Unpaid bloggers lose bid to revive Huffington Post case

NEW YORK Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:57am IST

Jonathan Tasini (C), president emeritus of the National Writers Union, speaks with actor and writer Michael Imperioli (R), known for his work on the television program 'The Sopranos,' as they walk the picket lines for the striking Writers Guild of America, in New York, November 13, 2007. REUTERS/Chip East/Files

Jonathan Tasini (C), president emeritus of the National Writers Union, speaks with actor and writer Michael Imperioli (R), known for his work on the television program 'The Sopranos,' as they walk the picket lines for the striking Writers Guild of America, in New York, November 13, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Unpaid bloggers have lost their bid to get an appeals court to restore a lawsuit contending AOL Inc (AOL.N) owes them a cut of the $315 million it spent last year to buy The Huffington Post.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected on Wednesday claims that the bloggers deserved $105 million of the deal's purchase price.

The bloggers, who included social activist and commentator Jonathan Tasini, had claimed they were tricked into supplying free content to the news and opinion website.

They had argued that they gave free content to The Huffington Post on the understanding it would be provided as a public service and wouldn't be sold to a larger media organization.

The case had sought class-action status on behalf of 9,000 unpaid contributors to the website, which was founded in 2005. It was dismissed in March by Manhattan U.S. District Judge John Koeltl.

The 2nd Circuit said there was "no basis" for the bloggers' argument. The court said bloggers were well aware that The Huffington Post was for-profit and understood "they would receive compensation only in the form of exposure and promotion."

While the court said it was "no doubt a great disappointment to find that The Huffington Post did not live up to the ideals plaintiffs ascribed to it," the panel said the bloggers had made no allegations that would support a case for restitution.

"We have always believed this case had no merit, and are pleased that the 2nd Circuit Court agreed with us," said Rhoades Alderson, a spokesman for The Huffington Post.

Valeria Calafiore Healy, a lawyer for the bloggers, said the appeals court "showed much more sympathy for the journalists' position" than Judge Koeltl, "but wasn't willing to find the district court abused its discretion."

"That doesn't mean that what HuffPo did was right - it wasn't," she said in a statement.

The case is Tasini v. AOL Inc, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-1428.

(Reporting By Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Martha Graybow and Tim Dobbyn)

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