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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Lawsuit Against Arianna Huffington Resembles Dispute Mark Zuckerberg Faced

Helen Tobin |
November 16, 2010 | 10:31 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Arianna Huffington (Creative Commons)
Arianna Huffington (Creative Commons)
Two Democratic consultants are suing Ariana Huffington and her business partner for stealing the idea for powerhouse liberal website, The Huffington Post.

Peter Daou and James Boyce filed the lawsuit against Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, claiming the partners violate a handshake agreement and excluded Daou and Boyce "from the venture, and claimed credit for the ideas and contributions on the site,” the New York Supreme Court documents state.  

The lawsuit is based on the similar legal frontiers of intellectual property and deal-making similar to a lawsuit Facebook settled in 2008, now famously captured in The Social Network.  

Like the Winklevoss twins in the Facebook case, Boyce and Daou claim they were ruthlessly cut out of the project after they originally presented Huffington and Lerer with the idea for the liberal website as a counterweight to conservative sites such as the Drudge Report.    

Their suit challenges Huffington’s story of coming up with the idea herself in conversations with Lerer and other friends. Huffington called the suit, “a completely absurd, ludicrous supposition” in a written statement to Politico, which broke the story Monday.  

“James Boyce and Peter Daou, two political operatives who we rejected going into business with or hiring 6 years ago, and who had absolutely nothing to do with creating, running, financing, or building the Huffington Post, now concoct some scheme saying they own part of the company,” Huffington and Lerer said in the statement.  “For months now they have been trying to extract money from us. They are filing the lawsuit of course because we did not agree to any payment.”

The complaint challenges the left’s strongest online media property, a website Forbes estimated to be worth $100 million in 2008 when it last raised venture capital.

Boyce and Daou claim they did not file the lawsuit sooner because it would have effectively ended their livelihoods.  Boyce served as an advisor to John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.  Daou was also a Kerry campaign adviser and worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. The duo say they are only filing the suit now for recognition and vindication, claiming any proceeds from the suit will be used “to support progressive causes and citizen journalists and bloggers who are active in support of those causes.”

Reach reporter Helen Tobin here.



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