Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

NY Criminalizes Using Ticket Bots, Scalpers Could Face Jail Time

July 8, 2016

As published on CBS New York on July 3, 2016.

Have you had a hard time getting tickets to a concert or show recently? Beyonce and other big acts like U2, or even the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” may be sold out because of so-called “ticket bots.”

However, there’s a new plan to crack down on the machines that are stealing the show, CBS2’s Jamie Yuccas reported.

It can be next to impossible to get a ticket for popular concerts and shows as they sell out at a furious rate. One reason? You’re not competing for tickets with humans– you’re competing against computers. It’s the modern tool of old-fashioned scalpers and it’s not a fair fight.

A single ticket bot scooped up 520 seats to a Beyonce concert in Brooklyn in just three minutes. Another snagged up to more than 1,000 U2 tickets to one show in a single minute.

“The unfair advantage is when you have software programs and systems that start doing it far faster than anyone could normally do it,” said CNET editor Scott Stein said. “I’d love it to be fixed, but the question is how. How? I don’t think you can stop the bots.”

Bots were supposed to be stopped by Captcha boxes, those squiggly, broken up letters you’re asked to type in that only humans could detect – until now.

“There’s software that can do optical character recognition. The idea that bots and software systems are going to get more intelligent, learn to operate more like humans,” Stein explained.

Scalpers sell those bot-purchased tickets on resale websites like StubHub, where they can be marked up many times the original price.

“The secondary ticket market is really like the Wild West,” said New York Attorney General Eric Shneiderman. He helped lead the charge in New York’s stiffer penalties – ticket bot violations were handled with a fine.

“We’re talking about thousands of dollars’ worth of fines for people who can make millions of dollars,” Schneiderman said.

But if Governor Cuomo signs the bill into law, offenders could face jail time.

“We have to take more dramatic action and this is the kind of crime that can be deterred – white-collar crime you can deter,” Schneiderman said. “These people do plan ahead. They don’t want to be slapped with an indictment.”