Battling the ticket bots

Woman giving tickets

New bill will crack down on scalpers who use computer programs to buy tickets at unfair speeds and quantities

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to combat unfair and illegal ticket purchasing and reselling practices in New York.

The bill (S.8123/A.10713) creates new penalties for individuals who use computer software known as “ticket bots” that give scalpers an unfair advantage over the average ticket buyer.

The bill was sponsored by Bronx Democrat Marcos Crespo in the Assembly and Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza in the Senate.

This new law — which takes effect in 90 days — strengthens civil penalties and creates a new criminal penalty within the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law for using computer software to purchase tickets. Using computers to navigate Ticketmaster, Live Nation and other ticket seller websites gives scalpers an unfair advantage over those who move at human speed to purchase tickets.

For example, the ticket bots are programmed to move through the account login, security measures and purchasing steps in just fractions of a second and then perform the process repeatedly so scalpers can amass tickets for popular events.

These tickets then end up on StubHub and other ticket brokerage sites at inflated prices, which is legal in New York state.

“These unscrupulous speculators and their underhanded tactics have manipulated the marketplace and often leave New Yorkers and visitors alike with little choice but to buy tickets on the secondary market at an exorbitant mark-up,” Cuomo said. “It’s predatory, it’s wrong and, with this legislation, we are taking an important step towards restoring fairness and equity back to this multi-billion dollar industry.”

The new law expands the definition of ticket purchasing software to include the wide variety of systems used to quickly amass tickets before the general public can access them. It establishes penalties not just for the use of ticket purchasing software, but also for anyone who resells tickets they know were obtained through the use of a ticket bot.

“In recent years, it has become almost impossible to find affordable tickets – or even any tickets at all – for popular shows,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Brokers armed with illegal, high-speed ticket-buying bots have kept too many New Yorkers from attending the shows, sporting events, and cultural experiences that make New York so special.”

The law also establishes a class A misdemeanor for using ticket bots, maintaining an interest in or control of “bots,” and reselling tickets knowingly obtained with ticket bots. Violators could face substantial fines and imprisonment.

Senator Lanza says his legislation is the strongest “anti-bot” law in the nation.

“When I became chairman of the Senate Investigations Committee, I vowed to pass legislation to combat the robotic ticket broker programs that unscrupulous speculators used to rig the system and deny my constituents and fans across New York a fair chance at buying entertainment tickets,” Lanza said.