CD MAP Payout

In late February, many California music fans discovered in their mail a one-page form letter from the state's attorney general, Bill Lockyer, announcing that he was "pleased to enclose payment for your claim in the settlement of the Compact Disc Minimum Advertised Price Antitrust Litigation." Attached to the bottom of the form letter was a tear-off check made out to the aggrieved music fan from "CD MAP Antitrust Litigation" in Faribault, MN.

Now almost ancient history, the lawsuit was brought against the music industry a few years back by the attorneys general of 41 states, charging record labels and retailers with collusion in establishing retail prices for recorded music on CD during the years 1995–2000. The case was settled on September 30, 2002.

A voracious music fan, I had purchased many dozens of CDs during those years, thereby qualifying as a member of the litigating class, which anyone could join without submitting sales receipts by simply filling in the blanks at a website named I had always assumed that the chances of collecting in any class action suit, unless you were a member of the winning legal team, were approximately the same as discovering a new planet by staring vaguely into the night sky.

Mr. Lockyer and his colleagues have disabused me of such cynicism. On Saturday, February 28, I received his nice note. "It is a pleasure to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion and to return value to consumers who purchased CDs while the challenged pricing policies were in effect . . ." he enthused.

My share of the payout on the $143 million settlement was $13.86, almost exactly enough for one CD, or one quick lunch. The jury's still out on how the funds will be spent.