On Tuesday, the US Senate considered legislation that would address ticket bots, the same bill that was passed on Monday in the House of Representatives.
Apparently Congress is trying to do some work in the oh-so-brief amount of time legislators have between returning from their month-long summer vacation and the November election. Who would have thought it would be something for concert goers and sports fans?
The Better Online Ticket Sales Act (BOTS Act) would prohibit the use of ticket-buying software programs that are known to hijack online box offices the moment a hot ticket goes onsale. The bill also defines the use of these bots as an “unfair or deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, which would make use thereof a federal crime and would then allow any consumer believed to have faced damages as a result of bots could file a claim in federal court to recoup losses.
The bill has support from some pretty big names in the entertainment industry: Ticketmaster, LiveNation, the Recording Academy and the Future of Music Coalition among others.
In a statement published when the bill was first introduced in February 2015, FMC says “We’re generally supportive of measures that help ensure that tickets end up in fans’ hands, rather than scalpers, and that money paid for live events ends up in artists’ and promoters’ pockets rather than opportunistic resellers who contribute nothing to the concert experience.”
However, while bots are damaging, “there are a number of other issues that would need to be addressed to really tackle predatory resale practices. Ticketmaster, for example, often holds back a large quantity of tickets so they can be sold at inflated prices.”
“When tickets go on sale, people should be competing with one another, and not ticket-hording software, to make a purchase,” says Gary Adler, the group’s executive director and counsel.
He thanks Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) for introducing the legislation and hosting the hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security. “Bots have gained lots of attention and as we have long advocated, lawmakers should work to crack down on them. We support this action, but it is important to appreciate that bots are merely one part of a bigger set of problems that begin in the preliminary ticket market controlled by teams, artists, venues and large ticket issuers. To truly protect consumers, legislation should go beyond just address bots and require greater transparency to protect the secondary resale system where ticketholders can buy, sell and transfer their tickets free of restrictions,” Adler says.
NATB has its own set of guidelines and practices for ticket buyers and sellers, the Protect Ticket Rights initiative, which “draws attention to efforts underway in many different forms that restrict the purchase, sale and transfer of tickets.”
Omri Iluz, the company’s CEO, says the legislation is “one way to ensure that Internet ecommerce would be safeguarded from cyber raiders” if passed. “Strong legislative deterrents combined with pro-active security technology should be used to ensure the rights of consumer to purchase tickets to any show, event or for other purposes for a fair price. It would also clear the way for online ecommerce websites to interact with true customers.”
And in a statement released by Sen. Moran’s office, Katie Peters, head of public policy for Pandora-Ticketfly, says that “Scalpers siphon off nearly $5 billion in concert ticket revenue every year, hurting people across the music ecosystem, from fans and artists to their local concert venues and promoters. We applaud Senator Moran for introducing this legislation to make sure those who create and take part in amazing events are properly rewarded. It’s important for lawmakers to act swiftly on this to help create a music economy that works for everyone.”
Whether the bill progresses any further is anyone’s guess. We’ll keep an eye out for any changes.