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The UCLA Entertainment Law Review (“ELR”) is an international law journal published once or twice a year by the UCLA School of Law. Since 1994, ELR’s staff has worked diligently to bring to our subscribers academic work of the highest quality, as well as articles that tackle the most novel and cutting edge issues in the field of entertainment law.

UCLA Entertainment Law Review

Articles

Beyond the Bots: Ticked-Off Over Ticket Prices or The Eternal Scamnation

In 2016 alone, despite the passing of federal legislation banning its use, automated ticket-buying software known as “ticket bots” attempted to purchase five billion tickets at a rate of ten thousand tickets per minute on Ticketmaster’s website.  The secondary market for tickets to live music, live theater, and sporting matches is worth roughly $8 billion worldwide,[1] and so far, the profits accrued by cyber-scalpers have proven valuable enough for violators to run the risk of facing fines or criminal penalties legislation may impose.

It turns out that ticket bots are not the only problem contributing to secondary-market resale and price inflation.  Industry insiders such as artists, managers, and producers, have a storied history of reducing the number of tickets actually made available to the general public.  In some instances, less than half of available tickets for concert stadium tours have been put on sale.

Courts have struggled to protect public interests against monopolization of the free market.  They have often employed a “rational basis” test to defend laws prohibitive of ticket resales, including anti-scalping measures.  However, with the advent of e-commerce technology, cyber-scalping brings jurisdictional and identification issues to the forefront.

This Article suggests that current federal legislation should be amended to ban industry insider hold-back practices and the internal resale of tickets at inflated prices, thus making more tickets available for public sale at face value.  This Article further argues for the implementation of non-transferrable paperless ticketing procedures claiming the already proven benefits of such procedures significantly outweigh minor inconveniences to the consumer.

Lastly, this Article explores the likely effects of moving the sale and purchase of tickets onto an open-source blockchain that the public can participate in on a global scale.  The golden ticket here is that such blockchain technology does away with the need for a central database controlled by a ticket-sale platform vulnerable to scalpers.  Instead, blockchain constitutes a decentralized transaction platform that removes scalpers from the equation entirely; tickets exist as digital assets that cannot be transferred outside of the blockchain, rendering ticketing transactions virtually impervious to scalpers and free of the inflammatory forces cyber scalping otherwise superimposes on the marketplace.

[1] All dollar amounts are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise indicated.

 

Trifling and Gambling With Virtual Money

Gambling, in particular sports gambling, is one of the most pervasive illicit activities in the United States.  In contrast to Europe and parts of Asia that have vast legal networks of both online and brick and mortar betting parlors, the United States has largely confined sports betting to the state of Nevada, while tolerating so-called daily fantasy sports in a number of additional states.  Slightly less pervasive, though equally or perhaps more often associated with illegal activity, are virtual currencies.  Indeed, the growth of the illegal gambling market is being partially fueled by virtual currencies.  While bitcoin garners most of the media attention, often associated with volatile valuations or criminal activity, a variety of smaller scale virtual currencies have also emerged.  The challenge for judges and an essential prerogative for lawmakers is to make sense of how to treat virtual currencies under antiquated statutes and interpretations of what constitutes money.

Some of the high-profile cases involving bitcoin—such as United States v. Ulbricht, and theft from the Mt. GOX exchange leading to its collapse—have raised questions as to whether bitcoin is money, or even property, the loss of which is compensable.  Smaller, narrowly used, in-game virtual currencies have also emerged.  Their unique distinction from bitcoin and first generation virtual currencies is that they have value within games, but purportedly have no value external to the game per terms of service agreements offered by game makers.  No fewer than seven decisions have been issued addressing these in-game currencies, finding that despite the existence of secondary markets allowing users to transfer accounts for fiat currencies, the terms of service agreements control in determining the in-game currencies to be valueless.

These federal holdings create a major problem for law enforcement and prosecutors.  By awarding prizes with zero-value currencies, virtual games, casinos and sportsbooks bypass compliance with most gambling statutes.  This problem is exacerbated by secondary markets that use market-based pricing to establish values for accounts contradicting the game makers’ valuations.  Skins gambling, a recently emerged ancillary feature of a popular video game, has already blossomed into a multi-billion-dollar industry that might be outside the reach of law enforcement, and almost no one has noticed.

Not Yet Rated: Self-Regulation and Censorship Issues in the U.S. Film Industry

There have been efforts to censor their content from the time movies emerged as fixtures of popular culture.  In response to growing concerns about government intervention, the film industry created a self-regulatory ratings system.  However, there are insufficient incentives for the industry to regulate itself, as ratings play a direct role in box office success.  Critics of the ratings system have pointed to increased leniency over time and to the influence of powerful studios over the process as evidence of fundamental flaws in the regulatory scheme.  This Article suggests a more effective ratings system would base decisions in social science data to better protect children and inform parents.

The Trouble with Mergers Is . . .

This Article delves into the legal intricacies of the recently proposed merger of Disney with 21st Century Fox.  This deal is the latest in a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the entertainment and media industries, which are adapting to the rapid rise of subscription video-on-demand services.  Such a merger raises many antitrust questions regarding market power and concentration, as well as intellectual property issues.  This Article looks into the proposed merger’s probability of success by examining, among other things, the Horizontal Merger Guidelines.  In addition, this Article assesses the competition issues Disney and Fox are currently facing in the European Union, as well as current European efforts to modernize copyright and consumer access to the digital market.  The entertainment landscape is at a fascinating crossroads, and this Article attempts to identify and analyze the legal considerations at play.