Lawmakers strip criminal penalties from bill aimed at online ticket scalpers

Lawmakers strip criminal penalties from bill aimed at online ticket scalpers
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A House Democrat and Republican are teaming up on a bill that would give the government more powers to fight brokers who use software to buy large amounts of tickets that they can resell, often at a higher price.

But the bill no longer includes the criminal penalties that were included in a different version of the legislation.

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Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSocial media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings MORE (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced the new version of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act this week. The bill prohibits purposefully using or selling “software to circumvent a security measure, access control system, or other control or measure on a ticket seller’s Internet website that is used by the seller to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for any given event,” as well as selling a ticket obtained using that kind of software.

It also empowers the Federal Trade Commission — which can take action against “unfair and deceptive” practices — to enforce violations and let people seek civil damages for sales of tickets obtained using the software or for the sale or use of the software itself.

Event promoters have long raised alarms about the use of bots to obtain large numbers of tickets that can later be scalped on various ticket reselling websites. The software surveils websites like TicketMaster, and then quickly takes advantage of their systems to buy the tickets and bypass measures put in place to make sure that an individual is behind every purchase.

"The entertainers go to great lengths to build relationships with their fans and ensure that they will have access to shows, but scalpers are decimating this experience," said Blackburn in a release.

Measures to restrict ticket reselling have traditionally been opposed by StubHub, a division of eBay that specializes in ticket resales.

Something is absent, however, from the version of the bill introduced this week and hailed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as good for consumer protections. An earlier version of the bill, filed last year, included criminal penalties for violating the law. That bill was sent to both the House Judiciary Committee and Energy and Commerce, but never moved forward.

A spokesman for Tonko said that the lawmakers expected the version introduced this week to be referred solely to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The problems with ticket sales has long been debated in states around the country. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this week his office had reached a settlement with online ticket brokers who had been operating with a license. Five of them were also violating a state prohibition on the use of bots to buy tickets.