otherwise)," Huffington concludes, "Tasini understood and appreciated the value of having a post on HuffPost ...It seems that AOL's purchase of HuffPost suddenly opened his eyes to the fact that we are a business. I guess he'd missed the ads that appeared on the same page as his blog posts the 216 times he decided, of his own free will, to post something on our site."