BOTS Legislation Is A Victory For Artists and Fans
Update: The President signed the BOTS Act into law on December 14, following Senate passage of the bill on November 30 and final passage by the House of Representatives on December 7. Academy members lobbied for the bill at GRAMMYs in My District.
New legislation backed by The Recording Academy designed to stop the devastating impact of ticket “bots” on music fans, performers, and the live entertainment industry has made much-needed progress through Congress, moving closer to becoming federal law. On Sept. 13, the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act passed the House of Representatives; on Sept. 27, companion legislation was passed by the Senate Commerce Committee. Now the bill awaits consideration by the full Senate. The House bill, H.R. 5104, was introduced by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). The Senate bill, S. 3183, was introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.).
Upon introduction of the bill, Daryl Friedman, Chief Industry, Government, & Member Relations Officer of The Recording Academy, praised the legislation, explaining that “The relationship that forms when an artist connects to a fan through his or her music is at the core of what makes music special. Artists try to keep their tickets affordable for their fans, but scalpers move in and drive up the price by using automated ticket ‘bots’ to make it harder for fans to buy tickets to see their favorite artist perform live.” He concluded that the BOTS Act will enable artists to “offer concert tickets to fans in the manner that they want, ensuring that the special connection between music lovers and music makers continues.” With House passage won, Academy members who participated in GRAMMYs in My District on October 26 lobbied Senate offices for passage.
The existence of bots is rooted in advances in Internet technology. As online ticket services sprang up to facilitate the sales of admission to live events across the country, ticket scalpers and third-party brokers also went digital, giving rise to automated online “bots,” computer programs that scoop up the lion’s share of available tickets and re-sell them for inflated prices. Fans who go online to buy tickets from a venue or legitimate ticket sellers like TicketMaster would discover that seats for the hottest events would be sold out within minutes of the sale window opening because of bots. Third-party sellers could then offer the same tickets for 30 to 1,000 times the original ticket price. By 2013 it was estimated that some 60 percent of tickets to the most in-demand events were snatched up by bots.
Not only have scalpers been able to enrich themselves through these illegal activities, there are additional issues when scalpers fail to resell tickets, leaving large blocks of seats empty during performances.
These automated bots have prevented fans from fair access to live events, hijacking the industry with their relentless and parasitic activity. Several companies have tried to beat the bots by changing how ticket buyers engage online during the purchasing process. Their efforts have led to those Captcha boxes of squiggly lines and multi-font words and letters that humans can identify but robots cannot. However, these innovations haven’t stopped hackers from redesigning bot programs to overcome security hurdles to continue hoarding tickets.
Laws prohibiting ticket bots are on the books in more than a dozen states, including Washington, which passed anti-bot legislation in July. New legislation making the use of ticket bots a criminal offense was just enacted in the state of New York, where the issue is especially pressing not only for live concert and sporting events but for Broadway shows. The move comes after the state’s attorney general delivered a report in January citing an incident where a single broker purchased 1,012 tickets to a 2015 U2 concert at Madison Square Garden within one minute.
The Better Online Ticket Sales Act will elevate this issue to the federal level, and give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to “prohibit, as an unfair and deceptive act or practice in commerce, the sale or use of certain software to circumvent control measures used by Internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for any given event, and to provide for criminal penalties for such acts.” It would also provide state attorney generals with new authority to take action against bots as well.
Once the BOTS Act passes both chambers of Congress and is signed into law, the BOTS Act will restore a measure of sanity and fairness to the live concert and event industry, allowing fans access to affordable tickets to see their favorite artists. And it can’t happen soon enough.