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Ticket bots are suspected of creating skyrocketing prices for the July 26 Adele concert at Seattle’s Key Arena. Credit: Facebook.com/Adele

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Attorney General’s Office says it is premature to tweak Washington’s 2015 law against using ticket bots to pillage vast amount of show tickets.

jesseyoung
Rep. Jesse Young

Rep. Jesse Young, R- Gig Harbor, has introduced a bill to slightly change that law to protect programmers who write routines that perform the same function hundreds or thousands of times per second — which could be used in ticket bot programs without the programmer’s knowledge.

“A ticket bot,” or “ticket robot,” is software used to order huge batches of tickets a few seconds after they become available online by a box office — with the ticket bot user intending to resell those tickets at much higher prices to the public.

At a Wednesday public hearing on the bill by the House Technology & Economic Development Committee, Young voiced concerns that people writing what they think are benign routines — later used in ticket bot programs — could be arrested.

That prompted committee members to discuss differences between ticket bot programs and computer code routines that rapidly perform the same functions thousands of times a second for non-malicious purposes.  “I think there can be virtuous use of ticket bot codes instead of for nefarious use,” said committee member Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila.

“It’s malicious intent is what we have to get at here, not the tools,” said committee member Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah.

Bots have legitimate purposes, and account for 56 percent of all traffic on the Internet, according to a Wired magazine story in December 2014. 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

Mike Webb of the Washington Attorney General’s Office testified that the 2015 law — which went into effect last July 1 — has been around for only seventh months. And the scenarios outlined by Young have not surfaced, he said.

“We believe it’s premature to amend the statute,” Webb said.

The Attorney General’s Office has only one confirmed investigation underway of ticket bot abuse. That probes focuses on suspiciously quick purchases of this summer’s Adele box-office concert tickets in Seattle and higher-priced tickets showing up elsewhere. “It literally sold out in minutes, if not seconds. That’s likely because of a bot,” Webb said.

The Attorney General’s Office declined to say if other ticket-bot probes are underway, citing a policy of not commenting on possible ongoing investigations

The AG also does not have a feel for the number of ticket-bot complaints it has received because its tracking system does not have a specific code to pigeonhole ticket-bot complaints.

“It’s worth noting that people generally don’t complain about ticket bots because they may not realize that a ticket bot has been used. They just know tickets are unavailable through normal channels, and the tickets are appearing on various Web sites for significantly more than face value,” said attorney general spokeswoman Allison Dempsey-Hall.

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