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A federal judge approved a $143 million settlement Thursday of a lawsuit that accused major record companies and large music retailers of conspiring to set minimum music prices. Under the settlement signed by U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby, 3.5 million people who signed on to an antitrust lawsuit are to receive shares of the award. Checks for $12.60 are expected to be mailed out within a couple of weeks to the millions who mailed in claims and submitted them online. After attorney fees, the actual cash payout is expected to be around $44 million. In addition, $75.7 million is to be distributed in the form of 5.6 million music CDs sent to libraries and schools throughout the nation. The lawsuit, which was signed by the attorneys general of 43 states and territories and consolidated in Portland in October 2000, accused major record labels and large music retailers facing competition from discount retailers like Target and Wal-Mart of conspiring to set minimum music prices. Defendants included Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corp., Universal Music Group and Bertelsmann Music Group, as well as retailers Tower Records, Musicland Stores and Transworld Entertainment. In agreeing to the settlement, they denied any wrongdoing. Roughly 3.5 million U.S. residents who purchased music between 1995 and 2000 registered for claims in the 1996 price-fixing suit. The settlement also prohibits major music distributors from tying cooperative advertising efforts to retailers’ advertised prices. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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