Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and star of the musical Hamilton, penned an op-ed in The New York Times this morning asking New Yorkers to support a bill that would criminalize the use of bots in the ticket resale industry.
The exorbitant resale ticket prices for Hamilton have been something of a running joke since it opened, with the Times theater critic Ben Brantley encouraging theater-goers to mortgage their homes and lease their children to get a ticket. When new batches of tickets become available through the musical's website, they're quickly snatched up — in large part, as Miranda notes, by bots. The brokers who come away with most of the tickets can sell them for, effectively, whatever they want. Following the announcement that Miranda will depart his role as Alexander Hamilton in July, ticket prices on third-party sites have ratcheted up to a $1,500 starting point.
The bots that brokers use to buy up tickets are already illegal in New York, and punishable by fine. However, as Miranda points out, "The markup on resale is so lucrative, earning brokers millions of dollar per year, that they happily risk prosecution and treat civil penalties as the cost of business." Miranda named StubHub and Vivid Seats as sites that list tickets purchased by brokers who use bots. In an email to The Verge, a StubHub representative said, " StubHub is a marketplace owned by eBay that allows consumers to buy and sell tickets to events. We never buy any tickets and are fervently anti-bot.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman published a report on the issue earlier this year, which proved that sites were illegally bypassing CAPTCHAs and other security measures to purchase hundreds, and sometimes thousands of tickets at once. "The average fan vying to purchase a ticket ... has little hope of competing against brokers, many of whom use illegal and unfair means to purchase tickets," the report stated.
"Big Julie is using loaded dice"
Miranda echoed the sentiment, saying, "to use another metaphor from Guys and Dolls: Big Julie is using loaded dice, and you and I do not have a chance."
His op-ed expressed support for a stricter bill, which would impose criminal penalties on ticket brokers who resell tickets purchased using bots. It would also require sites to list what they paid for the ticket, so customers can be made aware of the markup they're paying.
That bill, put forth by Schneiderman, has already been passed by the State Senate. Now, a similar bill, sponsored by Democratic assemblyman Marcos Crespo, is being considered by the New York Assembly. Miranda took to Twitter shortly after the article's publishing to encourage New Yorkers to write to their representatives in the Assembly and ask them to support the bill.
The bot legislation is on the table in Albany NOW. So I'm throwing my shoulder into it. Write your reps, join me. https://t.co/lQgwCUm9qd— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) June 7, 2016
"Most of all," Miranda concluded, "I want you to be there when the curtain goes up. You shouldn’t have to fight robots just to see something you love."
Updated June 8th, 8:47 AM: Updated to include statement from StubHub and correct phrasing that implied that Miranda accused StubHub itself of using bots. He stated that brokers use bots, and list their tickets on StubHub.