A Crime Defined

The indictment of a group of men who allegedly hacked into Ticketmaster.com and other Web sites to fraudulently obtain tickets to concert and sporting events for resale has generated some interesting chatter about the legalities of ticketing.

For one, just what crime did they commit?

Star Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine recently posed that very question to a group of legal and economic experts, and the answers were somewhat surprising.

The way Mulshine sees it, from a consumer standpoint there’s no difference between the secondary market tickets offered by Wiseguy Tickets and Ticketmaster’s subsidiary TicketsNow.

“So why does one get indicted and the other get the benefit of having its competition removed from the marketplace?” he asked.
Economist Stephen Happel attributed the indictment to the U.S. Department of Justice rigging the ticket market in Live Nation Entertainment’s favor with its merger with Ticketmaster.

“This is a modern-day witch hunt,” he said. “The feds are helping them set up a vertical monopoly.”

The team at Wiseguy allegedly worked with programmers in Bulgaria to create a network of computers able to flood ticket sites’ computers during onsales, using bots to speed through CAPTCHA challenges automatically.

But was outwitting the CAPTCHA process a crime?

Attorney Harvey Silvergate didn’t think so.

“This sounds like another made-up federal crime,” Silvergate told the columnist, explaining the Wiseguys didn’t embark on an unlawful scheme; they simply “took a lawful scheme and made it more efficient.”

Of course, representatives for Ticketmaster have maintained there is a big difference between TicketsNow and other sites – the ducats in question have the word “Ticketmaster” sprawled across them, and that makes the tickets compliant to terms-of-use agreements.

Happel added that as the feds continue to stand by while LNE acquires competitors, he predicts the company will go after StubHub next.