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NY District Judge Dismisses Blogger Suit Against Huffington Post 94

Posted by timothy
from the you'll-write-this-and-like-it dept.
The Chicago Tribute reports on a ruling announced Friday that the Huffington Post violated no law in profiting enormously from the unpaid contributions of bloggers who wrote much of the content that has spurred the site's success. Says the article: "John E. Koeltel, a district court judge in New York, dismissed a class action sought brought against the Huffington Post by unpaid bloggers seeking $105 million from AOL and Arianna Huffington's media empire. The bloggers argued that though they initially agreed to do the work for free, the Huffington Post was 'unjustly enriched as a result of this practice,' violating New York state law. Koeltel disagreed. 'There is no question that the plaintiffs submitted their materials to The Huffington Post with no expectation of monetary compensation and that they got what they paid for -- exposure in The Huffington Post,' Koeltel wrote."
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NY District Judge Dismisses Blogger Suit Against Huffington Post

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  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Haxagon (2454432) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:20PM (#39537325)
    They agreed to write for free, there's no unjust enrichment if you stated that there's no expectation of compensation at any turn. I hope some other cases go by this precedent, I don't want people taking me to court for cash from my small business.
    • by physburn (1095481)
      Much as i dislike the Huffingtonpost, if this judgement had gone they other way, every web site serving goods of blogger, for example science 2.0, where I blog, could have been sued for getting rich from my work. So its a good judgement that allow magazines that are groups of bloggers to survive.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The "FIRST POST!" guy would've been next in line at the court docket.

  • Arianna (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:33PM (#39537401)

    Am I the only one who thinks that Arianna Huffington is a self-serving money grubbing bitch who switched from being a hard core conservative to being "liberal" just because she saw a better market opportunity there?

    Incidentally, the ruling is spot on. There was no expectation of getting paid until after the sale of the site to AOL for big $$$ when they suddenly had an open-source coder like epiphany: Hey, others are making millions from my work and I'm getting nothing!!! Sorry dumbass, don't work for free next time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by johnny cashed (590023)
      Not a bitch, whore. Let's not disparage female dogs here.
      • Why insult working women either?

        • If your idea of "working" is "lay there and look purty while I do all the sweating".

        • Is your name Sarah, and do you want to meet up sometime? I like your style.
    • by vadim_t (324782)

      Isn't that how capitalism is supposed to work? I thought conservatives were all for the free market.

      Though personally I still think that news are supposed to be neutral, and that the whole idea that a news outfit can have a political slant is a perversion, regardless of the direction.

      • Re:Arianna (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:12PM (#39537613) Journal

        Isn't that how capitalism is supposed to work? I thought conservatives were all for the free market.

        Though personally I still think that news are supposed to be neutral, and that the whole idea that a news outfit can have a political slant is a perversion, regardless of the direction.

        Conservatives have nothing to do with this. This is a bunch of liberal writers mad because the liberal woman who they agreed to write for pro bono made a whole lot of money off their work.

        You are correct about this being how the free market works. The funny part is that there are a bunch of "progressives" acting like conservatives who don't see the irony of their actions.

        • by vadim_t (324782)

          I'm replying to the poster, not to the article.

          My point is that if you take the "free market" idea to its ultimate expression, then it's just about money. If the market demands a liberal viewpoint, then as a good businesswoman it makes perfect sense for Arianna to ignore whatever personal political views she has and supply what's being demanded. It even makes sense to switch the viewpoint back and forth repeatedly depending on what pays more at each point in time.

          So why is it that the grandparent is complai

          • by DMFNR (1986182)
            You also have to deliver a quality product to get people to spend their money, or at least perceived quality. If you switch your position to often people will eventually catch on and you won't be making much money from anybody because they will realized you are a fraud.
            • by windcask (1795642)

              You also have to deliver a quality product to get people to spend their money, or at least perceived quality. If you switch your position to often people will eventually catch on and you won't be making much money from anybody because they will realized you are a fraud.

              This hasn't stopped Mitt Romney, has it?

        • by tragedy (27079)

          I find the political labels people use very funny. By US standards, these probably are "liberal", but most US "liberals" seem to be quite the opposite from my point of view. It depends on the particular subject, of course. In any case, if you take a look at the wikipedia page for Jonathan Tasini, it mentions that he was the president of the national writers union. Unions are a strange beast from the point of view of political alignment. In theory, unions are left-wing organizations, springing forth from soc

        • Your post is incorrect. 1. some conservatives do post on Huffington Post (generally more old school conservatives). 2. Trying to get a share of the earnings at the corporate level distributed to the people who actually did the work? That sounds pretty left of modern day liberal to me. 3. The free market has no set way of working. Some companies exploit people. Others don't. Some toe the line in interesting ways. The market can and has supported all possibilities.
      • Re:Arianna (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @11:43PM (#39538749)

        Though personally I still think that news are supposed to be neutral, and that the whole idea that a news outfit can have a political slant is a perversion, regardless of the direction

        Historically speaking, you're completely wrong. Bias has been the norm since the invention of the printing press (and with it, newspapers). The idea that newspapers/stations/sites should be neutral is an aberration that was born, and died, in the 20th Century as a result of the sudden scarcity of preferred news media outlets (specifically television/radio licenses in the early decades following the invention of those technologies). Now that scarcity is once again no longer an issue (as it wasn't when print rags were the only option--and note that neutrality was never common in print rags except for the handful of 'national standard' papers), neutrality is no longer valued.

      • Isn't that how capitalism is supposed to work? I thought conservatives were all for the free market. Though personally I still think that news are supposed to be neutral, and that the whole idea that a news outfit can have a political slant is a perversion, regardless of the direction.

        Isn't WHAT how capitalism is supposed to work? Yes, conservatives are for the free market, but I am not sure what conservatives have to do with this dispute between liberals.
        I am not sure what makes you think that the news is "supposed to be neutral". There has never been a time when there was a news source that did not have a political slant. Reporters have a political opinion. That opinion is going to effect how they report the news. I would much rather know upfront what that opinion is, rather than hav

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you're giving something away for free, think to yourself, will I feel bad if that person makes millions from it?

      If the answer is anything other than "Well, would have been nice to do that, but I didn't think of how to make millions from it, so glad someone it availing themselves of the opportunity" then you shouldn't give it away for free.

    • by tsotha (720379)
      Huffington was never a conservative, just like she's not a leftist now. She's just a moth attracted to the flame of political power.
    • An alert person would have seen Huffington's switch well before it happened. When she was advocating conservatism (supporting her Republican Congressman husband's campaign), her arguments were of the "it's for the children" variety so characteristic of liberals. It sounded false, and for me it was no surprise when she flipped. As far as I can tell, she's always been a mentally shallow leftist.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        "It's for the children," as odious an excuse as it is, is hardly monopolized by either side of the political spectrum. Are you so in need of rationalization that you would stoop to lies in order to demonize those with whom you disagree? The truth is, nobody who says it EVER believes it. It's just an excuse, an end-around designed to bypass their constituent's logic. All politicians want to do that from time to time.

        And because you might actually believe this silliness that you are spouting, here are som

    • When you get right down to it there really is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to implementing foreign policy. Too many people focus on the rhetorical BS from all the political talking heads instead of the actual things being done.. When it comes to the deployments in the ME Obama's actions are not that different from Bush's.
      The exit from Iraq was because the Iraqi government wanted the US to leave and the US obliged them. It only took about 1 day after the US left for th

      • Every country in the world that has US military basses only needs to ask the US to leave and they will if they are not in the middle of an actual war.

        Cuba have asked the US to leave on several occasions, but the US refuse to comply.

        • "The United States assumed territorial control over the southern portion of GuantÃnamo Bay under the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty, which granted it a perpetual lease of the area."

          This is a unique case and if Cuba wants the US to leave they will need to come up with someway to abrogate the treaty signed in 1903 or they could try and use force which would give the US all the excuse it needs to take the rest of the Island. The fact is that the military base employees a sizable number of Cuban citizens and b

    • I agree that the bloggers had no legal case, but if Arianna had an ounce of class, she'd have cut every blogger a nice check, if not thrown them a giant party as well. She'd still have vastly increased her already immense wealth, and would have been hailed as a hero instead of reviled as a multimillionaire tightwad and hypocrite.

      Compare her with Keanu Reeves, who gave $72 million of his Matrix film earnings to the stunt and special effects crews [thebuzzmedia.com]. That's real class.

    • by cjsm (804001)
      Maybe its just me, but I rarely read the bloggers on Huffington Post anyway. I scan the news stories for my daily supply of pap and tittie stories and move on. It does have occasional serious stories that interest me also, but their bloggers bore me.
    • by idlehanz (1262698)
      I find it ironic that people would work for free for an organization that promotes socialism and then be surprised that they weren't paid. Of course I've read the content provided by the free bloggers a couple times and found it wasn't worth what they were paid so I guess I shouldn't be surprised they weren't smart enough to read or understand the fine print.
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:36PM (#39537425) Homepage

    There's a very simple lesson here: If you think your work is worth something, don't give it away for free. Donating your time and the fruits of your labor to an open-source project or to a non-profit as charity work is one thing. But the harm that comes to a person from giving their work to a for-profit corporation is a self-inflicted injury. Furthermore, it doesn't just harm the people doing it, it also harms the professionals who are unable to do the same kind of work for a living, by undercutting them.

    • by Bieeanda (961632) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:50PM (#39537499)
      Sing this to the heavens. Inscribe it on the side of every mountain. Drill it into the mind of every student and budding artist, journalist or otherwise creative person out there.

      Once upon a time, 'Did X for Y' for free may have looked good on your resume. Now, it's barely more than a comma. Now, it's a comma that you paid for in sweat equity, because you were good enough to ask a favour of, but not good enough to pay.

      If you really want to put your stuff out there, and think you've got the chops to get attention (and good, because that's the attitude you need), do it yourself. Start a blog, or a specialist news site. Roll your own webcomic, there's plenty of frameworks out there. Throw your band's tracks up on its very own website. Just don't give it away for free to outfits that can afford to pay you for the privilege. They'll be all too happy to put their stamp on it and leave you with shit-all attribution.

      • Agree! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:06PM (#39537585)

        Once upon a time, 'Did X for Y' for free may have looked good on your resume. Now, it's barely more than a comma. Now, it's a comma that you paid for in sweat equity, because you were good enough to ask a favour of, but not good enough to pay.

        This!

        And with companies abusing their unpaid "internships" and yet corporate profits are at record levels [seekingalpha.com]. And if they do fall, you just know that they're going to can people, send more work overseas using the lie that they can't get enough qualified people in their home country or blame it on some lame excuse like "government regulations".

        Internships is just abuse of people's desperation to get their foot in the door and to actually get a job. And then there are the rationalizations by hiring managers that just cons folks into giving their labor away.

        And about the "not good enough to pay" part

        And volunteer work? Doesn't do a damn thing because everyone is doing it to stay busy and we've all bought into the lie that it looks good on a resume because "we're doing something while we're not working". Nope. It just means you can't get a paying job because you're defective in some way. Of course, no hiring manager will ever give you feedback.

        I swear to god, if I ever get a chance to become a take-over "private equity" guy like Romney was, I won't can all the peons; I'll take out the managers first with the reason that they're not qualified, their skills are out of date, and they show a serious lack of planning.

        I will then instruct them to get "re-training" in some marketable field.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by oGMo (379)

      There's a very simple lesson here: If you think your work is worth something, don't give it away for free.

      Yeah wouldn't want to give anything of value away for free. Just think what would have happened if Linus had given away Linux all those years ago. Wait...

      Better lesson: If you do something without charge, don't be a cheap bastard and turn around later demanding compensation.

      If nothing else, especially in a case where something becomes hugely popular/profitable/etc, you can use the popularity in a self

    • by Mistlefoot (636417) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:01PM (#39537553)
      They didn't give it away for free. They were paid with exposure.

      Toyota (or any advertiser) pays dearly for that same exposure.

      Today the Final Four games are on TV. Each of these athletes works for free and for exposure and hopes that they benefit directly from that exposure. It might be the knowledge the scholarship provided them, or it might be an NBA draft day paycheck followed by a healthy career. Ask Michael Phelps how much he was paid to attend swim meets before he found a way to monetize his career.

      Nobody owes these people anything and this lawsuit was folly.
      • by tsotha (720379)
        This. Exposure on a popular website is potentially worth more to a writer than anything they could reasonably expect to be paid. That was the deal going in, and they don't have a legal leg to stand on just because it didn't work out.
    • If you are doing professional work that is being undercut by people doing it for free, you are in the wrong business. The story of entitlement.
    • They've finally realized what has been missing in their lives.
      Structure.
      And at Huffington Post they're getting things done.
      They are TCB.
      You know taking care of business.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:18PM (#39537649) Homepage Journal

    Since the general slant of HuffPo is a self righteous rich white liberal rage against the Cul de Sac smash the capitalist machine but give me a free iPad give me a bailout because I can't afford the school loan for my $250,000 MFA in post modern lesbian Marxist fiction I just love it that they're mad they're not getting paid MONEY for their ravings.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...the school loan for my $250,000 MFA in post modern lesbian Marxist fiction...

      Not sure where you're coming from there, sport. I'm fairly certain that an MFA in post-modern lesbian Marxist fiction tops out at $200,000.

  • by bdabautcb (1040566) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `relggawsuoicadob'> on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:53PM (#39537839)
    I run a small business in which I provide legal services for small law firms, including process service, depositions (in my state, as a notary I am an officer of the court and may swear people in and record depositions with a/v equipment), and transcriptions. My business works because in many cases, I can offer said services cheaper than national companies. Sometimes, I will discount or even provide for free service for a new client. I do, however, invoice them for the service and write it down as paid. I discuss their finances before hand, let them know that they will recieve a non-collectable paid out invoice, and I do not account for it in my business income/taxes/whatever. I have garnered several new clients by showing them what I do, and after that they happily pay for my services. I guess the point is, if you are going to do something for free and expect to be paid for it later on, do it on your own terms. No sympathy for folks who sign a contract to do free work and then sue later for damages. Although, that helps me in the long run because it gives lawers more bullshit to take to court, and I get paid when they do that. Keep suing everybody, America.
  • Baseball Parallel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geoffrobinson (109879) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @10:17PM (#39538473) Homepage

    There's a guy who did sabermetrics in baseball who came up with a completely revolutionary way of evaluating pitchers and spread his knowledge for free: http://www.thepostgame.com/features/201101/sabermetrician-exile [thepostgame.com]

    It's affected millions of dollars worth of salaries. He now refuses to do any work for free.

  • How is it different from Slashdot, Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc?

    • How is it different from Slashdot, Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc?

      On Slashdot, I own the comments I write. It says so right on the bottom of every page.

    • How is it different from Slashdot, Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc?

      Not much. But I would not pay for the stuff I post, so I have no expectation of other paying for it either. Neither would I pay to read /.
      The fact that some people may make a profit out of it does not bother me. I get to have some fun and occasionally read some interesting stuff.
      If whoever owns /. were to sell it for a gazillion of dollars and I was annoyed by that, I would simply stop posting/moderating. That would teach them a lesson! ...or maybe not.

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