On Monday, New York Daily News reports that Ticketmaster filed a lawsuit against Prestige Entertainment, a Connecticut-based broker who they allege used illegal technology to scoop up huge quantities of the most in-demand tickets in a matter of minutes for the purpose of resale above face value.
Ticketmaster began tracking Prestige Entertainment, also known as Renaissance Ventures, LLC or Prestige West, back in 2015 when the company purchased a majority of tickets to the Floyd Mayweather v. Manny Pacquiao from Ticketmaster’s website. Since then, Prestige and its affiliates used 9,047 separate accounts to make 313,528 ticket orders over the course of 20 months, according to the lawsuit. Most notably, Prestige managed to buy up 30,000 tickets to the Broadway hit Hamilton– often acquiring up to 40% of all tickets available for any given performance.
“Each of these orders harmed Ticketmaster and inhibited human consumers from using and enjoying the benefits of Ticketmaster’s ticket purchasing platform,” the suit states. “The inventory of tickets available to consumers who do not use bots is substantially diminished, which has led some consumers to question Ticketmaster’s ability to ensure a level playing field for the purchase of tickets.”
The suit alleges that Prestige employs high-speed bandwidth and storage and CAPTCHA farms- where the word-duplication test designed to screen out bots is presented to human users to solve- in order to make such quick, large-scale purchases. The broker company then covers its tracks by “using a variety of account names, email addresses, physical addresses, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and credit cards.” The investigation found that Prestige was once able to buy 1,012 tickets to a U2 concert in one minute. Ticketmaster usually enforces a limit of either 2 or 4 tickets per purchase.
Prestige has been in trouble for bot use before; the broker paid a $3.35 million settlement to New York State in May of this year for violating the state’s anti-bot law. According to NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the broker had been using illegal computer software to purchase tickets from Ticketmaster since 2011, and making millions reselling them on StubHub, Vivid Seats and other secondary platforms. Under the terms of the settlement, Prestige agreed to “abstain from using bots”. Ticketmaster sent a cease and desist letter to Prestige, as well, but neither warning convinced the broker to refrain from lucrative bot activity. All in all, sources say Prestige made tens of millions of dollars reselling illegally-procured event tickets.
Ticketmaster is suing Prestige Entertainment for copyright infringement, breach of contract, fraud, and violations of state and federal computer abuse laws, and seeks damages in excess of $10 million.