Prestige Entertainment Facing Law Suit for Bot Activity
On October 2, 2017, a federal law suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff Ticketmaster, against the defendant Prestige Entertainment, which also goes by the name “Renaissance Ventures”. According to the suit, Ticketmaster alleges that Prestige Entertainment used illegal bot software to purchase an exorbitant number of tickets to the Broadway musical Hamilton, in addition to other events, in order to mark up the prices for resale. Specifically, the suit states that Prestige, along with its affiliates, used a total of 9,047 separate Ticketmaster accounts in order to make 313,528 ticket purchases over the course of 20 months. Of these, 30,000 tickets were to Hamilton, which accounted for approximately 30% of the Hamilton tickets available on Ticketmaster at that time. In such a scenario, Ticketmaster’s server was inundated with ticket requests, preventing flesh-and-blood humans to purchase tickets to the coveted event. In addition, the suit alleges that Prestige put many of these tickets on temporary reserve, blockading customers from purchasing tickets that had not even yet been technically purchased. This creates an artificial shortage of tickets, significantly diminishing the inventory of tickets available to consumers. Especially when deployed during the first sale of an event, this rapid, excessive, and repeated reserve request prevents customers from accessing a level playing field. Furthermore, to further advantage themselves over consumers, the suit states that Prestige rented high-speed internet and storage units from colocation facilities, which gave the bots an edge over customers using traditional service providers. As to their other offenses, the suit alleges that Prestige used methods to circumvent CAPTCHA codes, the common word duplication tests meant to prevent robots from accessing forms, by using specialized software and CAPTCHA “farms,” where these tests are presented to low-paid humans, often in India, to solve for them.
Not the First Instance of Prestige’s Brush with the Law
While Hamilton has been fighting bot activity for years, Ticketmaster has finally stepped up and sued Prestige Entertainment on their behalf. The apparent final straw was a 2015 Las Vegas fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, for which Ticketmaster discovered that Prestige had bought up the majority of the tickets. After that incident, Ticketmaster began their own investigation into the matter, and discovered that Prestige had used multiple credit cards, IP addresses, and email addresses to evade Ticketmaster’s order limits and hide the identities of purchasers. They also used five colocation centers to make the purchases. At that time, Ticketmaster sent Prestige a cease and desist letter, but the company continued to pursue reportedly “illegal” activities, leading Ticketmaster to the current lawsuit. Prior to this event, in 2014, Prestige was also accused of buying 1,012 tickets to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden in one minute, and then selling the tickets at markups averaging 49%. The cahrge is that this is a violation of New York’s anti-scalping law, as well as fraud and breach of contract. In May 2017, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that legal settlements had been made with five companies accused of illegal bot activity, Prestige among them. Of the $4.2 million in payouts necessitated by these settlements, Prestige Entertainment was by far the greatest offender; they had to pay $3.35 million to settle the allegations. Nevertheless, following the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight incident, Ticketmaster launched its own investigation, leading to the current lawsuit. As for the impact on Hamilton, the newly implemented Verified Fan program is an attempt to limit the practices of ticket-buying bots, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Springsteen on Broadway are additional shows that have been using the scheme. After Hamilton and Springsteen began to use the service, there was reportedly a significant reduction in the number of tickets appearing on illegal resale sites, although there are still some tickets popping up. Harry Potter has just begun to use the service, with tickets having gone on sale to Verified Fans for the first time earlier this week. The service is far from stellar, with fans complaining about the many hoops that they are forced to jump through to purchase tickets.
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