July 30th, 2004

wombat

Dubious windfalls

Yesterday was strange. I got a mailing pertaining to the Microsoft anti-trust case and a couple of e-mails from PayPal regarding their settlement in a class-action suit. I stand to collect a hundred dollars or more from the Microsoft deal, since I've bought a mess of PCs with Windows during the time period covered as well as a copy of Office and Works, and even though it'll be a voucher instead of real cash, it's still money I won't have to spend on computer stuff.

The PayPal settlement will benefit me personally as well as Anime Twin Cities, and is a straight $50 payment into the PayPal account. It's not that I can't use the money; God knows I can use an extra $150, even if I have to spend $100 of it on computer stuff. However, I don't feel right taking the money. I've always been philosophically opposed to class action suits, since so many of them seem like abuses of the court system at best and legalized extortion at worst. Nobody held a gun to my head and made me by PCs with Windows, or that copy of Office; I could have just as easily have bought the boxes "stripped" and installed Linux or Unix, or bought Macintoshes. I could have bought WordPerfect Office or Lotus Office. But I didn't, and since Gates, Ballmer and Allchin realized there was no way they could fight the Feds until justice was done, they caved and agreed to this settlement. The lawyers walk off with $59 million plus expenses, and the rest of us get...vouchers.

The PayPal suit is just as bad. PayPal never screwed me or ATC over, not once. But because a couple of lawyers saw them as a fat target, they sued and will be going home with about $30 million while the rest of us get $50 apiece. For nothing. Because we happened to be around at the time, and PayPal has decided it would be less expensive to just settle and pay off the lawyers than to fight it out in the courts all decade.

On the one hand, the whole process is just wrong. On the other hand, if they're giving it out, I'd be a fool not to take it...but doesn't that make me complicit in the deal? I can't stop what's going on by opting out, and I'm setting myself up to lose the $150+ I have coming. I just don't know.
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    Dire Straits - Money for Nothing