New York State Legislature Passes New Law to Criminalize Ticket Bots
This past Friday, the New York State Legislature voting in favor of criminalizing the use of ticket buying bots, which had previously received only civil penalties. The use of ticket bots has been going on for many years, such that it has become expected that many shows – concerts, sports games, and theatrical events – sell out immediately upon the release of tickets, condemning the average consumer to paying exorbitantly high re-sale prices to purchase from ticket brokers. The impossibility of ticket brokers scarfing up so much available ticket inventory without the use of a computerized tool has been generally overlooked. Until now, if caught in such an act, a ticket broker would pay a fine – and this was considered a cost of doing business. With the billions of dollars that a lucrative ticket broker business could bring, these civil penalties barely made a dent in their business plan. Therefore, something needed to be done to counteract these practices. With the new law, the crime of selling or trying to sell tickets that were purchased with ticket bots is now considered a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $1,000 and/or one year in prison.
On June 7, 2016, the writer, composer, and star of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, published an op-ed in The New York Times entitled “Stop the Bots from Killing Broadway.” More than any other show in recent history, Hamilton is renowned for how difficult it is to score a ticket at anywhere near a reasonable price. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who prides himself in being a voice of the people, would not watch this occur silently. Not only do ticket bots prevent the production itself from benefitting financially from the steep ticket price hikes, they also make it incredibly difficult for anyone other than the most wealthy or patient to have a chance to see this show. Miranda made a strong case for the New York Assembly to pass a bill that had previously been passed by the New York State Senate, which would make it illegal for ticket brokers to knowingly resell tickets bought with bots – that law would have made the crime a felony. With significant pushback from the Assembly, the lawmakers decided to compromise rather than let the issue fade away. The compromise was such that the crime is not considered a felony, but rather a Class A Misdemeanor.
Only Applies to Brokers Based in New York, Doesn’t Require Disclosure of Original Price
While the law will certainly dissuade certain brokers from engaging in these illegal practices, there are many caveats to the law that will still allow the practice to go on. First of all, the law only applies to brokers or individuals who are based in the state of New York. As most brokers are based outside of New York, these law would not be as enforceable for them. Furthermore, the original Senate-backed law included a provision that would require all brokers to disclose the price that they originally paid for the ticket, listed alongside the re-sale price. This would have highlighted for consumers the gap between the original sale and re-sale price, perhaps dissuading them from purchasing tickets at insanely escalated prices. However, the compromise passed in the Assembly did not include this provision. Nevertheless, the new law does allow Ticketmaster and Hamilton to cancel tickets that they figure were bought by bots. Now that they have the law on their side, they cannot be sued by ticket brokers. Still, this is only one of many issues brought to the forefront by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who released an investigative report earlier this year on many underlying problems with the ticket re-selling business.
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