Since last Oct 31, Sony has been reeling under revelation after revelation about the copy-restriction systems it put on its music CDs. These systems created security vulnerabilities for music-fans, spied on their habits, and destabiized their computers. The initial reports of these were met with contemptuous dismissal from Sony, but eventually, thanks to the work of EFF and others, Sony agreed to a costly class-action settlement.
However, one element of that settlement is that it requires people who want to opt out of the settlement to refrain from suing Sony until the settlement winds down. One person who wishes to sue Sony has asked the US Court of Appeals to overturn this, which would open the door to more immediate individual lawsuits against the company for breaking its customers' PCs.
However, as Mark Lyons notes, if this appeal goes forward, it would be a major departure from standard practice:
In the short term, if the court of appeals likes what they hear, it will be easier for individuals to pursue their own case.Link (Thanks, Mark!)
In the long term, if the court of appeals (and then possibly the Supreme Court) decides that similar injunctions are not acceptable in class actions, then quickie class action settlements like this one won't be as appealing to companies (since the nice thing about class actions to these companies is they only have to fight a limited number of fights and pay out a relatively predictable amount of money that they can easily control) because every Tom, Dick, and Harry can go to court and sue on their own without having the class action trip them up.
(Sony taproot graphic courtesy of Sevensheaven)