The Huffington Post unfairly pocketed more than $100-million from its unpaid bloggers when AOL Inc. bought it in February, a lawsuit against the influential news website said on Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, comes two months after Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the website, sold it to AOL for $315-million. Of that price, at least $105-million was the estimated value of the website's unpaid writings, which should now be given to the bloggers, the lawsuit said.
"The Huffington Post is nothing without the bloggers who created the content," said Jonathan Tasini, a one-time Huffington Post blogger who filed the lawsuit and is seeking class-action status on behalf of the bloggers.
Part opinion, part news, the left-of-centre website has to some extent relied on free contributions by celebrities, politicians and experts to drive its Internet traffic, turning it into a major online force since its start in 2005.
A spokesman for the website said he had not reviewed the lawsuit, but called the allegations "completely baseless."
"Our bloggers utilize our platform to connect and ensure that their ideas and views are seen by as many people as possible," spokesman Mario Ruiz said. "It's the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows to broadcast their views to as wide an audience as possible."
To what extent the website's sale value or estimated revenue was based on unpaid blogs is unclear, the lawsuit acknowledged, but claimed the roughly 9,000 unpaid bloggers should receive their fair cut.
The lawsuit also called for the website to release detailed information on the Internet traffic to and from the blogs.
The case is Jonathan Tasini v Aol Inc et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-cv-2472.