Lawmakers weigh ideas on curbing abuses in ticket resales

5:07 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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By Jaquetta White | The Tennessean

Supporters and opponents of a proposal that seeks to place new rules on the ticket resale market agree more than they disagree, providing some hope that the contentious battle between the sides will be resolved easily and perhaps without legislation, Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin said Tuesday following a hearing of a joint study committee of the Tennessee General Assembly on the ticketing regulation in Tennessee.

"I'm pleased to see that," Johnson said. "I'd like to parse this down to what we disagree on."

The proposal by state Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville and retiring state Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, known as the "Fairness in Ticketing Act" would require ticket brokers to register with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Registered brokers would be required to disclose the face value of tickets, the exact location of seats, the broker's refund policy and whether the ticket is already in the broker's possession, among other things. It also would prohibit the use of a venue's or artist's name or trademark in a website URL without consent. Violating the law would bring a misdemeanor charge punishable by fine.

Supporters of the Fairness in Ticketing Act -- including a coalition of more than 70 performers, concert halls, sports venues and companies like Ticketmaster -- argued Tuesday that the legislation is necessary to snuff out unscrupulous, professional scalpers, who use deceptive tactics to buy tickets in bulk and resell them.

Critics of the measure agreed Tuesday that steps should be taken to curb abuses in the resale market but said that doing so should mean enforcing existing laws against buying tickets in bulk using certain computer software.

They argued that the Fairness in Ticketing Act would strip consumers of property rights, denying them the ability to decide how they can sell or even give away tickets, while also giving Ticketmaster more power. Opposition is led by the Fan Freedom Project, an advocacy group created last year with funding from ticket reseller StubHub.

Johnson said his office will bring both sides together in meetings before the legislative session begins in January.

The matter of whether or not the proposal's definition of a ticket as a "revocable license" that can be taken away "with or without consent" will, in effect, strip individual buyers of their property rights appears to be the ongoing point of contention.

Proposal supporter Sean Henry, who heads Bridgestone Arena and the Nashville Predators, said it is not the intent of the measure to prohibit individuals from doing what they will with individual tickets. Tickets already are printed with language that refers to them as licenses, Henry said. The legislation wouldn't change that.

But Jon Potter, who leads the Fan Freedom Project, said the proposal's "soft language" is merely a disguise to distract from its true intention of dictating how, to whom and for how much buyers can resell tickets, restrictions that would benefit Ticketmaster and its resale subsidiary.

State Sen. Mae Beavers, R- Mt. Juliet, who is expected to introduce competing legislation that ensures property rights in tickets for consumers said she also intends to look further into the relationships between Ticketmaster and the parties that support the Fairness in Ticketing Act.

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