To the delight of Arianna Huffington, we imagine, a judge has dismissed that class action lawsuit filed last Spring by a group of unpaid bloggers suing the Huffington Post for pay, falling on the side of the Huffington Post. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl dismissed the suit, saying that the bloggers knew they wouldn't get money when they signed up from the gig, according to the New York Post. Though it is true that these bloggers volunteered for a non-paying position, these writers did a job for which others (like your correspondent) get paid. Media columnist and director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship Dan Gillmor called Huffington's abuse "exploitative."
The bloggers should have seen this coming, at least Columbia Journalism Review's Lauren Kirchner did.
The thousands of unpaid bloggers in question, of course, have signed no agreement with the site, and are under no obligation to submit their stories with any regularity. They do not receive assignments. If they have an idea for a post but then decide not to write it, they are not penalized by the site’s editors in any way. This lack of regimentation in that editor/writer relationship would weaken the bloggers’ (hypothetical) case against The Huffington Post.
As Reuters notes, the lead plaintiff in the case, Jonathan Tasini, had estimated that 9,000 unpaid bloggers were owed $105 million of the $315 million that AOL paid when it acquired The Huffington Post last year. "The principles of equity and good conscience do not justify giving the plaintiffs a piece of the purchase price when they never expected to be paid, repeatedly agreed to the same bargain, and went into the arrangement with eyes wide open," Judge Koeltl wrote in his decision.
Update 4:30 p.m.: The Huffington Post confirms just how delighted it is to continue this relationship with writers in the following statement via media writer Jim Romanesko.
This judgment removes any question about the merits of this case and we look forward to continuing the mutually beneficial relationship we share with our growing roster of interesting, dedicated and engaging bloggers.”
Excerpts from U.S. District Judge John Koeltl’s opinion: “No one forced the plaintiffs to give their work to The Huffington Post for publication and the plaintiffs candidly admit that they did not expect compensation.” “The principles of equity and good conscience do not justify giving the plaintiffs a piece of the purchase price when they never expected to be paid, repeatedly agreed to the same bargain, and went into the arrangement with eyes wide open.”
Huffington Post Media Group