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Now How Much Would You Pay?

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Consumers line up to take a swing at music industry price fixing.

Now How Much Would You Pay?

Accounting for economic misery and ubiquitous piracy, it’s amazing what some of us will still cough up for shiny new discos compactos. Any pop music buff older than 22 has sustained massive sticker shock walking around in major retail outlets during the last few years. Now, there’s nothing odd about laying down more than $20 for a copy of the new 50 Cent record. You’d almost suspect the stiflingly consolidated music biz of price gouging.

For once, the courts would be way ahead of you. A group of class action plaintiffs recently filed suit against five music industry behemoths (Capitol, Time-Warner, Universal, Bertelsmann and Sony) and three retailers (Tower, Musicland and Trans World) for implementing illegal “Minimum Advertised Price” policies that falsely inflated new CD tags. The defendants have denied all alleged wrongdoings, but have agreed to settle the lawsuit, donate $75,700,000 worth of recorded music to charity and compensate the defendants to the tune of $67,375,000.

That’s where you, the violated music buyer, come in. If you’re an American citizen who purchased at least one CD, LP or cassette from a retailer between January 1, 1995 and December 22, 2000, you’re eligible to join the settlement group and, pending the final outcome of the litigation, receive a cash reward between five and 20 bucks. You can file a claim through the settlement group’s website or via pony express, but must do so by March 3.

According to Tom Hendricks of the populist cultural watchdog posse the Underground Literary Alliance, this is about more than getting back some of the green you wasted on Soul Coughing’s El Oso. It’s part of an increasingly desparate fight against media monopolies. Hendricks suggests that large book publishers – most of which are pimped by the same overlords – will try the same games if left unchecked. “Why do you think they want to own it all?” he says. “You know that if they’ll do it for music, they’ll do it for print media… I hope all will protest these weasels’ illegal conduct.”

The settlement group’s website: musiccdsettlement.com/english/default.htm

By Emerson Dameron

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