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Cuomo signs law making it a crime to use 'bots' to buy concert tickets

ALBANY – New criminal penalties have been approved to restrict the use of automated ticket purchasing software known as “bots” that can gobble up mass amounts of sports and entertainment tickets before fans hoping to attend a popular event even have a chance to tap the buy button on their computers.

The legislation was among 133 bills Gov. Andrew Cuomo had to act on by midnight Monday, a 10-day bill consideration exercise that included a host of minor to medium changes in state law.

The ticket bot abuse has been among those identified in an investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who calls the use of the ticket-snatching software “only part of the rigged ticketing game.’’ Schneiderman's report outlined ticket buying problems at events across state, from Pope Francis' visit to New York City to a Paul McCartney concert in Buffalo.

The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, creates a misdemeanor-level crime, as well as fines up to $1,500 for each offense, against those using bot software. The law also is aimed at the flourishing ticket reselling industry, making it illegal for them to sell a ticket that was knowingly acquired through the use of the ticket purchasing software.

Bots can operate on their own or with human assistance. The law expands the definition of what are considered illegal “bots” to also include software that bypasses a ticket site’s security measures intended to halt massive ticket purchases by one individual or company.

A person who either obtains the tickets with bots, or has a financial interest in such an operation, faces new criminal sanctions unless the software was used to obtain tickets “for their own use, or the use of their invitees, employees or agents.’’

Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican and Senate sponsor of the bill, said the measure will “help stop ticket price gouging and ensure that consumers have a fair chance to purchase tickets to their favorite sporting events, concerts and shows.”

The use of software like ticket bots has been banned in New York, but only small, minor civil penalties could be imposed, offering little deterrence in the multi-billion dollar ticket industry spread across small and big players.

The new law permits jail terms or larger fines.

In signing the bill, Cuomo called the use of bots “predatory,’’ and said the new law will help restore “fairness and equity” into the ticket selling industry.

Cuomo Monday night was also considering bills offering new tax breaks for the music and video game production industries, internet sales of raffle tickets by charitable groups and making it easier for the state to halt of the use of super-tinted windows on vehicles.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com

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