An interesting legal battle has been started up by StubHub, the secondary ticket marketplace for live events owned by eBay, against Ticketmaster and the NBA Champion, Golden State Warriors.
It appears that the Warriors have engaged Ticketmaster as its official primary and secondary ticketing partner.
StubHub is a well-known secondary ticketing marketer. It is used by people to resell their tickets to events that they cannot attend although there have been some stories in the press describing it as having a reputation as a platform for scalpers as well.
According to StubHub’s claim, the Warriors’ head office and Ticketmaster have cancelled fans’ season tickets and playoff game tickets when and if they elected to use StubHub to resell their tickets rather than using Ticketmaster to do so. StubHub’s position is that Ticketmaster and Warriors acted unlawfully by threatening fans with cancellation to force them to use Ticketmaster’s resell exchange exclusively. This type of allegedly monopolistic conduct, according to StubHub, is a breach of the US anti-competition law.
This lawsuit has been described by Fortune Magazine as simply the latest of a long line of feuds between the two companies. However, leaving aside the question of a pre-existing animosity between two extremely competitive businesses, the lawsuit does give rise to the interesting question as to exactly what rights a ticket buyer acquires when he or she buys a ticket.
Everyone knows that a ticket to a sporting event entitles the holder to enter into the arena and sit in a designated seat identified on the ticket. What happens after that, of course, is anyone’s guess (although if the event is a Leafs game, the likely outcome may not be in quite so much doubt). But what is the ticket? Is it an asset which the holder should be able to deal with however he or she sees fit? Or is it more like a licence, so that the sports team has the right to dictate what the holder does with the ticket by threatening to revoke the holder’s ability to purchase season tickets in the future if the ticket is disposed of in manner of which the team does not approve?
I would have thought that once a person buys a ticket to a sporting event, he should be able to deal with the ticket as he sees fit. Perhaps the answer might be different if it was made clear on the ticket itself that there were limitations on the manner in which the ticket could be disposed of if the holder chose not to attend the event. Subject only to that, I cannot see any logical reason why there ought to be such restriction.
Hopefully this lawsuit will shed more light on this interesting question.