OK, You Haven't Already Won

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NEWARK, N.J.: Puritanical, litigious America has finally lost its last vestige of humor: The words "You may have already won" have been sued out of existence. Everybody knew the envelope: Festooned with the likenesses of Dick Clark and Ed McMahon, bulging with magazine subscription stickers and cheesily promising untold riches to you, John Q. Nobody. You'd dream a little, maybe even subscribe to a few magazines. But we all got the joke. Right?

Apparently not. Dogged by a multistate task force that accuses it of bilking the elderly, American Family Publishers (partly owned by a subsidiary of Time-Warner Inc., parent company of TIME Daily) has agreed to stop telling consumers they are "winners" unless they really are -- and to make it clearer that no purchase is needed to enter the sweepstakes.

The company will also pay a total of $1.25 million to 25 states -- not very much against the $70 million the company says it's given away since 1977. The states may be receiving that money soon.