A Wisconsin woman has filed a lawsuit against NBCNews.com’s Newsvine unit, alleging that the company violated its terms-of-service agreement by failing to pay a percentage of ad revenue to users who posted content on the Web site. The woman, Kathleen Wilkes, of Dane County, Wisconsin alleges in the class action suit that Newsvine — a community-based news site — refused to pay her $183.15.
Wilkes became a user of Newsvine in August 2010. At the time, a user agreement was in place which indicated that users who contributed content to the site would be able to share in the ad revenue.
However, last November, Newsvine told users in a story posted on its home page that the terms of the agreement were changing, and as such contributors would no longer be able to receive ad revenue generated off their columns. The article instructed “Newsviners” to cash out or donate their proceeds by the end of 2012.
In her suit, Wilkes claims that the majority of users never saw the article and did not know about the change in terms. She also alleges that the user agreement was not officially updated until February 7th, 2013. In early February, Wilkes requested that her funds be paid out, but Newsvine’s director of community, Tyler Adams, told her that the money was no longer available.
“Class members have been damaged by Newsvine’s misconduct,” the suit notes. “Class members have not been paid the Newsvine earnings, and have been deprived the use of their funds. Newsvine, on the other hand, has unlawfully retained the funds, used them in the operation of its business, and has retained all interest and other gains earned off of the funds.” The suit alleges “deceptive, unfair, inequitable, and unconscionable conduct.”
A spokeswoman for NBCNews.com said that they are in the process of reviewing the claim, and therefore could not comment on it.
Founded in 2005 by Mike Davidson (now a VP at Twitter) and other veterans of Walt Disney Internet Group, Newsvine was sold to MSNBC.com in 2007. Microsoft sold its stake in MSNBC.com last year, and the company changed its name to NBCNews.com at that time. It continues to operate a large presence, including the Newsvine unit, in the Seattle area.
Here’s the full suit with a hat tip to attorney Venkat Balasubramani.