Free money. How you can get $20 back from the music industry

Red-faced, eyes bulging, a finger scrapes the layers of plastic wrap. Maybe that’s where the $18.95 really goes, toward making the music utterly inaccessible under seemingly impenetrable wrapping. Stubbed fingers and empty wallets. The consumer has had enough. It’s time to get back at the music industry.

With a mere click of a mouse button, you too could do your part to get revenge on record companies that have sold you CDs for the past decade.

The deal is simple: anyone who bought a CD between Jan. 1, 1995, and Dec. 22, 2000, is eligible for a piece of a multi-million dollar settlement. This means any consumers could get between $5 and $20 in the mail from their favorite record companies.

No receipt? No problem – the settlement is being resolved online. Simply log on to www.musiccdsettlement.com and fill out the brief form confirming the purchase of a CD, cassette or album between the given dates. Payments for the settlement will depend on the number of claims submitted. Checks may be in the mail by August, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Nicknamed “the Minimum Advertised Pricing settlement,” companies including Universal, Sony, Warner Bros., Musicland, Sam Goody and Tower Records have allocated money to compensate consumers who purchased their CDs. This settlement came after a lawsuit brought by 47 states against the companies alleging they conspired to fix prices.

The collusion was allegedly the result of increased competition from chain discount stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Though they have admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, the companies agreed in September to pay $64.7 million and donate $75.7 million worth of CDs to charities and government programs, including schools and libraries.

Though the $140 million settlement is substantial, the value of the 5.5 million CDs sent to charity is measured in market value rather than the mere pennies it costs the record companies to produce them.

Advertisements for the settlement have run in USA Today, Parade Magazine, National Geographic and Sunday newspapers across the nation.

Thus far, 2.3 million people have filed claims to receive compensation. Claims must be filed by 3 p.m. on March 3.

According to the terms of the settlement, the money allocated for compensation is fixed, meaning that the more people who file claims, the less each person will get. If more than 8.8 million people file, the individual payments will fall below $5 and all the money will be donated to charity.

But if there are fewer than 8.8 million, payments will range from a maximum of $20 to the $5 minimum.

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