Blackburn, other TN congressmen, push ban on robot ticketing

Computer hacking software that instantly gobbles up online tickets for live entertainment events would be a civil offense under bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, reports The Tennessean.

The Better Online Ticket Sales Act would make the use of so-called ticket bots an “unfair and deceptive act”, enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission. It also would allow individual ticket buyers to sue for damages if they’re frozen out because someone used a bot.

“It is time to end these anti-consumer tactics and level the online ticket playing field for fans of live entertainment,” Blackburn, R-Brentwood, said in prepared statement.

The proposal is co-sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis; Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville; and Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg.

Scalpers have used bots to evade computer security and buy mass quantities of tickets to concerts and other live events immediately after the tickets go on sale.

Note: Rep. Blackburn’s press release is below.

News release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) introduced the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act of 2016.
This legislation would make the use of computer hacking software (BOTS) to circumvent security measures employed by ticketing sites an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, and a crime under Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It would also create a private right of action whereby parties harmed by bots can sue in federal court to recover damages.

“Scalpers have been taking advantage of computer hacking software (BOTS) to circumvent restrictions put in place by online ticketing agents for years. They purchase tickets in mass quantities and sell them at a drastically inflated rate, which unfairly prices most fans of live entertainment out of the market. The entertainers go to great lengths to build relationships with their fans and ensure that they will have access to shows, but scalpers are decimating this experience. The BOTS Act will allow FTC enforcement, criminal sanctions, and a private right of action to be brought against proven online scalpers. It is time to end these anti-consumer tactics and level the online ticket playing field for fans of live entertainment,” said Blackburn.

“People work hard and save money to see a performance or a game, and they shouldn’t be prohibited from buying a ticket online because a computer program beats them to the punch. It’s not right. This legislation puts a stop to this unseemly practice at its root, prohibiting use or sale of bot software and empowering consumers to fight back against price manipulators in the ticket industry. I thank Representative Blackburn for her leadership on this issue, as well as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has already begun to crack down on this problem at the state level,” said Tonko.

Organizations supporting this bipartisan legislation include The Recording Academy, Pandora-Ticketfly, Live Nation Entertainment, as well as the Tennessee Sports and Entertainment Industry Coalition.