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Congress Addresses The Most Annoying Thing About Buying Concert Tickets

(Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Robots can no longer snag tickets for events after Congress unanimously passed a bill disallowing certain software that automatically purchases the vouchers.

The Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act now makes it illegal for automated computer programs to order tickets once they are available.

“The need to end this growing practice is reflected in the bill’s widespread support,” Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas told the Associated Press, adding that the legislation he originally sponsored will “level the playing field” for people buying tickets.

One of the aims of the bill was to ensure that computer security systems were in place so that ticket sales could be limited per consumer.

It has become a somewhat common practice for humans to purchase tickets to popular events when they first go on sale, and then resell (“scalp”) them once the concert sells out for a higher cost — in turn making a profit. But people have also apparently been creating bots to do the initial bidding for them and circumvent these limitations.

“Ticketing, to put it bluntly, is a fixed game,” a report conducted by the office of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman reads. “Consider, for example, that on December 8, 2014, when tickets first went on sale for a tour by the rock band U2, a single broker purchased 1,012 tickets to one show at Madison Square Garden in a single minute, despite the ticket vendor’s claim of a ‘4 ticket limit.'”

Ticketmaster, a ticket sales and distribution company, and Live Nation, a global entertainment company, merged in 2010 and have been trying to keep up with the technology and end the practice, but seemed to be struggling to do so.

To head the anti-bot initiative, Ticketmaster hired John Carnahan, a machine learning expert who fought online advertising scams at Yahoo, in 2011. (RELATED: Yahoo Cybersecurity Team Labeled ‘Paranoids’ Often Clashed With CEO Mayer)

“As with hackers, you can solve it today, and they’re rewriting code tomorrow,” said Michael Rapino, Live Nation’s chief executive, according to The New York Times. “Thus the arms race.”

The new piece of legislation makes it officially illegal to install bots in order to evade ticket purchasing restrictions. But with the rise of hackers and their capabilities, the practice could still continue.

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