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Writers sue Huffington Post for back pay

Arianna Huffington, the 'robber baron'

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Now that it's got a genuine corporate behemoth as its owner, the Huffington Post is fielding a lawsuit from its unpaid army of bloggers.

Blogger Jonathan Tasini has filed a class action on behalf of more than 9,000 bloggers, claiming US$105m for content which the HuffPo used for its financial benefit while not paying the authors.

Tasini said the US$315m purchase of the aggregator by AOL prompted the lawsuit. His complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, names Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer as defendants.

The complaint claims that the HuffPo lured contributors with the promise of exposure, but unjustly gained from them by keeping the income accrued for itself. (This is, of course, an old trick in the publishing game: any hopeful journalist will have been, at some time or other, offered the chance to "get exposure" if they would let publishers use their articles for free, usually on a "trial basis". This means "as soon as you ask us to pay you, we'll stop running your articles".)

In a missive to warm the hearts of those who thought that America's hard left had died with Joe Bageant, Tasini discusses the lawsuit on his blog. Ms Huffington, he writes, behaves like "every Robber Baron CEO", believing that "they and only they" should pocket the riches while "peons struggle to survive".

Tasini has form in suing media companies: in Tasini v the New York Times, he challenged the "unauthorized use" of freelance contributors' work, leading to a mass settlement for authors in 2005.

He has created a site to document the lawsuit, here.

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