I am now one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. Watch out Zuckerberg; I’m coming for you.

In the wake of the Huffington Post / AOL merger, creating the biggest content farm in the world for Tim Armstrong to work with, a lawsuit has been filed by freelance journalist Jonathan Tasini on behalf of all the bloggers who have contributed to the Huffington Post without being paid. Not surprisingly, Arianna Huffington says the suit is without merit.

You’d better hope she’s right.

As a guy who deals with employment regulations all the time, both for the company I work for and for our clients, I feel like I have some basis to address this matter. Yes, people have the right to be compensated when they work for you, and yes, it’s true that just because you write a document saying that there’s no employer/employee relationship between you and the people who “add value to your property” doesn’t mean it’s true. But there’s a limit.

If there isn’t a limit, if anyone who contributes to your web site without being paid, even after they signed a document saying they were making that contribution in exchange for reciprocal traffic and nothing else or assented to your terms of service, explicitly or implicitly, even the idea of allowing comments on your web site becomes a big problem.

Once again,  I have some experience in the arena:

I’ve been outspoken in my belief that when you add a comment to a blog it’s not only OK to leave a link back to yourself but that you actually add value to the blog where you’ve done that small bit of self promotion and Search Engine Optimization by doing so. But if Tasini wins his suit, that opens the door for anyone who’s ever upped someone else’s site “value” to sue on the same grounds. Well, Cool. If you’ve ever been a Hubspot Customer I guess that means you now own a piece of Google.

Crazy? Yes, it is.

If you own a web site or a blog and allow any form of contribution from the outside, you’d better hope Tasini loses this suit. If he wins, we’ll be seeing a business change that will lead us into no less a grey are than . . . {gasp!}, socialism.

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