PORTLAND (AP) – A federal judge plans to rule next week on the proposed settlement of a music anti-trust lawsuit that would put roughly $12.60 in the pockets of 3.5 million consumers.

Judge D. Brock Hornby heard testimony for more than three hours Thursday on the fairness of the agreement that calls for music distributors and retailers to pay $143 million in cash and compact disks.

Terms of the settlement call for checks to be mailed to 3.5 million people who filed claims under the class-action lawsuit. The actual amount depends on how much money goes to lawyers and distribution fees.

The suit, 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.

The defendants – 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 – deny any wrongdoing. Attorneys representing the companies declined to testify in court.

Several attorneys for individual plaintiffs in the case argued that fees to cover the costs of state attorney general’s anti-trust divisions and private lawyers working on the case with the state should not be reimbursed, which would give the 3.5 million plaintiffs in the case a bigger cut.

Of the total settlement amount, $75.7 million would be distributed in the form of 5.6 million music CDs sent to libraries and schools throughout the nation.

The proposed cash settlement in the case totals $67.3 million. The actual cash distributed to the public is expected to be around $44 million.

Roughly 3.5 million U.S. residents who purchased music between 1995 and 2000 registered for claims in the price-fixing suit against major record labels and large music retailers.

The settlement also prohibits major music distributors from tying cooperative advertising efforts to retailers’ advertised prices.

The settlement money has been collected from the defendants and is currently in escrow. Payments should be mailed out within weeks of the settlement’s approval.

AP-ES-05-22-03 1534EDT

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