Recording Academy Gets Tough on Grammy Awards Ticket Scalping

Adele Grammy Award Stage - H 2013
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Adele Grammy Award Stage - H 2013

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has a number of tricks up its sleeve in its efforts to stop ticket scalping of the Grammy Awards. Ahead of this year's ceremony on Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Recording Academy has brought a lawsuit that showcases the technology and law used to crack down on scalping.

The target of the latest lawsuit is the Hollywood Entertainment Group and an individual named Craig Banaszewski. If his name sounds at all familiar to readers, it may be because he's been in legal disputes over awards shows before. A decade ago, he reached a settlement after being sued for selling tickets to the Oscars. More recently, he's been accused of deceiving an entertainment lawyer into selling premium tickets to the 2013 Grammy Awards.

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In the latter dispute, those who bought tickets from Banaszewski's company never got into the Grammy Awards that year because the serial numbers on the tickets were "red-flagged."

According to a complaint filed in California federal court on Tuesday, even though Banaszewski's company, also doing business as VIP Concierge, has agreed in the past to not sell tickets to prior Grammy event, it has been attempting to sell tickets to this year's event.

So if extra attention to serial numbers isn't enough to stop scalping, what are some of the other methods?

  • The Recording Academy evidently holds a trademark to the phrase, "Music's Biggest Night," and Banaszewski is being sued for allegedly making "direct and indirect references" to the mark to confuse consumers.
  • Not only does the Recording Academy say its Gramophone Logo is copyrighted and being exploited by Banaszewski, but the complaint claims copyright infringement from photographs being used by defendants of prior Grammy Awards events. Among the claimed copyrights are images of Macklemore in the press room, Katy Perry and Paul McCartney performing separately, and Jay Z and Rihanna accepting an award.
  • Grammy Awards tickets are said to be distributed on a restricted basis only to dues-paying members, promotional and sponsorship partners. The lawsuit claims that the scalping creates a likelihood of confusion as to whether the Recording Academy is endorsing and approving the sale as well as interfering with its goodwill and reputation by interfering with the glamour and exclusivity associated with the awards ceremony.
  • The Recording Academy also makes sure the tickets are printed with language emphasizing their nontransferable nature. So when their members sell the tickets to the scalpers, that rises to breach of contract. As to the defendants in this case, they are being sued for tortiously interfering with those contracts.
  • And when the scalpers sell the tickets to third parties, that's alleged to rise to unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of California's business and professional code. The buyers, says the plaintiff, are being misled about not being kicked out of a private event.
  • Then again, maybe those who buy tickets from scalpers know the risks. Alas, Banaszewski is also being sued for inducement of trespass.

The Recording Academy, represented by Sandra Crawshaw-Sparks and Jennifer Jones at Proskauer Rose, seeks to restrain the companies working with Banaszewski from pretty much anything to do with the Grammy Awards and make him pay punitive damages too.

Twitter: @eriqgardner