Congress Moves Forward On Better Online Ticket Sales Act

The Better Online Ticket Sales Act saw progress this week, as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass their version of the bill by voice vote on September 12. After passing the House the bill then moved to the U.S. Senate, and on September 13 the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security subcommittee of the Commerce, Science, & Transportation committee held a hearing taking testimony on the bill from entertainment and sporting industry representatives.

The bill, known as H.R. 5104 in the House of Representatives (a previous version was known as H.R. 708) was written in order to try and combat ticket scalpers and others who use software in order to buy up the best tickets for sporting events and concerts and immediately list them for resale at much higher prices.

In a statement, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), chairman of the subcommittee, said,

Whether it’s a Garth Brooks concert in Wichita, a KU Basketball game in Lawrence, or the most hyped and prestigious Broadway show of all time – Hamilton – the digital age has made acquiring tickets easier than ever. But an age-old issue, ticket scalping, has been made even more prevalent by advances in technology. When you’re trying to pick up tickets for the next big event, you’re no longer only competing against other eager fans when the tickets are released. You are now forced to compete against an army of sophisticated “ticket bots” that overwhelm the ticketing website through brute force, scoop up as many tickets as possible, and then resell them on the secondary market at a significant markup.

Bots harm everyone in the live entertainment ecosystem – from performers to fans. Ticket issuers, like Ticketfly, have to invest heavily in server capacity and extra security measures to deal with the artificially-generated stress that the bots produce. And when the site doesn’t seem to work properly, or the event is listed as sold out seconds after tickets go on sale – consumers get frustrated with the ticket issuer or the venue.

Witnesses included Jeremy Liegl, Associate General Counsel for Pandora and Ticketfly; Tod Cohen, General Counsel for StubHub; Bob Bowlsby, Commissioner of the Big 12 conference; and Jeffrey Seller, producer of the Broadway musical Hamilton.

A link to the video of the hearing as well as the full testimony of witnesses may be found here. The text of the bill itself may be found here.

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