Senate wants to protect concert tickets from computer 'bots'

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These days, software programs might be making it harder to get top tickets.

The Washington Senate unanimously voted Wednesday to outlaw the use of ticket-snatching computer software in the state.

Lurking computer software can scarf up 40 percent of the tickets for a concert or show before you have a chance to go on the Internet to buy your own. The slang for that type of software is "bot," as in Internet robot or ticket robot. The principle is that this software can order tickets thousands of times faster than a human can do so with fingers. And the buyers can then resell the tickets, driving up prices.

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, introduced the bill to outlaw the use of ticket-related "bots" in Washington to grab massive numbers of tickets, making them unavailable to ordinary customers or to contracted secondary sellers. The bill would declare this as an unfair or deceptive practice under the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Bots also have legitimate purposes, and account for 56 percent of all traffic on the Internet, according to a Wired magazine story in December. The Wired story estimated roughly 20 percent of the bots on the Internet could be classified as "malicious," but those bots could account for up to 80 percent of the traffic on some websites.

Regulating ticket bots is relatively uncharted territory. Thirteen states have laws similar to what the Senate approved, including Oregon and California.

“Consumers deserve a fair deal,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a press release. “Outlawing ticket bots will keep fans’ hard-earned money in their pockets, instead of fattening the wallets of scalpers trying to game the system.”

The House earlier passed a version of the legislation, also unanimously. Because the Senate made some changes, the measure must again receive House approval. Ferguson, who requested the bill, said the changes were minor. After House approval, the bill will go to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.



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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8