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New York criminalizes the use of concert ticket-buying bots

New legislation classifies the popular scalping tools as a Class A misdemeanor

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    It’s been a good week for concert ticket buyers in New York. First, a class action settlement with Ticketmaster led to about 50 million users receiving free tickets. Now, a new piece of legislation has finally made it harder for scalpers to get away with the use of ticket buying bots.

    Bots are computer programs that make it easy for scalpers to purchase thousands of tickets faster than a regular individual can even click the “buy” button. Though always illegal, the only course of action against those who utilized the programs was to take them to civil court. Following a three-year investigation headed by New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, the state has passed legislation that formally criminalizes bots. Now classified as a class A misdemeanor, any scalper caught using the programs could face serious fines or jail time.

    “This kind of ticket scalping has had a very negative impact on fans that want to enjoy sporting and entertainment events,” Assembly Speajer Carl Heastie, who helped pass the bill, said in a statement. “Ticket scalpers often buy up as many tickets as possible with this illegal software and then resell tickets at prices that many New Yorkers simply cannot afford. This measure aims to discourage the tactic by criminalizing this offense.”

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    Scalpers and their bots have been plaguing ticket buyers for years. Last year, over 1,000 tickets were snatched up for U2’s Madison Square Garden show in less than a minute. Back in 2011, LCD Soundsystem’s “farewell” show at the same venue sold out so impossibly fast that the band decided to throw additional shows at the smaller Terminal 5. Tickets snatched up by bots often end up on reseller websites like StubHub for massively inflated costs.

    Artists like Foo Fighters have attempted to “battle the bots” by holding special fan-only pre-sales, though Schneiderman’s report also takes aim at those practices. His investigation, which was published earlier this year, focused on why it was so hard for the general public to get tickets to their favorite performers. In addition to limited pre-sales, the report also called out the practice of artists and “event insiders” reserving large blocks of tickets for themselves. Unreasonable fees from ticketing agencies also came under fire in the investigation.

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