Ozzy Osbourne Wins First Round in Antitrust Fight Against AEG

A California judge rules that the performer has adequately alleged he's being coerced on his concert tour.
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Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne will get the show he wants in California federal court, as a judge on Wednesday rejected a bid by AEG to stop the musician from pursuing an antitrust lawsuit.

In a lawsuit filed in March, the performer alleges he has been pushed into a so-called Staples Center Commitment, meaning he will only be able to perform in AEG's "must have" O2 Arena in London if, on the Los Angeles leg of his tour, he commits to play AEG's Staples Center instead of The Forum, a joint venture between Madison Square Garden Company and Irving Azoff, who once was the leader of Live Nation. Osbourne is seeking an injunction to prohibit AEG from enforcing the "Staples Center Commitment" on him and other musicians.

AEG asserts the lawsuit was engineered by its competitor Live Nation. The defendant challenged Osbourne's standing to bring the case by discussing how the agreement for concerts was one between AEG and Live Nation, which represents Osbourne as his concert booker and promoter.

"AEG argues that Ozzy was free to play anywhere he liked in Los Angeles as long as he did not use Live Nation as his promoter to do so," writes U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer. "As Ozzy points out, this take on the allegations doesn't necessarily make AEG's actions less anticompetitive. But it is arguably different from what is pleaded in the complaint. … In any event, it is clear that the complaint alleges that Ozzy personally suffers damage in a fairly direct and non-speculative way by not being able to play in his preferred venues and that the damage stems from the kind of conduct that antitrust law is intended to prevent. AEG is alleged to be using market power in one market to foreclose competition in another through a tying arrangement. That tie allegedly harms Ozzy by constricting his choices on where to play his concerts regardless of whether Ozzy's or his concert promoter's name is on the contract with the venue."

Fischer also rules that Osbourne has adequately alleged he's been coerced. No matter what the exact restraint on him and the possibility Osbourne may have had a route toward playing his preferred venue, the judge again cites the push to get him to drop his promoter.

The judge also says the complaint sufficiently defines the relevant market — venues capable of hosting his shows — for antitrust purposes.

"Finally, a plaintiff does not need to show anticompetitive effects in a per se tying case, but Ozzy has nonetheless made numerous plausible allegations of how competition is harmed, most obviously through the restriction of competition in the tied market," Fischer continues in addressing one last argument from AEG.