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UCLA Entertainment Law Review

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Beyond the Bots: Ticked-Off Over Ticket Prices or The Eternal Scamnation


In 2016 alone, despite the passing of federal legislation banning its use, automated ticket-buying software known as “ticket bots” attempted to purchase five billion tickets at a rate of ten thousand tickets per minute on Ticketmaster’s website.  The secondary market for tickets to live music, live theater, and sporting matches is worth roughly $8 billion worldwide,[1] and so far, the profits accrued by cyber-scalpers have proven valuable enough for violators to run the risk of facing fines or criminal penalties legislation may impose.

It turns out that ticket bots are not the only problem contributing to secondary-market resale and price inflation.  Industry insiders such as artists, managers, and producers, have a storied history of reducing the number of tickets actually made available to the general public.  In some instances, less than half of available tickets for concert stadium tours have been put on sale.

Courts have struggled to protect public interests against monopolization of the free market.  They have often employed a “rational basis” test to defend laws prohibitive of ticket resales, including anti-scalping measures.  However, with the advent of e-commerce technology, cyber-scalping brings jurisdictional and identification issues to the forefront.

This Article suggests that current federal legislation should be amended to ban industry insider hold-back practices and the internal resale of tickets at inflated prices, thus making more tickets available for public sale at face value.  This Article further argues for the implementation of non-transferrable paperless ticketing procedures claiming the already proven benefits of such procedures significantly outweigh minor inconveniences to the consumer.

Lastly, this Article explores the likely effects of moving the sale and purchase of tickets onto an open-source blockchain that the public can participate in on a global scale.  The golden ticket here is that such blockchain technology does away with the need for a central database controlled by a ticket-sale platform vulnerable to scalpers.  Instead, blockchain constitutes a decentralized transaction platform that removes scalpers from the equation entirely; tickets exist as digital assets that cannot be transferred outside of the blockchain, rendering ticketing transactions virtually impervious to scalpers and free of the inflammatory forces cyber scalping otherwise superimposes on the marketplace.

[1] All dollar amounts are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise indicated.


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