Ticketmaster Secretly Provides Scalpers With Bot Software, Brokers Claim

On the defensive for using its own bots to bypass CAPTCHA, two firms file counterclaims against the Live Nation subsidiary.
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Cast of 'Hamilton'

Who is to blame for very few cheap tickets to Hamilton?

According to Ticketmaster, the responsibility falls on ticket brokerage firms like Prestige Entertainment and Renaissance Ventures, which allegedly employ "bots" to circumvent technological restrictions aimed at ensuring a level playing field for anyone who would want to see the Broadway hit. The Live Nation subsidiary filed a lawsuit in October, alleging these two firms breached an agreement with New York's attorney general by continuing to use bots to gain an advantage. Last month, a judge rejected a motion to dismiss and held that bots designed to bypass Ticketmaster's CAPTCHA violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

On Monday, the defendants brought counterclaims, accusing Ticketmaster of creating and disseminating its own bots, and placing the blame for Hamilton ticket resells on the ticket giant itself.

Prestige says Ticketmaster's abuse of its market position extends to secondary ticket exchanges and that its adversary provides no transparency to consumers about how and why tickets wind up on one or another exchange.

Ticketmaster "alleges that many tickets to this show were purchased by bots, which it alleges deprived the public of fair access to primary exchange tickets," states the cross-complaint. "However, TM fails to mention that, on information and belief, many tickets for each show of Hamilton were in fact never placed onto the primary ticket exchange, but went directly to the secondary ticket market for resale at significantly higher prices."

Prestige continues by suggesting that Ticketmaster reaps substantial profit from the secondary market, and if it so wished, it could restrict accounts from those resellers using bots. But it allegedly doesn't because some resellers will use Ticketmaster's system.

"When TM sells a ticket to a reseller, it not only collects the full commission from that primary sale, but it has a significantly higher chance of that ticket being placed on one of its secondary ticket exchanges — after all, resale is what resellers do," continues the complaint. "TM then receives a second, 'double-dip' commission on the resale of that ticket. TM’s ticket listings for popular shows are often dominated by tickets on its resale exchange — tickets which originally came from its primary exchange and thus for which it is getting double-dip commissions."

On the defensive for using bots, Prestige is now throwing allegations of nefarious bots use towards Ticketmaster.

"Upon information and belief, TM has actually provided automated programs to ticket resellers in order to allow them to purchase tickets from TM or immediately post those tickets to TM’s own secondary exchange for resale faster and in automated fashion. Such “double-dip bots” created and distributed by TM for use on its own ticketing system not only belie the false narrative that TM offers concerning attempts to stop bots or ticket resellers from purchasing tickets, but also evidence TM’s use of its overwhelming primary ticket exchange market power to control the secondary ticket market as well."

The brokers are going to war, alleging other ways that Ticketmaster is hypocritical including sabotaging its Verified Fan program.

Here's the full cross-complaint.

Ticketmaster is hit with claims of violating New York's law on ticket purchasing software, California unfair competition law, and the Sherman Antitrust Act. 

A spokesperson for Ticketmaster responded, "The claims made in this filing are patently false. Ticketmaster in no way, shape or form supplies automated programs known as bots to give ticket resellers an advantage over real fans. Ticketmaster has taken a strong stance against bots, has zero tolerance for their use, and cancels tickets that are purchased using them. Prestige Entertainment is one of the country’s most notorious bot users, and these claims are a desperate attempt to shift the focus away from their illegal business model, which the court previously stated ‘is built on a scheme to evade Ticketmaster’s policies for profit.'"

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