Nov 13, 2023 - News

Sen. Blackburn pushes further crackdown on ticket bots

Illustration of a hand in a boxing glove versus a robot hand holding a roll of tickets.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn resumed her decade-long crusade against online ticket scalping, filing legislation earlier this month to further crack down on the use of illegal "bot" software.

Why it matters: Government scrutiny on the live music industry and online ticketing specifically is at an all-time high.

  • Thanks in large part to Taylor Swift fans who missed out on tickets to her record-setting tour, Congress held hearings and introduced a slate of legislation in the last year.
  • The Department of Justice is also reportedly pursuing a possible antitrust investigation of the industry's largest company, Live Nation.

Context: Scalpers use bot software to get around ticketing companies' security measures and buy tickets to popular concerts before reselling them at inflated prices.

  • Ticketmaster blamed bots for website problems that fans experienced last year when trying to buy tickets to Swift's tour.

Driving the news: Blackburn led the bipartisan charge to pass the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act into law in 2016.

  • The law gave the Federal Trade Commission a tool to prosecute scalpers who use bots. But since it was passed, the FTC has pursued legal action under it just once.
  • Upset by the lack of action, Blackburn and Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico filed new legislation aimed at ratcheting up its enforcement.

"People know when something is not right. Working with these artists and tour managers and hearing from fans, and then artists relaying what they hear from fans, it's what took us to this issue in the first place," Blackburn says.

How it works: The key to Blackburn and Luján's new legislation, called the Mitigating Automated Internet Networks for (MAIN) Event Ticketing Act, is creating reporting requirements so that the FTC is quickly made aware of online ticketing malfeasance.

  • The bill requires ticketing companies to report successful bot attacks directly to the FTC. It creates a new database, which will be shared with state attorneys general, where consumers can lodge complaints.
  • It also increases data security requirements for online ticketing companies and mandates a report to Congress on BOTS Act enforcement.

What she's saying: "As we did the hearings this year on the Ticketmaster issues and started to realize that indeed the FTC was not moving as aggressively as they could, or should, [we decided] that a revisit was in order," Blackburn says.

  • "It puts more teeth into the BOTS Act," she adds. "If [an online ticket seller] puts tickets up and they're having to block the bots, then the FTC needs to know about that."

Of note: The proposal has the backing of major music industry groups such as the National Independent Venue Association and Recording Industry Association of America.


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