Jonathan Tasini's lawsuit against the Huffington Post hinges largely on the idea that the site, and Arianna Huffington herself, were "unjustly enriched" in the $315 million sale to AOL because bloggers like him worked for free. Huffington and her supporters have written screed upon screed pointing out that Tasini, and everybody else who has posted on the site, did so "of their own free will" and knew up front that they would not get paid. Tasini says that's beside the point.
In a PaidContent interview that ran last night, Tasini told Joe Mullin, "the whole legal theory is clear. For unjust enrichment it's almost irrelevant what agreement was done up front. Unjust enrichment is irrelevant to whether I blog for free or not."
This is the most lucid Tasini has been in defending his suit. He took to his blog yesterday to refute Huffington's response to the legal action, but his post turned into more of a call to arms than a studied defense of his legal case:
It’s as old as the quill pen. For decades, creators have been told that they should just be happy that someone—whether it be Rupert Murdoch or Arianna Huffington—gave them a place to be published or heard. And the Murdochs and the Huffingtons are one and the same—they use fear to impoverish YOU.
His conversation with Mullin is far more focused, though he still manages to supplant clear answers with his own rhetoric. Here's what Tasini had to say about some of the big questions that have been raised about his suit., and the people raising them.
On his critics: "Some of the people expressing opposition to what we’re doing are just bootlickers"
On why winning the suit won't lead to crushing action against other free content sites like Youtube and Facebook: "We should separate places like a social-networking site from a commercial site that’s about creating content. Facebook is not the same thing in my mind as The Huffington Post. We’re mixing apples and oranges."
On why he didn't simply ask HuffPo for a paycheck: "People believed that at some point there would be money forthcoming. They believed that once this was a profit-making venture, people would get paid."
On why he started writing for HuffPo in the first place: "In part, I was running for U.S. Senate at the time, against Hillary Clinton. She [Arianna Huffington] disliked Hillary Clinton, or at least said that, and she said, ‘You should blog here and promote the campaign that way.’ That was the reason I started there."
On his chances in court: "It’s a novel claim, using some creative thinking by a couple smart young lawyers. You never know how a court is going to rule."
On Arianna Huffington herself: "Her arrogance and her clear bile, partly towards me but towards all the people who created the content—that's working against her. People would have been very reasonable and ... if she had said, I just got fabulously rich—again—let’s sit down and figure out how I help the people who made this a valuable company. Instead she said, screw you. It’s a totally Marie Antoinette approach."