Lawyers for The Huffington Post have moved to dismiss Jonathan Tasini’s novel lawsuit claiming that the popular internet newspaper actually owes money to its unpaid bloggers. Tasini got exactly what he was looking for from his free blogging, HuffPo lawyers argue-exposure-and his lawsuit insisting on payment must be thrown out.
Tasini’s lawsuit, filed last month, is asking the court to make “a remarkable and unwarranted intrusion into the relationship between publishers and contributors,” write HuffPo lawyers in a just-filed motion to dismiss.
The motion argues that Tasini’s novel legal claim of unjust enrichment has to be thrown out, because Tasini and HuffPo had a written agreement-the site’s terms and conditions. Those terms give HuffPo the right to publish (and re-package, and re-publish) content from bloggers, without compensation. Tasini willingly wrote more than 200 blog posts for HuffPo, knowing full well that he was doing so in exchange for nothing more than exposure. Thus, Tasini’s claims “not only are entirely without legal merit, but are incurably so,” and must be thrown out, the motion states.
HuffPo lawyers note that Tasini’s complaint even emphasizes that HuffPo promised “exposure (visibility, promotion, and distribution) in lieu of monies”-and unpaid bloggers, including Tasini, did in fact receive exposure.
The motion continues:
“Nor does the Complaint suggest that there is anything atypical about The Huffington Post’s arrangement with unpaid bloggers, or, for that matter, any popular news or information outlet’s arrangement with unpaid contributors, such as when commentators enjoy the exposure generated by their unpaid appearances on cable news channels or public affairs programs. As the Complaint itself recognizes, people seek the opportunity to post content on popular websites for any number of reasons other than monetary compensation. Mr. Tasini even admits that until 2010 he made money from his own website, http://www.workinglife.org (misidentified in the Complaint as http://www.workinglife.com), while permitting members of the public to post content without payment.
The Huffington Post has a pretty decent chance of succeeding on this motion, although we’ll have to see how Tasini responds. Even if the judge in this case is of a mind to throw out Tasini’s complaint, he may well give him the chance to amend it first. In an earlier interview with me, Tasini alluded to the fact that other HuffPo bloggers are coming out of the woodwork to help him and may have more smoking-gun type evidence, like emails from HuffPo staffers. If Tasini has such evidence, he’d better show his cards, and fast.
» Read HuffPo’s motion to dismiss the case [PDF]