Schumer announces bipartisan ‘BOTS Act’ just passed by Senate, urges House to act
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Senate passage of the “BOTS Act,” federal legislation that would crack down on cyber scalpers using bots to scoop up thousands of popular Broadway, theater and concert tickets to resell on other websites at outrageous prices. Earlier this year, Schumer teamed up with award-winning composer, lyricist, performer and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to highlight the need for this legislation. Schumer said that, most recently, cyber scalpers have been using online computer programs, known as “bots,” to purchase “Hamilton” tickets and reselling them anywhere between $500 to upwards of $2,000 per ticket, up from approximately $189 per ticket. Schumer’s legislation would help fix the broken system of ticket purchasing. Now that the bill has passed the Senate, Schumer is calling on the House of Representatives to act before the end of this year.
“No ifs, ands or bots about it, 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,” said Schumer. “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 milliseconds, 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 Broadway League applauds Sen. Schumer’s leadership and for making the ‘BOTS Act’ happen in such a timely manner. Theatergoers from around the world are being defrauded by excessive mark-ups on tickets to their favorite shows, and we are pleased this legislation will give law enforcement and the Broadway community the ability to take steps to prevent this situation from affecting our patrons,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League.
According to The New York Times, between 2012 and 2014, just three scalpers bought more than 140,000 tickets to New York shows using bots. Scalpers using bots have purchased more than 20,000 tickets to “Hamilton.” According to the Times, scalpers earned more than $15.5 million from the 100 “Hamilton” performances before Miranda’s final performance. Schumer said cyber scalpers are making millions of dollars each year using bots to rip off fans, while also keeping millions of dollars in ticket revenue away from artists and performers and all those who work on these live productions.
Schumer explained that “bots” are sophisticated computer programs often used by nefarious scalpers and brokers that plague the online sale of concert tickets. According to a 2013 Times report, while bots were once merely a nuisance to the live music industry, they have now become arguably its most reviled foe, as they are able to snatch up popular tickets within a matter of seconds, leaving fans with no choice but to buy tickets through derivative sites at much higher prices. Schumer said this practice leaves frustrated fans ticketless and drives a resultant secondary ticket sale market, where tickets are sold at astronomical prices that most fans cannot afford.
In New York alone, hundreds of thousands of tickets are purchased any given day by scalpers using bots. For instance, at a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden, one scalper used a bot to buy more than 1,000 tickets in the first minute after tickets went on sale, even though there was a four-ticket per fan limit. Between 2012 and 2014, just three scalpers bought more than 140,000 tickets to New York shows using bots. According to Ticketmaster, an estimated 60 percent of the most desirable tickets available for sale are purchased by bots.
Schumer said there is no fair way for a consumer to purchase a ticket online if they have to compete with bots that are capable of navigating through online ticket websites and purchasing tickets in the matter of seconds, jamming up the online ticketing system and thereby leaving an unfair playing field for fans looking to purchase seats to an event or concert at the face value price.
Schumer’s legislation would prohibit the unfair and deceptive act of using mechanisms such as bots in order to scoop up tickets before consumers are given a fair chance to buy them. Schumer said this legislation would help ensure consumers are given equitable access to tickets for events in the future and are not precluded from purchasing tickets at a fair price.
Artists, musicians, theater owners and concert promoters alike have led the charge against the bots used by online hackers and scalpers in an attempt to improve the ticket-buying experience for customers and guarantee increased transparency for fans. Schumer explained that many ticket reselling companies are hurt by bots, as frustrated consumers are often directed to their websites to purchase tickets from the online scalpers at overly inflated prices. In fact, in a 2012 post by Ticketmaster, the company stated that bots “hammer our system and website, they substantially increase our technology costs, they anger our customers and they keep us from building a direct relationship with fans.” Schumer said his legislation would help crack down on this practice, which hurts both concertgoers and ticket companies.
—Information from U.S. Sen. Schumer’s office
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