New York State Senate Seeks to Stop Scalpers

—by Conor Tallet

Sources: S.B. S6931C, 2015-2016 Reg. Sess. (N.Y. 2016); Andrew J. Lanza, Senate Passes Lanza’s Bill to Help Stop “Bots” from Ruining Consumers’ Chances of Buying Concert and Other Event Tickets (May 25, 2016) https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/andrew-j-lanza/senate-passes-lanzas-bill-help-stop-bots-ruining-consumers-chances; Jim Zarroli, Can’t Buy A Ticket To That Concert You Want To See? Blame Bots, NPR.ORG, (Jan. 28, 2016) http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/28/464708137/cant-buy-a-ticket-to-that-concert-you-want-to-see-blame-bots.

Abstract: Ticket bots pose a threat to the music and entertainment industry because they allow individuals to purchase mass quantities of tickets and sell them at a large premium above face value on secondary websites such as StubHub. This creates artificially inflated ticket prices for concerts and events that is threatening the entire way an average consumer can get their hands on tickets. In order to combat this, the New York State Senate passed a bill in an attempt to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage that ticket bots possess over the average consumer.

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Have you ever attempted to buy on-sale tickets for the Rolling Stones, World Series, or any other popular event? If yes, then chances are you have encountered the difficulty and frustration associated with purchasing tickets through Live Nation or Ticketmaster. The normal fan would ideally like to get the closest seat to the game or concert that they can, but often wind up getting nosebleed seats through the on-sale period. Why is it just so difficult and competitive to get your hands on good seats for the hottest band or sporting event? Ticket bots.

Ticket bots are a type of computer software that allows individuals to circumvent security measures on ticket retailing websites and scoop up the best seats in the house. These individuals are not only getting the best tickets, but ticket bots also allow the user to purchase large quantities of the best tickets in the venue. According to National Public Radio, when a bot bypasses the security measures on a site like Ticketmaster, the “[v]endors can acquire large numbers of tickets quickly by using multiple IP addresses.” This is an enormous problem plaguing the music and entertainment industry that is artificially driving up prices to events. For example, in some instances a single bot can acquire as many as 1,000 tickets at a time and sell each ticket at a steep premium on resale websites like StubHub. As a result, ticket scalpers are reaping serious profits from this devious tactic at the expense of die-hard fans.

This isn’t your typical case of supply and demand economics, but is a “fixed game,” according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Thus, the New York State Senate is attempting to deter the use of bots in the ticket business by passing bill S6931C. Senator Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island) first introduced this bill in May 2016 to level out the playing field and give every buyer a fair shot at purchasing tickets for an event. Specifically, the bill seeks to “[p]rohibit the use or sale of computer software to circumvent security measures or access control systems that ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for a particular event.”

Put simply, the goal of the bill is to stop unfair competitive advantages of ticket bots by imposing civil and criminal penalties. The criminal penalties associated with this bill include “a Class A misdemeanor charge for first time offenders, followed by a Class E felony for repeat offenders.” In addition, fines imposed for violation of this bill run from $750 to $1,500 for each violation. The bill has been passed by the Senate and now rests in the hands of the Assembly and ultimately Governor Cuomo.

Bill S6931C is just beginning to scratch the surface on this new and important issue affecting the music and entertainment industry. It will be interesting to see this bill in effect if it passes through the Assembly and aligned into place by Governor Cuomo in New York. Will it be enough to deter ticket bots and give all consumers a fair chance at purchasing tickets for the next big Carrier Dome event? Or will the interstate commerce nature of ticket and event sales snowball into a more prominent problem best equipped by the federal government to address? Only time will tell.

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