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Barack Obama signs US ticket touting bots ban into law

By | Published on Friday 16 December 2016

Ticket touts

Your old mucker Barack Obama has found time in his busy schedule of wondering what the fuck’s going to happen to his entire frickin country as of 20 Jan next year to sign into law the previously reported new legislation that will outlaw the use of ticket tout bots in the US.

As previously noted, attempts to regulate or limit the resale of tickets online in the US have generally occurred at a state level, with New York State probably having done the most work in this domain. It recently ramped up its own ban on the use of the so called bots – software that enables ticket touts to buy up large quantities of tickets from primary sites – so that using such technology could result in jail time.

However, lawmakers in Washington have been increasingly talking about banning the bots as well, very possibly because someone came up with the name the ‘Better Online Ticket Sales Act’ (yeah, that’s the BOTS Act) and couldn’t resist using it.

The new law means that the use of tout bots will be defined as an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, which will empower the FTC to pursue cases against people using such technology.

The act got Congressional approval earlier this month, while Obama gave his approval to the legislation yesterday. His press rep said that the new US-wider measure would “prohibit the circumvention of control measures used by internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for certain events”. Good times.

The bots ban is the least controversial bit of secondary ticketing regulation, in that it is generally supported by the resale sites like StubHub, Viagogo and the Ticketmaster-owned touting platforms, which otherwise oppose efforts to regulate or limit the resale of tickets for profit by third parties.

Proving that fact, Live Nation’s Ticketmaster was quick to welcome the passing of the BOTS Act Stateside, telling reporters: “On behalf of artists, venues, teams, and especially fans, Ticketmaster is pleased that the BOTS Act is now a federal law. Ticketmaster worked closely with legislators to develop the BOTS Act and we believe its passage is a critical step in raising awareness and regulating the unauthorised use of bots”.

Though cynics – and I met a cynic once – might argue that the secondary sites supporting the bots ban is mainly a diversion tactic, to keep other forms of regulation off the agenda. Because while bots are definitely part of the problem, ticket touts have other ways to access large quantities of tickets to in-demand events, either by simply employing a team of individuals to log-on and buy them, or by getting a brown envelope stuffed full with tickets off helpful contacts within the music industry.

Still, the anti-tout brigade see the ban of bots as a good first step. Here in the UK it is hoped that a similar new law will come into effect via the in-development Digital Economy Act, despite government ministers saying the use of such software may already be illegal under the Computer Misuse Act.