Amanda Roth loves Hannah Montana, the popular Disney Channel singer portrayed by teen actress Miley Cyrus. Like many young girls, five year old Amanda dreamed of seeing Hannah's concert in St. Louis. Amanda and her mom spent hours on the computer trying to buy tickets, but they were outgunned by big ticket brokers using a secret stealth software program that allowed the brokers to repeatedly cut in front of little Amanda in the virtual line for tickets, then sell those tickets for up to 30 times their purchase price.
Now, that software, one of the secrets of the ticket brokering industry, is the focus of a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Central District of California.
Ticketmaster v. RMG Technologies focuses on software sold by RMG that allows licensed brokers to bombard Ticketmaster's website with an unprecedented number of requests for tickets. The software, PurchaseMaster, allowed one broker to make 600,000 requests for tickets within 24 hours. Obviously, the rest of us don"t stand a chance facing that kind of competition for tickets.
On October 26, Judge Audrey Collins granted a preliminary injunction in the case banning RMG from selling or distributing its software for the purpose of buying tickets through the Ticketmaster website. The judge's 22 page order found the Ticketmaster website warns that no areas of the site may be used for any commercial purposes. The site also prohibits the use of automated software that can repeatedly bombard a site without detection. However, RMG boasted on non-public portions of its own website that "Purchasemaster's stealth technology lets you hide your IP address, so you never get blocked by Ticketmaster."
According to court records, Kevin McLain, Ticketmaster's Senior Director of Applications Support, played the role of company detective and "traced ticket requests and purchases made on ticketmaster.com back to individual users and, ultimately, to RMG." McLain found Gary Charles Bonner used an IP address registered to RMG to buy almost 13,000 tickets. McLain's investigation found that Bonner made more than 425,000 ticket requests in a single day. Ticket broker Thomas Prior used an IP address to buy nearly 22,000 tickets. Prior is the broker who allegedly made more than 600,000 ticket requests on one day. Based on testimony by a computer expert, the judge found that "requests so numerous cannot be made other than with automated devices," which are prohibited by Ticketmaster.
The court ruled that "Ticketmaster is highly likely to prove that RMG induced or encouraged it's clients direct infringement by providing them with devices that gain them unauthorized access to and use of Ticketmaster.com." In addition, the judge decided that Ticketmaster has "shown the possibility of irreparable harm."
Judge Collins issued a preliminary injunction against RMG because she determined that...
"the public interest favors the issuance of a preliminary injunction. RMG's conduct not only harms Ticketmaster but also harms the public because it denies consumers the opportunity to purchase tickets at the "face" price. It allows RMG's ticket broker clients to unfairly purchase numerous tickets for resale, resulting in immediately sold-out events and forcing ordinary consumers to either forego the event or pay ticket brokers" inflated prices for resold tickets."
The preliminary injunction prohibits RMG, or anyone connected with the company, from using the automated ticket software on the Ticketmaster website.
What does the preliminary injunction mean for "ordinary consumers" like us?
Initially, it should be a blow to RMG and the brokers who used the Purchasemaster software to buy tickets, which means there should be less competition for people who don"t use it. However, it's unclear what will happen with automated ticket buying programs in the future. Judge Collins has scheduled hearings in the RMG case through late February 2008. In her order, the judge clearly indicates that she believes Ticketmaster will win this case.
Maybe Amanda and thousands of other kids will stand a better chance of getting tickets the next time Hannah Montana comes to town.