WASHINGTON – A bill that seeks to stop scalpers from using computer-hacking software to instantly gobble up online tickets for concerts and other live entertainment events has cleared the House.
The Better Online Ticket Sales Act, which passed by voice vote late Monday, would make the use of so-called ticket bots an “unfair and deceptive act” subject to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission.
The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, and Paul Tonko, D-NY, now heads to the Senate.
Scalpers often use bots to evade computer security and buy mass quantities of tickets for concerts and other live events immediately after the tickets go on sale online. They then resell the tickets at much higher prices.
“For years, ticket scalpers have been taking advantage of computer-hacking software to overwhelm online ticketing websites with requests,” Blackburn said. “These anti-consumer tactics have no place in our society, and it’s time we take action to protect fans of live entertainment."
The bill would make use of ticket-buying bots a civil offense and allow the FTC to take action against online scalpers that use them. Individual ticket buyers also could sue for damages if they are shut out because scalpers used a ticket-buying bot.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn targets online ticket bots
Fixing Tennessee’s broken live-event ticketing industry
Tennessee and other states have outlawed the use of bots, but the Tennessean reported in 2014 that no one has been convicted under the state statute. Part of the problem is confusion surrounding which agency would enforce the law if a ticket scalper from another state uses software to buy tickets in Tennessee.
Blackburn’s original version of the legislation would have made the use of ticket-buying bots a federal crime punishable by fines and imprisonment. That provision was removed under the bill that passed on Monday.
A nearly identical bill is pending in the Senate. Tonko’s office said it expects the Senate to approve the legislation and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Organizations supporting the legislation include The Recording Academy, Pandora, and Live Nation Entertainment.