Sheriff Paul Laney had a problem. He had hundreds of petty criminals on outstanding arrest warrants and needed to reel them in. Then he read that former Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne was in town for a gig and got to thinking. Stephen Groom reports on what happened next.
Topic: People in advertising
Who: Ozzy Osbourne and Sheriff Paul Laney of the North Dakota Police Department
When: November 2007
Where: Fargo, North Dakota
Law stated as at: 30 November 2007
North Dakota police turned to direct marketing and the power of celebrity in an attempt to apprehend hundreds of petty criminals on outstanding arrest warrants.
After discovering that former Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne was playing a gig in a local arena, they mailed the absent without leave miscreants with an invite to a party in a Fargo nightclub where they would all get the opportunity to meet Ozzy in person.
The Ozzy opportunity was fake of course and so was the party, but the venue was real and so were the police lying in wait for the bamboozled criminals, 30 of whom showed up and were immediately apprehended.
However Sheriff Paul Laney omitted to deal with one point of detail: Mr Osbourne had not been asked for permission beforehand and was suitably incandescent when he found out.
Why this matters:
It is not clear whether the rockstar has wheeled out his lawyers to seek financial recompense under the US's well established "rights of publicity", which vary state to state but are generally much better developed than the equivalent rights here in the UK.
If the same events had occurred here in the UK, Ozzy might have been in with a chance in an action for passing off, but one suspects the courts might have been reluctant to find actual or likely damage, given the target market of the mailing.