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Michigan bills look to decriminalise resale, prohibit bots

Two Michigan bills have called for legalising ticket resale while also taking a firmer stance on touts that use bots to harvest large amounts of tickets and sell them on at inflated prices.

State Senators Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, and Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, who proposed the legislation changes, said Senate Bill 384 and SB 385 would protect consumers from paying excessive prices to attend sporting events, concerts and other forms of live entertainment.

Under the bill, a person could not use software primarily designed to interfere with first-party ticket sales. If passed, the legislation would also make it illegal to use websites that pose as the venue or artist selling the tickets.

Anyone who violates provisions in the bill would be subject to a misdemeanour punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The bills would also repeal Michigan’s rarely enforced 88-year-old ban on resale, which currently makes it a misdemeanour for individuals to trade tickets above face value.

“In Michigan right now it would be more legal to roll marijuana into your ticket and smoke it than it would be to sell it to another concert-goer,” Barrett said, according to M Live news website. “To me, that’s wrong. We’re decriminalising a lot of activity in our state at this time, I think that effort is in large part a good thing.”

The two bills are a renewed effort to decriminalise reselling in Michigan after similar legislation failed in 2018 and several other years.

The Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee heard testimony from lawmakers and stakeholders representing online ticket trading platforms on Thursday.

Dusty Brighton, a spokesperson for Live Nation and Ticketmaster, said new laws that could decriminalise scalping reduce venue owners’ and artists’ options in stamping out price gougers.

Representatives from secondary ticketing platforms StubHub and TicketNetwork were, unsurprisingly, in favour of the bills.

Kevin Callahan, a spokesperson for StubHub, said: “We took a lot of the activity that was happening on the streets and brought it onto a safe, transparent and trusted marketplace to allow fans to buy and resell their tickets. This is about modernising Michigan’s ticket laws.”