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Hackers Are Using Bots To Scoop Up Thousands Of Concert Tickets, Which Are Then Sold On Other Ticket Websites At Much Higher Prices - Upwards of $5,000 According to Some Sites 

Schumer Introduces New Senate Bill That Finally Cracks Down On Hackers Being Able to Use Bots To Steal Popular Tickets Before True Fans Have A Chance To Even Turn On Their Computer 

Schumer: Congress Needs To Pull Plug On Ticket Bots

Standing at the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial in Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today said cyber scalpers are using bots to scoop up thousands of popular concert tickets, to resell on other websites for outrageous prices. Schumer said that the recent incident involving cyber scalpers using computer programs, called “bots,” to purchase thousands of tickets for Bruce Springsteen concert left thousands of Springsteen fans in Rochester and Upstate New York ticket-less. Schumer therefore announced he will introduce legislation to crack down on bots, helping to fix the broken system of ticket purchasing.

“Hackers and other bad actors are taking advantage of fans and we need to put a stop to it. These bots have gotten completely out of control and are now threatening the entire live music industry as well as the ability of fans to purchase tickets at a fair price. That is why I am introducing legislation that would crack down on online hackers and scalpers that use bots to purchase thousands of tickets in a matter of seconds, and then sell them at overly inflated and ridiculous prices to consumers. By eliminating bots and slapping hackers with a hefty fine, we can better ensure those who want to attend shows like Bruce Springsteen in the future will not have to pay outrageous, unfair prices,” said Schumer. “I am pushing my colleagues in Congress to pass this legislation, because there should be ‘No Surrender’ when it comes to serving the concertgoers who deserve equal access to these tickets.”

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 New York 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 ticket-less and drives a resultant secondary ticket sale market, where tickets are sold at astronomical prices that most fans cannot afford. Schumer noted that Rochester Blue Cross Arena and others have taken steps to ensure that bots have as little opportunity as possible to buy up tickets, including putting buyers in a “waiting room” and requiring human identification throughout the buying process. However, sophisticated hackers continue to adapt and cause problems for the ticketing industry.

Schumer said this scenario played out most recently in February in Rochester, when Bruce Springsteen fans looking to purchase tickets for his February 27 show at the Rochester Blue Cross Arena were unable to do so because many of the tickets were sold out within 40 minutes. In a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle report from February 28, it was suggested the culprit was likely, once again, the use of bots to purchase all of the tickets and then sell them on secondary websites. But reportedly fans were seeing tickets being sold on secondary websites at prices up to $5,000. In Western New York, bots bought up tickets for the October 2015 Paul McCartney concert at the First Niagara Center in just minutes as well, leaving fans frustrated and facing prices of nearly $8,000 on secondary websites. Schumer said there is no fair way for a fan to purchase a ticket online if they have to compete with bots that are capable of auto-dialing 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.

As a result, Schumer is introducing legislation that would prohibit the unfair and deceptive act of using software, including bots, for the purposes of circumventing measures used by online ticket sellers to ensure concertgoers are given a fair chance to buy tickets. 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. Schumer said violations of his legislation would be punishable with fines of up to $16,000 per violation, per day.  There is a bipartisan companion bill currently pending in the House of Representatives, called the Better On-line Ticket Sales Act of 2014, or the BOTS Act; Schumer is pushing colleagues in both houses to swiftly pass this legislation in order to increase fairness for consumers in the ticket-purchasing industry.

Schumer was joined by representatives from the Rochester Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial and the Rochester Broadway Theatre League.

John Parkhurst, COO of the Rochester Broadway Theatre League said, “The use of bots doesn’t just hurt large arenas but harms theatre and club venues too. It impacts the artists, producers and promoters who are striving to deliver a wonderful and memorable experience’s to our community at affordable ticket prices.  Ensuring the arts and live theatre can be accessible and open for all, means preventing the use of these online bots that deprive theatre and concert goers from world-class performances staged right here in Rochester. We applaud Senator Schumer for his efforts to help protect our audiences.”

Jeff Calkins, General Manager of the Rochester Blue Cross Arena and CMAC said, “We’ve seen it here recently with the sold out Bruce Springsteen show, ticket ‘bots’ are gaming the system, scooping up tickets to resell at higher prices before concert goers have a chance to buy them.  We appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to crack down on bots and help level the playfield so that fans aren’t locked out, or priced out, of seeing their favorite performers.”

Farmington, NY resident Laura Opiela, who, with her husband, tried to buy tickets online as soon as they went on sale at 10:00 a.m., reported to Schumer’s office, “Being big Bruce Springsteen fans, my husband logged in online.  He was in the queue and all set to buy the tickets but by the time he got through the queue all the tickets were gone.  I believe bots were to blame because not only were 11,000 tickets gone in minutes, but other websites were still selling tickets for hundreds of dollars more.  It's very frustrating that there is not a level playing field for genuine fans who play by the rules to buy tickets.”

Companies like the Rochester Blue Cross Arena and Ticketmaster, whose parent company is Live Nation Entertainment, 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 also 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.” Therefore, Schumer said his legislation would help crack down on this practice, which hurts both concertgoers and ticket companies, and he will be pushing his colleagues in Congress to pass this legislation without delay.