Ticketmaster hitting legal venues


NASHVILLE -- Ticketmaster, the world's largest ticketing company, has fired a major shot over the bow against online ticket seller StubHub.

Ticketmaster filed a suit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against StubHub and its parent eBay, citing intentional interference with Ticketmaster's contractual rights, among other charges.

The suit centers on, but is not limited to, the Lynyrd Skynyrd/Hank Williams Jr. "Rowdy Frynds" tour. StubHub has been offering "official premium tickets" to the tour, which Ticketmaster claims violates its exclusivity contracts with venues. Ticketmaster alleges that these tickets are obtained for sale on the secondary market by threatening that future events might skip Ticketmaster buildings.

"It is clear to us that StubHub knowingly and intentionally interfered with our contracts and is selling tickets to the general public in violation of our contracts, and it had to be addressed," Ticketmaster president and CEO Sean Moriarty said in an interview.

StubHub tickets are typically sold via auction. It charges sellers 15% of the total winning bid, and buyers 10% of the winning bid, plus a handling fee.

While both StubHub and Ticketmaster are in the secondary or reselling game, this suit is more about primary sales.

"The issue in this case is these tickets posted on StubHub for a tour were tickets that were made available to the general public, and in these particular instances, we had the exclusive right with our clients," Moriarty said. "It's very obvious to us that they're selling seats in the venue directly to the general public; it doesn't get any more complicated than that."

The StubHub suit comes a day after a series of lawsuits Ticketmaster filed against three secondary ticket brokers and individuals regarding the use of automated "bots" that allegedly buy and resell tickets. Moriarty called the timing of the suits "absolutely coincidental."

In that action, defendants were named in four separate lawsuits: RMG Technologies (doing business as ticketbrokertools.com); a group of individuals in Texas operating with one common e-mail address and multiple physical addresses; a similar group of individuals in Massachusetts using the last name of Prior; and Ace Ticket Service, a national online ticket broker based in Illinois.

Bots, or automated software programs, are designed to navigate ticketing systems, including Ticketmaster, with speed and volume far beyond what a typical consumer could manage. Ticketmaster said its fraud prevention team uncovered the activity, identifying in one instance more than 3 million attempts to access Ticketmaster's system from a single IP.

Ticketmaster said it discovered about 117,000 tickets from all sorts of events as being purchased through these systems.

In regard to the StubHub suit, Ticketmaster agreements with venues or sports teams generally grant Ticketmaster the right to sell all tickets from the "sellable capacity," i.e., tickets other than season tickets or tickets that are "held back" for whatever reason.

Ticketmaster is seeking general, special and punitive damages, restitution, and a permanent injunction of impact sale or resale of tickets.

StubHub representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ray Waddell is an executive director at Billboard.