Digital Economy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Ticketmaster (DEB 76)

1 Introduction

 

Ticketmaster is part of Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s leading live entertainment company, operating in concert promotion, venue and artist management and ticketing:

§ Live Nation Concerts is engaged globally with over 63m music fans, promoting over 25,500 events per annum for over 3,300 international artists, operating in 40 markets.

§ Ticketmaster is the global ticketing leader with more than 530 million primary tickets processed annually and a presence in 27 countries.

§ Operating within these multiple sectors on a global scale, we believe that Live Nation Entertainment, and more specifically Ticketmaster, together have a unique level of insight, experience and understanding of the live events industry, including ticketing and resale.

§ Ticketmaster UK has been at the forefront of developing and providing business-to-consumer (‘B2C’) and business-to-business (‘B2B’) solutions to thousands of clients and millions of consumers, across all sectors of the live event ticketing industry, including concerts, sport, theatre and arts, family events and international tournaments:

o 1981 Ticketmaster launched in UK and has since established itself as a market leader in live event ticketing and marketing, a key contributor within the successful UK live events industry.

o 1998 launched our website Ticketmaster.co.uk, which now ranks as one of the top 20 most popular e-commerce sites in the UK.

o 2008 acquired GET ME IN!, a direct response to the profound changes witnessed within the ticketing industry, changes driven by emerging new technologies and shifting trends in consumer behaviour.

o 2012 official ticketing partner for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (also Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 and the Rugby World Cup 2015).

o 2015 acquired Seatwave, to extend our successful primary and secondary ticketing strategy to other international markets.

Ticketmaster has developed a unique level of understanding and insight into the consumer and business dynamics within the ticketing sector.

Ticketmaster welcomes the opportunity to make a suggested addition to the Digital Economy Bill and our intention is to explain the real threat posed by bots; the need for updated and extended regulation to protect UK consumers and businesses and highlight the fundamental need for other UK ticketing business to take more action to protect consumers’ ability to access tickets.

2 Bots 

 

Botnets (‘bots’) are capable of harvesting significant numbers of tickets for popular events from primary ticketing websites.

Ticketmaster invests more in our technology systems and are more proactive at preventing bots securing tickets through our primary retail network than any other major ticket retailer in this sector. In short, we are on the front line in the battle against bots.

Our experience is that bots are a daily and significant threat to ticketing businesses and consumers’ ability to be offered a fair opportunity to purchase tickets.

There is a compelling case for updated legislation to respond to this emerging threat to UK businesses and consumers. There is also a need for other UK primary ticketing businesses to do much more to respond to this threat and to ensure consumers have a fair and reasonable opportunity to purchase tickets through their sites.

2.1 What are bots? 

An Internet bot, also known as web robot, BotNet or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks, which are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would ever be possible for an individual human.

A more malicious use of bots is the co-ordination and operation of an automated attack by so-called ‘bad actors’ on a business’s networked computers, known as a denial-of-service attack.

Bad actors use bots to try to systematically and unfairly buy up large numbers of tickets before genuine fans have the opportunity to buy them. Such bot attacks have also become commonplace across the wider e-commerce business world.

2.2 How is Ticketmaster trying to defend against bot activity? 

We invest more in anti-bot technology and prevention measures than any other organisation in the UK ticketing industry. We regularly witness high levels of bot activity when tickets go on sale for major events and international tournaments. As we defend against these attacks, in some instances it can impact upon the performance of our websites, creating a frustrating user experience for those real fans trying to buy tickets. This is an inevitable consequence of the battle we are fighting.

Across our global ticketing businesses, we block millions of attempts by bots to access our websites every single day.

As we invest and innovate to prevent bots disrupting our business and affecting our consumers trying to buy tickets, the bad actors that operate these bots also adapt and try even harder to by-pass our programs.

We are engaged in an arms race against the bot users, and we’ve armed ourselves with software and programs that pay attention to a person’s behaviour as they move through our website, in order to educate ourselves on who is and who is not a bot user. For example, the way someone navigates our site and how the cursor moves on the screen provides us with intelligence that helps us to effectively recognize when a bot attack is occurring.

3 Why do we want legislation introduced?

 

This isn’t something Ticketmaster can fight on its own which is why we have been campaigning for the introduction of legislation against bots for a number of years.

The technology we have in place only goes so far in tackling the threat. We believe that in order to strengthen the position of ticketing companies and other technology companies fighting against bots, updated legislation and criminal sanctions need to be introduced.

We believe that it is through a combination of state-of-the-art technologies and the threat of criminal proceedings that we will be able to get ahead in the battle against bots.

Whilst the Computer Misuse Act 1990 provides the current legislative framework for possible action against those using bots, legislation hasn’t kept up-to-date with recent technological advances.

There is now a compelling case for a change in that legislation to protect consumers and to support the wider live events ticketing industry, which plays such a crucial role in the significant economic contribution from the live events sector.

It is an unfortunate fact that there is unlawful activity as in all walks of life, but we have appropriate systems and controls in place to ensure that these are not associated with our primary or resale ticketing operations to the detriment of the consumer. We are constantly investing in technology to prevent illegal practices on our sites and that consumers can have the confidence that all transactions are safe and secure.

The impact bots have on fans is serious, and it is not fair. We want them gone and we are working hard to try and make this happen. This is why we have worked tirelessly for years with legislators and law enforcement in order to try to stop their use. We were instrumental in the fight in the US against Wiseguys Inc., a California-based company that hired Bulgarian programmers to build a network of computers to impersonate ticket buyers so they could buy tickets faster than human beings. We worked with law enforcement agencies to bring them to justice, and they were found guilty as felons in 2011. Further, in 2013, Ticketmaster brought a lawsuit against 14 brokers suspected of using bots to buy large blocks of tickets and then selling them for exorbitant prices.

We have also successfully worked with lawmakers to introduce legislation banning the use of bots around the US. We were the leaders behind the introduction of the first anti-BOT statute in Tennessee, California, Minnesota, and New York. We have most recently been working with the US government to pass a federal bill known as the BOTS Act that prohibits the intentional use or selling of software to circumvent a security measure, access control system and selling of any ticket in interstate commerce knowingly obtained in violation of such prohibition.

4 Draft Clause

 

We believe that the Digital Economy Bill is the right place to see new legislation to help protect consumers from the effects of bot usage and have a drafted New Clause which could be used within the Bill.

Ticketmaster UK Limited

GNQC draft New Clause for Digital Economy Bill: new offences in relation to use and sale of bots to misuse ticket sites

Digital Economy Bill

Insert the following new Clause-

"Circumvention of consumer protection measures for online ticketing

(1) Where tickets for an event are, or are to be, made available through a electronic medium (including a telecommunications system) which includes a control or measure designed to give effect to a fair use policy for issuing tickets, a person who, with a view to obtaining a ticket uses a computer program a function or purpose of which is to circumvent, or to impair the operation of, such a control or measure, commits an offence.

(2) A person who-

(a) supplies a computer program a function or purpose of which is to circumvent, or to impair the operation of, a control or measure designed to give effect to a fair use policy in relation to the use of an electronic medium (including a telecommunications system), and

(b) intends the program to be so used or is reckless as to whether it is to be so used,

commits an offence.

(3) A person who-

(a) buys or trades, or attempts to buy or trade, a ticket for an event that has been obtained in contravention of subsection (1), and

(b) knows that the ticket has been so obtained,

commits an offence.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both.

(5) Sections 4 to 7 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (territorial scope of offences under sections 1 to 3 of that Act and of related inchoate offences) apply to an offence under this section, and to a related inchoate offence, as they apply to an offence under section 1 or 3 of that Act or to a related inchoate offence.

(6) For the purposes of this section-

(a) a "fair use policy" is a policy (whether or not expressly drawn to the attention of persons using the medium) or term which aims to ensure that a person seeking to make a transaction has a reasonable opportunity to do so in fair competition with any other such persons;

(b) the following are examples of a control or measure designed to give effect to such a policy-

(i) a measure which seeks to ensure that a transaction can be completed only by a human user (including a measure which seeks to detect the use of an automated process);

(ii) a measure which seeks to avoid or detect multiple or simultaneous attempted transactions by the same user;

(iii) a measure which seeks to limit the period during which a ticket may be reserved while the transaction is completed;

(c) a "ticket" for an event includes any document or token (including in wholly electronic form) conferring, or providing evidence of, the right to attend or to be admitted to, or to occupy a space at, the event."

October 2016

 

Prepared 1st November 2016