'Hamilton' producer, lawmakers call for prohibition of ticket 'bots'

By:  David McCabe
The Hill

The producer of popular Broadway musical "Hamilton" joined lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon in calling for a law to ban software that snaps up swaths of tickets for resale at a higher price.

“Bots,” as the software is known, are used to buy tickets in online marketplaces that can later be sold for a higher cost on a website like StubHub. A proposed law — the Better Online Ticket Sales Act — would allow the Federal Trade Commission to pursue people who sell or use the software.

Jeffrey Seller, the show's producer who had his first Broadway hit in the 1990s with "Rent," said he supports the law as a way to stem the use of bots during a hearing held by a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee."I’m advocating for a level playing field,” he said. "We need to prevent bots from tampering with a system that is designed to allow all consumer access to tickets at face value.”

His call for the law’s passage echoed many of the senators on the panel — who said it was crucial to protect consumers from unscrupulous actors in the ticket marketplace.

“These folks who prey upon American entertainment and sports are parasites,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "They have no skin in the game, they simply exploit other people’s creativity and hard work.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said that consumers were being “forced to compete” with the bots for tickets to events.

Some also expressed support for criminal penalties for those using the software, with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) saying she believes in the “deterrent effect of the potential of jail time.”

The law has the support of many in the ticket industry. StubHub, the kind of secondary market where tickets might be resold, supports the bill but says it hopes there is a broader discussion about how to reform the ticket market.

“Rather than focus exclusively on bots, I hope for the fan’s sake that we have a more comprehensive dialogue today and going forward,” said Tod Cohen, the company’s general counsel.

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Seller said he wasn’t interested in upending the secondary market — but the bots issue needs to be addressed.

“I’m not here to prevent buying and selling, I’m here to make a level playing field so everybody has the same shot at that ticket,” he said.

There’s momentum around the bill: A similar piece of legislation passed the House on Monday night.