Sunday, April 1, 2012

Arianna Cries While Unpaid Bloggers Strategize

That class action suit by former unpaid Huffington Post bloggers, seeking a one-third share of the site's multimillion-dollar sale to AOL, has been thrown out. A judge decided that since the plaintiffs were once satisfied with the glory of simply getting their stuff published on Arianna's popular site, they have no legal basis to demand their fair share now. Just because it turns out she was making money hand over fist on ad clicks, and then reaped a $330 million bonanza from the sale, doesn't mean the people who made The HuffPo what it is deserve one penny of compensation. You can't rewrite the terms of an agreement retroactively, ruled U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl this week. Next time, be savvier and demand to get paid for your work upfront, he suggested.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision. Their argument is that an unconscionable unwritten contract can't supersede Wage and Hour Laws. Slavery is still illegal, even if the slaves seem happy. Maybe this is the case that will finally make Justice Clarence Thomas open his mouth. But I doubt it.

Arianna, meanwhile, has just blogged from one of the many international greedwashing-disguised-as-do-gooder forums for the One Percent that she attends on a regular basis. Ironically, during the same week that her starving stable of former writers was getting thrown under the bus in court, she was at Oxford for something called the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. This is yet another pricey confab where the global elites can gather, preen and brag about how they have the power to make the lives of the lesser people (excluding unpaid writers) throughout the world so much better.  Attendance was by invitation only -- but, gushed Arianna, "I wish everyone could be here!"

As usual, today's Arianna blog is all about Arianna and her crocodile tears, and not the details of the hopeless people the convention purportedly addressed. No mention of how this hypocritical author of Third World America is getting to keep that contested third of her AOL haul, thanks to the American judicial system:
It was exhilarating -- and deeply moving -- to hear example after example of social entrepreneurs making quantifiable improvements in lives all around the world. As Stephan Chambers, chairman of the Skoll Centre, put it: "I have cried every day this week. Remember as I tell you this, that I'm male. And British. And from Oxford." I actually cried every hour. But, remember, I'm female. And Greek. And from Cambridge. I also cried when Roy Sekoff, our founding editor, texted me that his father, Arthur, had passed away. Besides being a huge supporter of HuffPost (which he rightly felt contained some of his funny, feisty, passionate DNA), he was an eagle-eyed evaluator of my hair whenever I appeared on TV -- good or bad, he let me know about it.


But enough about your coiffure, Arianna. Let's get back to that court case. The lead plaintiff was labor activist Jonathan Tasini, who wrote over 200 blogposts for the crying kleptocratista.
 He framed the suit as a class action on behalf of an estimated 9,000 bloggers for the website. Now living in Sydney, where he is writing a book and blogging at www.workinglife.org, Tasini (said) that he planned to keep up the fight for compensation. "We're using the lawsuit to spark a movement and an organising effort among bloggers to set a standard for the future because this idea that all individual creators should work for free is like a cancer spreading through every media property on the globe."
Tasini is the same journalist who once successfully sued The New York Times for copyright infringement. The 2001 Supreme Court ruling in his favor stated that the newspaper wrongfully re-licensed his and other freelancers' published work.  The paper was found to have illegally profited by selling their work to such independent data bases as LexisNexis, and it was ordered to award the pool of plaintiffs $18 million.

(I have never submitted an op-ed to The Times, but as part of the caveat for posting comments, they absolve themselves from liability for your content at the same time they reserve their rights to same. The Gray Lady, like any royal, shall have her cake and eat it too -- she can use readers' work in the future, for whatever purpose she wishes. One change made about a year ago is that readers' comments are no longer searchable via Google or other engines. And of course, readers wishing to comment more than 10 times a month must now pay for the privilege, as per the paywall*. The Times also generates revenue via its Google-ized ads on the readers comment pages. That's the main reason I don't submit comments as much as I used to.)

When Tasini filed his lawsuit last year, Arianna was deeply affronted that some people are just not willing to be slaves. You should be grateful we don't pay you, she says, because working for free amounts to Freedom itself! Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. From the Los Angeles Times:
But while our staff writers have deadlines and commitments, as well as specific assignments, our bloggers can post as frequently or infrequently as they like -- and write about whatever they like, whenever they like, or not at all," Huffington said. "On top of that, they can crosspost their work on their own sites or elsewhere -- they own the rights to their work and can repurpose it in any way they choose."
People blog on HuffPost for free for the same reason they go on cable TV shows every night for free: either because they are passionate about their ideas or because they have something to promote and want exposure to large and multiple audiences," Huffington said. "Our bloggers are repeatedly invited on TV to discuss their posts and have received everything from paid speech opportunities and book deals to a TV show."
If you thought Arianna might have been so upset by the lawsuit that she took Tasini's posts off her site, you'd be wrong. They are there forever, generating ad revenue ad infinitum, enriching the Huffington heirs and investors for generations to come. 

But do check out Tasini's blog, linked above. He calls New York Times reporters "dolts" in one recent entry. Made my day.

* In theory. The Times today reduced its number of freebies from 20 to 10. I guess it was their idea of playing an April Fools joke on the 99%.

19 comments:

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Yeah, Arianna profiting on the creative work of others to the tune that she did, yet feeling no obligation to share anything, from either the long-running advertising revenue or the windfall monetization when the site was sold, says a world about her true beliefs. The real test of character, as has been said, is what a person will do when no one is watching. But she wouldn't even do the right thing when people WERE watching. As far as I'm concerned, that says it all.

But it shouldn't surprise. If the right can have its political exploiters and opportunists, so can the left. Why? At this point, I call the reader's attention to the "ideal free distribution", which in ecology serves as one prediction of how resources will be utilized by exploiters. (In ecology, "exploiters" is taken to mean users — no ideological implications — but it sure is appropriate in its more common sociopolitical sense when talking about those who use people).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_free_distribution

And you're right, Karen, in your sarcasm about these so-called aid forums and conventions. I've always viewed them as part conscience-salve and self-congratulation opportunity, part excuse for an elite cocktail party, part egotism on a grand scale, part perpetuation of current corporate and plutocratic control. They may produce a minor bump in beneficial media attention, but usually nothing that would justify the costs and hoopla. For the most part, the participants, if serious, would be better off communicating via email or video-conference on a more frequent basis — and upping the representation and role (if any) of both genuine on-the-ground experts and especially the people affected. As things are usually structured, there is often a considerable amount of paternalism, if not disguised imperialism, associated with these forums.

Valerie said...

More proof that the one percent, whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans, are corporatised. The documentary The Corporation likened the corporation to a sociopath - without a conscience or sense of right or wrong. They exist to make money - by hook or by crook (if they can get away with it)- and have no qualms about exploiting those with less power. Sounds like Arianna.

Denis Neville said...

Arianna's "Newspeak” that working for free amounts to Freedom itself!

“Freedom is slavery.” - George Orwell, 1984

Tasini once successfully sued New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001). Interesting that the case was initially heard in the district court of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who held that the publishers were within their rights according to the Copyright Act of 1976. This decision was reversed on appeal, and the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's reversal.

Checked out Tasini's blog. Excellent! Sample:

“Most Americans believe that the elite control the economy and are pocketing an obscene amount of wealth. They believe that most politicians care only about getting elected and not about the people, and will sell their souls to keep power. And having seen Wall Street executives and bankers destroy trillions of dollars of wealth, and throw millions of people into the streets without a job, without being held accountable, they believe that the rules don't count when it comes to jailing corporate criminals. They are correct. And this year's election will not alter those truths.” - Jonathan Tasini

http://www.workinglife.org/blogs/view_post.php?content_id=15365

Speaking of pricey confabs where the global elites can gather, did anyone see Morley Safer’s “the art market sizzles, while the stock market fizzles" on CBS 60 Minutes last night? Miami Beach hosts Art Basel, where executive jets arrive by the swarm, and the uber rich spend their obscene millions on contemporary art.

Nauseating!

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Denis Neville:

I did see the Morley Safer "60 Minutes" piece on the outrageous investment commoditization of modern art.

However, you should realize that such crap has been going on for years. Literally.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist%27s_shit

Enjoy!

In other matters: thanks for the link to Tasini's blog. And it was interesting to read that Sonia Sotomayor was the original presiding judge in his 2001 copyright infringement lawsuit, and that she ruled for the corporation that was attempting to appropriate his work.

Karen Garcia said...

@Denis,
Yes, I saw the 60 Minutes segment. (At least Morley Safer did a lot of eye-rolling, huh?) The .00001% literally are running out of ways to spend their money. But one thing's for sure -- they'd rather spend it on piles of junk than contribute to the greater good through a tiny increase in their tax burden. The people shown on TV were nothing more than ignorant sociopaths suffering from terminal boredom... parodies of themselves. They could have come straight from a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, Fitzgerald really knew them. Huffington was and is a clever opportunist.

Kat said...

I've always viewed them as part conscience-salve and self-congratulation opportunity, part excuse for an elite cocktail party, part egotism on a grand scale, part perpetuation of current corporate and plutocratic control. They may produce a minor bump in beneficial media attention, but usually nothing that would justify the costs and hoopla. For the most part, the participants, if serious, would be better off communicating via email or video-conference on a more frequent basis — and upping the representation and role (if any) of both genuine on-the-ground experts and especially the people affected. As things are usually structured, there is often a considerable amount of paternalism, if not disguised imperialism, associated with these forums.
That sums it up perfectly. Does anything useful ever come out of these things? And what the hell is "social entrepreneurship"? Sounds awful.

Zee said...

@Fred Drumlevitch and @All--

"One of Manzoni's collaborators, Agostino Bonalumi, claimed that the tins are full not of faeces but plaster; in contrast Manzoni's girlfriend Nanda Vigo, who helped him produce the cans, claimed the contents really were faeces.Vigo's assertion is disputed by Manzoni's brother and sister,but some cans have leaked and confirmed they are indeed faeces." --Wikipedia, Artist's Shit

Good Lord! Impossible to imagine some "patron of the arts" actually paying 124,000 euros for a signed can of crap! Which may erupt like a can of bad tuna some day, no less!

I can't help but wonder: Does leakage diminish the value of the piece?

ROTFLMAO!

Almost equally funny: Didn't Arianna pretend to be a Conservative before she began pretending to be a Liberal?

Jay - Ottawa said...

“Arianna, meanwhile, has just blogged from one of the many international greedwashing-disguised-as-do-gooder forums for the One Percent that she attends on a regular basis.”

Ah yes, international do-gooder forums. They serve as another way to tell who is serious and who is not, the title and advertised purpose of a conference notwithstanding.

Fabulous conferences that don’t pretend to do-good are usually funded directly by the corporations to sell something, e.g., pharmaceuticals to clinicians. We know what to expect from them. But budgets for conferences said to be purely of the do-good type are usually awarded, directly or indirectly, through government agencies or quasi-governmental entities to planning managers who are closely tied to a political party.

A high-level exchange of information among professionals or the establishment of a consensus for action is not the point of these gatherings. Overhead is the point. Old friends and people yet to be enticed into the circle of friends are rewarded with a junket to a luxurious resort. The organizers themselves, ideological party hacks nominally in the private economy, award themselves a big hunk of the budget through magnificent salaries for hiring temporary staff who coordinate logistics on new computers running the latest versions of Excel and Powerpoint. The government’s budget for the conference gets great ripple effect through the economy, first for professional coordinators and then for venders, like a hotel chain, friendly to the party - which hotel chain just may send a check to the politicians who engineered the conference and packed their resort in a slow time.

To get a feel for the do-good conference charade on the international level, view (free) the award-winning BBC/HBO production: “The Girl in the CafĂ©” (2005). Good theater with insight on the conference game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk6bgik5Bd8

Fred Drumlevitch said...

"I can't help but wonder: Does leakage diminish the value of the piece?" — Zee

Leakage (if combined with DNA testing) might increase or decrease the value of the "work", for it could prove or disprove its important claimed original "provenance"!

Anonymous said...

Karen,
Not to detract from the absurd trainwreck of L'Arianna, who was wealthy beyond compare even before HuffPo ( which only makes this worse)...
But I was hoping you'd write about the Supreme Court's decision about the poor schmuck who got strip-searched twice after being arrested for a suuposedly unpaid traffic violation. He was in the county jail 6 days; he had in fact paid the fine. The issue "resolved" is the necessity of strip search for non-criminal arrest. Don't ask.
Also: feds in oaktown raiding pot clinics. Absurd bs all over. Has anyone seen Ken Burns' "Prohibition"? Must-see TV.

Anonymous said...

You can reset your nytimes cookies using preferences in your browser. Just search on nytimes.com

TimothyD11 said...

Were they paid bloggers or volunteer bloggers? Was there a contract? Something to the sort "you have no rights to the ownership of Huffington Post". It would be nice for Arianna to give them something, but does she owe them anything? How many people would she owe in your eyes? Does everybody get the same or do some get more than others for some reason? Convince me.

Another thing Karen - I'm torn between believing Obama would like to do the right thing for working people and he would NOT like to do the right thing for working people. Sometimes your criticisms of him seem to be a little conspiracy theory-ish. Then again, you could be spot on about him. I just want to judge the guy fairly.

The alternative is unspeakable.

And the likelihood of the Democrats gaining the House and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate is VERY unlikely.

Are you for getting rid of the filibuster?

What happens when the animals gain control again?

Karen Garcia said...

@Timothy,
To my understanding,at least some bloggers were led to believe they'd land paying gigs once the site started making money. Didn't happen: Arianna hired name brands away from other venues. Meanwhile the paid writers of the AOL sites were similarly rebuffed after being told they'd be rehired at the HuffPo.
You might remember the famous case of Mayhill Fowler, the unpaid HuffPo blogger who broke the story of Candidate Obama telling some wealthy donors that the Rust Belt voters "cling to their guns and religion." Fowler reports that Arianna promised her remuneration and never followed through on it.

If my criticisms of Obama seem a little conspiracy-theorish to you, just look at the NDAA, drone strikes, the war on whistleblowers, unprecedented secrecy, signing this week of the JOBS act allowing start-ups to offer IPOs without pesky disclosure rules, White House suppression of EPA and FDA rules affecting our public health, continuation of Afghanistan aggression, secret war in Yemen, etc., etc. Judge him by his actions, not his words. His words are always pitch-perfect.

Oh... and I think the "animals" are already in control, at least insofar as the propagandistic narrative is concerned. Finally, re the filibuster -- the Democrats are not keen on getting rid of it. Chris Dodd, right before he left the Senate in disgrace, warned fellow Dems against overturning it. It gives them the cover of seeming to be trying to do the right thing. Example... the vote on oil company tax loopholes. Pure theatre.

Anonymous said...

@Timothy,
Nothing "conspiratorial" about dancing with 'ems that brung ya"! The banks bought Barry, don't take it personally that he's now crapping in your rose garden. His "blank" don't stink, don't ya know?

Obama, like each of his predecessors, sans the foolish Mr. Carter, is merely doing the same thing as W because we long ago lost control of our democracy.

Besides, what the hell does intent matter? Show me the reform, baby. Y'aint got it. Don't feel bad, none of us did.

But keep telling us about the "animals". Sigh.

TimothyD11 said...

I think their motive for not getting rid of the filibuster has more to do with the fact that the animals - YES - THE ANIMALS - would go hog wild crazy with a small majority in the Senate when they get their turn - and the American people are so stupid they will get their turn. There are irreversible things they could do.

Besides the FDA and EPA it looks like your main beef is with the war in Afghanistan and the war on terror. The war in Afghanistan will be ending soon.

If there are really bad guys in places like Yemen, and you can be certain about it, why not take them out?

I'm more concerned with working Americans and just how big of a cut they'll have to take when it comes time for Obama to compromise away too much - OR if Romney wins.

Like Thom Hartmann says - forget the Bush tax cuts - roll back the Reagan tax cuts. But if the middle ground is the Bush tax cuts, after the rich have driven up the debt and deficits so high and become so rich doing it, more cuts will have to come from somewhere - it won't be enough - and it's not very likely the cuts will be on the military - they will be on working class people who have already been bled dry.

Are we really going to allow them to win thier starve the beast game when they DELIBERATELY sabotaged government and it's budget? AND let it come out of working people's hides?

WHO is out there that will say that the rich benefited from turning the government budget into a disaster and THEY can fix it, no matter what it takes?

And Arianna may be a greedy little liberal but it seems as though those people didn't protect themselves with getting things in writing.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Interesting how, after more than three years of damning evidence, some members of the jury still can't come to a decision on the merits. Maybe, after an additional four years of more bodies, more recession, more stolen savings, more joblessness, more lost homes, more belt-tightening, more pollution, more curbed rights and more brazen criminals still calling the shots for more of the same, a pattern will emerge.

The open mind, like the open mouth, must sometimes close on something solid.

Karen Garcia said...

Hi guys,
Here is my response to Maureen Dowd's column on the Supremes. (I spent some time today reading the entire Strip Search opinion, and will try to post something in depth a little later on Wednesday).

Three strikes and the Feckless Four (or even five) should be out. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and now the three-ring circus of health care hearings. There are already grounds to impeach Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose his wife's finances and Tea Party conflicts of interest. Both Scalia and Thomas have had documented dealings with the Kochs. The website "Think Progress" recently caught Alito in the act of attending a Republican fundraiser crammed with conservative CEOs,

It's not enough for Obama to simply campaign against the Supreme Court. His Justice Department should undertake a full investigation of the rampant corruption of what is essentially a totalitarian politburo. At least half the court is every bit as corrupt as a deregulated Wall Street. Power has gone to their supremely arrogant heads.

When Scalia flicked an obscene hand gesture at a reporter three years ago, it was dismissed as just another zany manifestation of a wise-cracking old man. Now I can't stop imagining him flipping off the entire country. When John Roberts flubbed the Oath of Office so badly during the inauguration that a do-over was needed, everyone chalked it up to nerves. I wonder.

Roberts and his minions do indeed have a lot of nerve. Abe Fortas was kicked off the bench for a lot less. It's not as though there is no precedent for Obama to draw upon. The strip-searching judges are long past due for a permanent unrobing of their own.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Karen, I look forward to reading your essay on the Strip Search Decision and hope you include a line or two about the strong pitch Obama's DOJ made before the Court. The brief of Obama's solicitor is about as close as you can get to Obama's "intentions." Based on the administration's involvement in this case, I'd call it a 6-4 decision.