Who owns a sports ticket? A California Assembly Committee met this week to debate a bill that could determine the fate of ticket "ownership" in a high-profile battle between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, primary ticket provider Ticketmaster, and secondary marketplace StubHub. The issue in question: Who has the right to re-sell a ticket after it has been purchased?

The bill, which was brought by Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), would make it illegal for companies like Ticketmaster to prohibit the re-sale of tickets by fans, among other marketplace regulations.

StubHub, which supports the bill, argues that once a fan buys a ticket from a team and its primary seller, it is their possession to do as they choose. That typically includes using the ticket to go to the game, giving it as a gift to a loved one, or reselling it if they choose not to attend.

The Angels and Ticketmaster, which oppose the bill, contend the ticket is a license meant for the purchaser only and revocable should the buyer resell the ticket anywhere outside of their official site.
In recent months, Ticketmaster has gone so far as to implement a policy at many concerts requiring the fan to present the credit card used for purchase and an ID for entrance, a practice StubHub alleges is unfair to the consumer. Ticketmaster says these measures are put in place by the teams to assure their fans have a fair chance at affordable tickets.

The bill is just the latest in an ugly breakup of StubHub and the Angels. StubHub was the official resale partner of the Angels for the past five seasons, until the Angels (along with the Cubs and Yankees) dropped them over concerns over pricing. In February, the Angels announced a new deal with Ticketmaster, which included the creation of the team’s own secondary market, “Angels Ticket Exchange”.

Electronic ticketing and advances in the ticket market have solved a myriad of problems teams used to see with scalpers and box office blunders. But it has also brought about its own new set of problems, including fraudulent tickets, copies being sold online by multiple brokers, difficulty in transferability of tickets to friends and business contacts, and the creation of an even less transparent and more costly black market at popular events.

According to reports, the bill was gutted in an Assembly committee, down to its sole, non-controversial provision: A ban on robotic ticket-buying software that floods ticket websites with simultaneous requests and thus grabs all the best seats. This, however, will not be the last we hear from the well-funded foes. With high-profile lawsuits in New York where the Yankees took on StubHub, to proposed policy changes in Minnesota and Tennessee (where a bill backed by promoters like Ticketmaster was killed earlier this month), we are about to see another major shift in the ticket landscape.

Teams will be fighting for their right to total control of their tickets, even after they have been purchased, while StubHub defends its claim that once the ticket is in the hand of the consumer, it's theirs to use, give or resell as they choose. So what do you think? Is the ticket a good that changes hands upon purchase or a license to services revocable for cause? Tweet me @SpotlightTMS and let me know what you think.

-- Tony Knopp is co-founder and CEO of Spotlight Ticket Management, the leader in corporate ticket management solutions. Email Tony or follow him on Twitter @SpotlightTMS.

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