Lawmakers consider bill to protect right to resell entertainment tickets

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A bill moving through the Indiana General Assembly would ban nontransferable tickets for concerts and other entertainment events.

The legislation is meant to protect an individual’s right to sell or give his or her ticket to an event to someone else, should they choose to do so.

“You bought the ticket, and that’s your property that you should be allowed to transfer,” said Republican state Rep. Martin Carbaugh of Fort Wayne, who authored House Bill 1331.

As currently written, it would not apply to sporting events.

Carbaugh said he’d like the provisions to apply to sporting events as well, but he ran into opposition from sports teams — and he thinks nontransferable tickets are less of an issue in that industry.

Entertainment industry officials also say nontransferable tickets are not the norm — generally, they are only 1% of tickets sold — but some performers request the option for security purposes. That has become especially true for VIP tickets that could include a meet-and-greet with the artist.

Some performers also request the option to sell nontransferable tickets to keep prices at face value and prevent scalpers from using computer bots to quickly purchase large quantities of tickets and then resell them at much higher prices.

Congress passed a law in 2016 making it illegal for someone to use computer software to get around purchasing barriers, such as a limit on the number of tickets one customer can buy. But enforcing that is difficult.

Operators for the some of the largest venues in Indianapolis — Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ruoff Music Center, and The Amphitheater at White River State Park — all spoke against the bill in a hearing last week, saying they need to have the nontransferable option available, otherwise they may not be able to attract some artists.

State Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, said New York has a similar law already in place, so he doesn’t think it would hinder Indiana’s ability to attract concerts and other events.

Tom Mendenhall, senior vice president of Live Nation Entertainment, disagreed. Live Nation manages the The Amphitheater at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis and Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville.

“Most artists are going to play in New York City,” Mendenhall said. “We’re not New York City.”

Carbaugh said he’s open to potentially changing the language to accommodate VIP tickets, but he wants to make sure that wouldn’t result in all tickets being classified as VIP.

The issue is intertwined with whether entertainment venues should be required to offer a paper ticket, as opposed to digital-only tickets. But the bill does not specifically address the paper versus digital debate.

“Last year I believe we did have that specifically written into it and we took that out because, I mean, technology does change,” Carbaugh said. “But a transferable ticket is what we’re going for. … It was written specifically so that it was just on the transferability.”

The bill would also try to ban deceptive ticket sales websites by prohibiting website operators that are not directly connected to a venue from using the name of the venue, name of the event, name of the performer or any name substantially similar to the venue or event in the website address.

The House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee approved the bill 9-4 on Wednesday, with members of both parties voting against it.

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