H.R. 5104, Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act

H.R. 5104

Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act

Date
September 12, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On­­­­ Monday, September 12, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5104, the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5104 was introduced on April 28, 2016, by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which ordered the bill reported by voice vote on July 13, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5104 makes the use of computer hacking software to circumvent security measures employed by ticketing sites an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Specifically, the legislation makes it unlawful for any person to sell or offer to sell software that: is primarily designed or produced to circumvent technological measures limiting purchases made via computerized event ticketing systems; has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than for such circumvention; or is marketed by a person as software intended for such circumvention.

Further, the bill makes it unlawful to use such software in violation of a ticket seller’s posted ticket purchasing rules and for a person to sell any ticket that has been knowingly obtained using circumvention software.

Background

Hacking software, referred to as “bots”, are sophisticated computer programs often used by scalpers and brokers to purchases large quantities of tickets to popular events in a matter of seconds, only to then resell them through derivative sites at much higher prices. A report done by the New York Attorney General’s office concluded “the average fan vying to purchase a ticket to a popular concert has little hope of competing against brokers, many of whom use illegal and unfair means to purchase tickets.”[1]

Prevention methods such as the CAPTCHA test (“Completely Automated Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) and ticket limits have not proven to be effective. Bots have proven they can easily bypass the blurry images, and ticket limit loopholes still permit users to make multiple transactions.[2]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “Scalpers have been taking advantage of computer hacking software (BOTS) to circumvent restrictions put in place by online ticketing agents for years. They purchase tickets in mass quantities and sell them at a drastically inflated rate, which unfairly prices most fans of live entertainment out of the market. 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. The BOTS Act will allow FTC enforcement and a private right of action to be brought against proven online scalpers. It is time to end these anti-consumer tactics and level the online ticket playing field for fans of live entertainment.”[3]

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[1] See http://www.ag.ny.gov/pdfs/Ticket_Sales_Report.pdf at 15.
[2] See http://www.forbes.com/sites/hayleycuccinello/2016/01/29/brokers-bots-insiders-why-the-average-fan-has-no-chance-to-buy-tickets-at-face-value/#44bc44edfdcd
[3] See Rep. Blackburn’s press release, “Blackburn, Tonko Lead Bipartisan Effort to Level Online Ticket Sales Playing Field for Fans of Live Entertainment” April 29, 2016.

Cost

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently unavailable.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.