Ticketmaster to pay $ 10 million fine for hacking charges

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NEW YORK – Ticketmaster on Wednesday agreed to pay a $ 10 million fine to evade criminal charges accusing the company of hacking into the computer system of a rival startup.

A New York federal court judge signed the deal in what has been a long-standing legal battle that challenged Ticketmaster’s dominance of ticket sales for major musical groups. The Live Nation subsidiary had faced multiple charges of conspiracy to commit hacking and wire fraud targeting a Brooklyn-based company called Songkick.

Ticketmaster had already paid $ 110 million in 2018 to settle a civil action brought by Songkick.

Court documents accused Ticketmaster of attempting to infiltrate systems created by Songkick for artists who hired the startup to help sell up to 10% of seats for US tours directly through their fan clubs. The arrangement was seen as a way to reward loyal fans while thwarting scalpers – and also something that could squeeze the Ticketmaster Empire’s bottom line.

Ticketmaster employees “repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to illegally collect potential business information,” said Acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme.

A Ticketmaster statement on Wednesday said the conduct involved only two employees made redundant in 2017.

“Their actions violated our company policies and were incompatible with our values,” the statement read. “We are pleased that this issue has now been resolved.”

Messages were left with Warner Music Group, the current owner of Songkick.

The scheme, devised in 2014 by a former Songkick employee who joined Ticketmaster and a colleague there, aimed to hack into accounts so that they could identify Songkick customers and deter them from doing business with the company, prosecutors said in court documents.

In internal communications, one of the employees boasted that Ticketmaster could “cut (the victim company) to its knees” if it could reclaim the presale ticketing business for an unnamed major artist, according to the newspapers.

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