Judge Smacks Down Lawsuit From HuffPo Volunteers, Says 'They Got What They Paid For'

from the and-stay-away dept

When Jonathan Tasini and a few others filed a lawsuit against the Huffington Post last year, we called it the dumbest lawsuit ever. Even though Tasini has had some luck in filing class action lawsuits against media properties, this lawsuit was completely and absolutely frivolous. Tasini (and many others) had blogged on The Huffington Post for free. That was the deal from the beginning and it was clearly laid out: Huffington Post provided them with a platform which they could use, and they could promote themselves however they wanted, but they didn't get paid. Huffington Post does have some paid reporters, but they have different rules and responsibilities (including requirements on how much they write, etc.) When the Huffington Post sold for $315 million, Tasini decided that he and the other volunteer writers deserved $105 million.

There were all sorts of problems with his argument, beyond just the fact that he agreed to basic terms and was trying to go back and change them afterwards. It also showed a complete misunderstanding of the nature of equity in a company. If Huffington Post had flopped and was in debt, would Tasini then be legally required to help cover the debt? Of course not. Ownership (equity) is a totally separate issue from compensation -- and the capital gains on equity have everything to do with the risk that the founders and investors put into HuffPo, completely unrelated to the question of direct compensation. But, of course, none of that matters because, again, Tasini agreed to the deal upfront in which he blogged for free. If he didn't understand the terms of the deal, that was his problem. The arguments in his filing were even more ridiculous, where (despite this not being a copyright issue) he pretended that the Copyright Clause of the Constitution meant that content creators must be "appropriately compensated." The whole thing was a complete joke.

It was made even more ridiculous when it later came out that Tasini himself had a blog... on which he had volunteer writers who he did not pay. Not only was the lawsuit stupid, but it was filed by a hypocrite who didn't understand the law and did the same thing he was angry at HuffPo for doing.

Thankfully, it appears the judge agreed. Not only did the court dismiss the lawsuit, but it did so with prejudice, meaning that Tasini can't just refile the lawsuit to make up for its failings. The judge is effectively saying that it doesn't matter what legal arguments Tasini makes, he has absolutely no case.
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....

Moreover, equity and good conscience plainly do not support the plaintiffs in this matter. 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.... Quite simply, the plaintiffs offered a service and the defendants offered exposure in return, and the transaction occurred exactly as advertised. The defendants followed through on their end of the agreed-upon bargain. That the defendants ultimately profited more than the plaintiffs might have expected does not give the plaintiffs a right to change retroactively their clear, up-front agreement. That is an effort to change the rules of the game after the game has been played, and equity and good conscience require no such result.
Tasini is apparently considering appealing, which would be a waste of time and money. Any court is going to smack this lawsuit down.

In the meantime, Tasini has now branded himself as someone who has twice filed major lawsuits against publications that published his writings. It makes you wonder: what publication would want to put itself at such risk in the future?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Minimum Wage shill, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 9:54am

    No worries, Tasini will eventually win this. As us Techdirt trolls have argued before, he should, when someone freely posts something to a blog and later demands money he should get paid, even if he agreed to do it for free!!! It wouldn't otherwise be fair.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:02am

    Re:

    Yeah he just needs to retain Steve Gibson as his counsel to argue his case. Then he will win for sure.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Re:

    Really? Damn...I knew I should've signed in for all those comments I made here over the years, mike would owe me a ton.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:11am

    What'd you expect in the land of the sue-me?

     

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  5.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah he just needs to retain Steve Gibson as his counsel to argue his case.

    But if it all went south, Steve Gibson as counsel would ultimately just claim all his efforts to contact himself are going without response, so since he has "disappeared" his client should not have to comply with any adverse court orders.

     

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  6.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: ^_^

    You must've missed the "recompense" portion of Techdirt.

    I myself have made thousands here!

    2645, at the moment, actually.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re:

    No need, I'll just claim rights to every anonymous comment and sue for damages.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:21am

    Tasini?

    Never heard of the guy... he might as well be dead.

     

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  9.  
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    Jim G., Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:42am

    The main thing I remember when Hufpo got sold was the hundreds of comments from angry bloggers. The main theme was “Now we will all quit and instead of Hufo aggregating all our good stuff we will have separate blogs and all the readers just need to keep a list of 500 different sites and visit them individually. This is of course more fair and a big improvement.”

    What would these people think if they had to visit 500 different sites to see their favorite Youtube videos? Or 500 sites to buy books instead of Amazon? They have no sense of the value of content channels or aggregation.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:43am

    They huffed and they puffed and they blew their own house down.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:59am

    "Not only was the lawsuit stupid, but it was filed by a hypocrite who didn't understand the law and did the same thing he was angry at HuffPo for doing"

    Us ACs hate to have to call Masnick out as a thrice damned liar but here he we go again.

    Tasini most certainly did not DO what he was angry at HuffPo for doing, they sold for $315 million, he didn't.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    In reality, it's just his mind is all that seems to have disappeared.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Scott Lazarowitz, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 11:09am

    Perhaps Mr. Tasini should have invested his time in finding a publication or blogging platform that paid writers and he could have applied there. Instead, he agreed to a contract to be a non-paid blogger.

    Why don't people think anymore when they make decisions to sign on to some particular endeavor? Thanks to government schooling, Amerikans don't think before they act, and when they see that they made a bad choice, then they try to make other people responsible for their poor choices.

    Hans-Hermann Hoppe's book, Democracy: The God That Failed, gives some insight into why modern Amerikans make fools of themselves.

     

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  14.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Under those circumstances the case, which is deader than a bag of door nails, could go on forever!

    More to the point Tasini has pretty much guaranteed that he's on the "do not hire", "do not allow to blog", "do not even talk to" and automatic "circular file" list for every media company, for profit or not profit, across North America and the English speaking world.

    It takes real talent in screwing yourself blind to get a case dismissed with this much judicial scorn and with prejudice. What Tasini really ought to do is ask Gibson if there's room for him at Gibson's law firm. They'd make an ideal pair!

     

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  15.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 11:17am

    Re:

    > they sold for $315 million, he didn't

    What the hell does that have to do with anything, except imply that Tasinis is bad at business? You know when you donate clothes to charity, they sell them for a profit, right? Does that mean you have any right to that profit? Of course not.

    "X" contracted bloggers and didn't pay them, where X = HuffPo, Tasinis. Maybe if I use maths, it will help you understand.

     

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  16.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 12:11pm

    But..but...

    HuffPo pirated all that content and Mike is on their side.

    See? He does support piracy.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "They'd make an ideal pair!"

    That's just what I was thinking when I said that. A regular two man comedy act.

     

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  18.  
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    mischab1, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    Selling for $315 million might be the real reason Tasini is angry but that isn't what he says he is angry about. The thing he says he is angry about is something he is doing himself.

    Besides can anyone say, with a straight face, that if it had been Tasini's blog that sold for $315 million, he would have given almost 1/3 of it to the writers who are writing on his blog for free?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re:

    mischab1
    "Besides can anyone say, with a straight face..."

    There's a clue in the question

    ChrisB
    "Maybe if I use maths, it will help you understand"

    Do you actually duck or do things naturally fly over your head like that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Miko, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 4:51pm

    If a publication refuses Tasini's work on the grounds that they don't want to risk being sued, he will no doubt view that as grounds for a discrimination suit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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