According to social media news blog Mashable, a group of unpaid bloggers have filed a class-action suit against The Huffington Post and AOL (AOL) over their right to be paid for volunteer work. The group wants a piece of the $315 million AOL paid for the digital media company, run by its founder, Arianna Huffington.
The bloggers are being led by Jonathan Tasini, a union organizer who has been writing for The HuffPo since December 2005, and has previously led lawsuits for freelancers. Tasini was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against The New York Times (NYT), in which the Supreme Court ruled that “publications could not license back issues in electronic databases such as LexisNexis without the authorization of freelancers.”
Mashable points out that this is not the first time AOL has been sued for using the content of unpaid contributors. In 1999, a group of volunteer chatroom moderators at AOL (2,000 of them who argued that they were more like employees than volunteers) sued the company, Hallissey et al v. American Online, Inc., over an alleged violation in the Fair Labor Standards Act. AOL settled out of court for $15 million after delaying the case for a decade.
Shares of AOL dropped 3 cents, or 0.15%, to $19.83 in early Tuesday trading.
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