President Signs Bill to Combat Online Ticket-Buying Bots

On December 15, President Barack Obama signed into law the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, also known as the BOTS Act. The law will target online ticket resellers who use programs (the “bots”) to scoop up tickets to popular concerts and shows as soon as they go on sale, then flip the tickets at a much higher price. This has the effect that consumers have less access to the events they want to go to, and have to pay much more.

The law, known in the Senate as S.3183 and passed by Congress on December 8, prohibits the use of these bots to buy tickets as well as prohibits the sale of tickets obtained with this policy; violations will be considered unfair or deceptive acts or practices under the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the law gives authority to the FTC and to the states for enforcement.

Various figures in the entertainment industry have expressed their support for this and similar bills. In a Congressional hearing in May 2016 on the BOTS Act and other bills, John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications,and Fraud at the National Consumers League, called fans’ current ticket buying experience, “an exercise in frustration.” Gil Genn, testifying on behalf of the Maryland Sports and Entertainment Industry Coaltition, lauded the creation of a “dual enforcement mechanism to stop that theft,” as it would allow the FTC to enforce the law against people who use bots to hack a ticket-selling website as well as allow an artist, venue, or fan to sue a bot user under a federal standard for damages.Lin-Manuel Miranda, of “Hamilton” fame, discussed the problem in June 2016 as it related to a bill passed by the New York legislature, saying, “You shouldn’t have to fight robots just to see something you love.”

Image: Official White Photo, Pete Souza, 2014. Source White House Copyright Policy

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