Moving with unaccustomed speed and rare bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives took seven days to pass, by unanimous consent, a bill to outlaw the use of so-called Ticket Bots—computer programs that buy up the best seats to Broadway shows, concerts, and other events within moments of their going on sale.
The act passed the U.S. Senate, also by unanimous consent, November 30. The “Bots Act of 2016” (S.3183 full text) (status), which would be used to suppress cyber scalpers, now heads to the desk of President Barack Obama to be signed into law.. The bill was introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) but has been championed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who had urged the House to act before the end of 2016—before newly elected House members take office in January.
“No ifs ands or bots about it,” Schumer said in a prepared statement December 1, “now that the ‘BOTS Act’ has passed the Senate, it’s up to the House to sweep the stage of bots so that actual fans can enjoy Hamilton, other hit Broadway shows and major concerts. These bots have gotten completely out of control and their dominance in the market is denying countless fans access to shows and concerts and driving prices through the roof. This legislation will finally crack down on online hackers and scalpers that use ‘bots’ to purchase thousands of tickets in a matter of milli-seconds, and then sell them at outrageously-inflated prices.”
Schumer continued, “By eliminating ‘bots’ and slapping hackers with a hefty fine, we can better ensure those who want to attend shows in the future will not have to pay outrageous, unfair prices. I hope that the House will pass this legislation before the end of the year so that Broadway and concertgoers in New York and across the country have equal access to these tickets.”
The National Association of Ticket Brokers told Playbill.com they hailed the Congressional action. ”When tickets go on sale, people should not be competing with ticket-hoarding software to make a purchase. The professional resale companies that are part of NATB support efforts in states and in Washington, DC to stop the use of nefarious software bots. We look forward to Congress continuing its work by addressing other practices that harm consumers and the function of an open secondary resale market for tickets.”
New York State criminalized use of the programs earlier this year, but the effort would have limited effectiveness if the operators of the “bots” simply moved their bases of operations to another state.
In a spring 2016 press conference at Sardi's theatrical restaurant in Times Square, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin announced their support for Schumer‘s sponsorship of legislation that would impose a $16,000 fine on those who use automated ticket purchasing software to purchase tickets online.
The Broadway megahit Hamilton has been a special target of the bots, making the already-scarce tickets even scarcer, then reselling them at a steep markup.
Schumer was quoted as saying, “If the starting price for a ticket to Hamilton is $189, but the bots have been selling them from anywhere from $600 to $2,000 a ticket — just think how much money the people make.”
New York State‘s legislation was prompted by an investigation by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that targeted the abuses by the operators of the bots.
“It’s plain and simple,” Schumer said, “we need to sweep the stage of bots so that actual fans can enjoy Hamilton, other hit Broadway shows and major concerts.... Hackers and other bad actors are taking advantage of fans and we need to put a stop to it. These bots have gotten completely out of control and their dominance in the market is driving up prices for music and sports fans as well as tourists and theater-goers. This new legislation, now supported by Lin-Manuel Miranda, will crack down on online hackers and scalpers that use ‘bots’ to purchase thousands of tickets in a matter of milli-seconds, and then sell them at outrageously-inflated prices.”
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