Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How Charleston Music Hall combats online ticket scalping

Bot battles and seat stealers

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 3:05 PM

Charles Carmody is the director of the Charleston Music Hall - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Charles Carmody is the director of the Charleston Music Hall
Thousands flocked to the Charleston Music Hall website on the morning of Jan. 13 to try their hand at getting what had become the hottest ticket in town: comedian Dave Chappelle, live in Charleston. Within five minutes of tickets going on sale, the venue received 540 calls from those hoping to reserve a seat, and tickets were sold out in minutes. New shows were added, but demand greatly exceeded supply. Unfortunately, not all those who were able to snatch up a ticket did so out of a love of comedy.

Tickets to Chappelle’s sold-out performance quickly began to pop up online. Secondhand sellers are now offering individual tickets for as much as $500 a piece. Some scalpers faced scrutiny on Twitter and Facebook from those actually hoping to see the show, but criticism has done little to discourage secondhand sales. Of course, this isn’t an isolated incident. It happens with every show. But how does a local venue respond to the continued problem of online ticket scalping?

“It’s a fundamental issue that it is legal in our country to resell tickets on the internet for more than their face value. It is a weird loophole that too many people take advantage of. I’ve been shouting this since day one,” says Charles Carmody, director of the Charleston Music Hall. “It’s absolutely insane that we’re working our rear ends off just to keep the lights on. I actually found that a registered sex offender in Florida was scalping our tickets at one point. We can find them because we’re able to look at trends and we have algorithms that we can run. So this guy was just sitting in Florida, buying our tickets, selling them, and making money. It just hurts so badly when you’re working so hard and that’s happening.”

Carmody favors wide-reaching legislation that would outlaw ticket scalping online. Current South Carolina law prohibits the resale of event tickets for more than $1 above their original price. Sandwiched in between the state laws prohibiting fortune-telling for the purpose of promoting another business and impersonating a police officer, those found guilty of ticket scalping can be fined up to $100 and imprisoned for 30 days. Unfortunately, this law does not apply to open market tickets offered for resale online. This leaves policing internet scalpers up to the venues originally selling the tickets.

“We’ve put up a couple of things that have helped. We have a ‘bot blocker.’ That’s the first one. Bots shouldn’t be able to get through, but of course you never know. Second, we limit the amount of tickets you can buy. You can’t buy more than four tickets,” says Carmody. “The biggest thing is we encourage everyone to come down to the box office. For Chappelle, everyone who came to the box office that day got tickets. That’s what we want. We want locals to be coming to these shows.”

Comedian Dave Chappelle's upcoming performances at the Charleston Music Hall have drawn their share of scalper activity - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Comedian Dave Chappelle's upcoming performances at the Charleston Music Hall have drawn their share of scalper activity
The Charleston Music Hall currently relies on Ticketfly to manage ticket distribution. Carmody says the service offers a few valuable tools aimed at curbing secondhand sales. More specifically, Ticketfly is able to run what Carmody calls “a scrub” that combs through all sales pinpointing anything that may indicate scalpers have acquired tickets.

“They run this algorithm that goes through all the tickets and pulls out anything weird. I’m actually looking at the scrub right now. This one says, ‘large order, out of state, weird reoccurring email domain.’ This guy was in Alabama,” says Carmody. “We’ve got about 23 potential resellers for Chappelle for all four nights right now, and we’ve scrubbed them out. So what we’ll do is, we have all these people’s information, and we’ll now go through to figure out if they are resellers or if they are buying their own tickets.”

One obstacle when it comes to shutting down online scalpers is that venues have few ways of knowing if the tickets have been resold. For example, the Alabama scammer that Carmody mentioned could have already exchanged the tickets online with someone who plans to attend to the show in Charleston. If the Music Hall cancels his tickets and refunds the scalper's money, the secondhand salesman gets his money back, plus whatever profit he made from reselling the tickets. Meanwhile, the person who purchased their tickets from the scalper is left out in the cold. So who is really to blame?

“Here’s an issue: The audience is causing this to happen as well,” says Carmody. “For example, if we all shop at Walmart, Walmart will continue to exist. If no one shops at Walmart, we will go back to a local economy. No matter how badly you want to go to a show, if you are buying tickets on the secondhand market, you are helping no one. You are perpetuating this system.”

Of major concern for some venues is the constant threat of bots snatching up tickets online in a matter of seconds only to be resold for several times their value. Several years ago, Ticketmaster estimated that as many as 60 percent of high-demand tickets went to bots. No matter how loathsome you find Ticketmaster, this is a major problem — one that national leaders have recently taken steps to remedy.

Last month, President Barack Obama signed into law the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, or the BOTS Act of 2016. Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, this act makes it illegal for anyone to circumvent security or control measures “used by internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for any given event” and sell those tickets.

While this is good news for many, bots aren’t the biggest concern for many smaller, local venues. It’s the people putting tickets up for sale on Craigslist and one-off tickets sites for several times their original value. It’s also those willing to go a bit further to trick customers looking for tickets.

“I caught this mom and pop operation who were pretending to be our box office. These companies are spending more money on Google than us, so they’re getting above us when you search ‘Charleston Music Hall,’” says Carmody. “Last time I looked, when you searched ‘Charleston Music Hall,’ there were four guys above us, which I’m working vigilantly with Google now to try to get this fixed. But if you’re a little old lady and you call them, they answer the phone ‘Charleston Music Hall tickets.’ It’s just so wrong.”
Carmody adds, “It’s rampant, and it’s not just us. It’s the entire ticketing industry. It’s the entire country. We’re all fighting this. It needs to be illegal. They need to make the reselling of tickets in any form for the same or higher value illegal in the United States. That’s the first step.”

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Federal prosecutors oppose statewide jury pool for upcoming trial of Michael Slager

Government requests local jury for federal trial

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 1:37 PM

Michael Slager's faces a retrial for state charges in March followed by a federal trial in May - GRACE BEAHN/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahn/Post and Courier
  • Michael Slager's faces a retrial for state charges in March followed by a federal trial in May
Federal prosecutors are opposing a motion from Michael Slager and his attorneys to draw from a statewide jury pool. The former North Charleston officer has pleaded not guilty to Slager charges of deprivation of rights under the color of law, use of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and obstruction of justice in the killing of Walter Scott. With his federal trial set to begin May 1, prosecutors hope to select a jury from the Charleston and Beaufort areas.

Following one of the most high-profile trials in South Carolina’s recent history, Slager’s state murder trial ended in deadlock as jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision regarding his guilt. Now, attorneys representing Slager in federal court cite the massive public attention the case has received as justification to look outside of the Charleston area for a fair and impartial jury.

“To ensure the efficient selection of impartial jurors, Mr. Slager respectfully requests the court find that, due to the extensive pretrial publicity in this case, the services of a district-wide petit jury is required,” states a motion filed by Slager’s attorneys earlier this month.

Slager was captured on eyewitness video shooting Walter Scott after Scott fled from a traffic stop for a non-functioning taillight. Attorney Andy Savage, who is representing Slager in both state and federal trials, has argued that Scott was able to wrestle Slager’s Taser away from the officer during a brief struggle. Claiming he feared for his life, Slager said he fired the fatal shots after Scott approached him with the weapon.

The video of the shooting begins just moments after the struggle and shows Scott turning his back to Slager and fleeing before being shot five times from behind.
The release of the eyewitness video just days after Scott’s death called into question major details in the former officer’s account of what happened that day and drew national attention. Federal prosecutors, however, argue that the extensive publicity that the case has received does not justify a statewide jury pool.

“Admittedly, although this case has received extensive media coverage, pre-trial publicity has not been limited to the Charleston and Beaufort area,” states a motion filed by prosecutors Tuesday. “There has been extensive statewide and national coverage. There is no evidence to suggest that the extent of publicity in the Charleston and Beaufort area exceeds that in the remaining areas of our state.”

Attorneys for the government also say that enough safeguards are in place during the jury-selection process to guarantee Slager an unbiased jury and point to the extensive travel time and court cost that could possibly arise from selecting jurors from across the state to participate in the trial set to take place in a Charleston courtroom.

“For example, if a district-wide juror was selected from Pickens County to serve in the instant action in Charleston County, that juror would need to endure an eight-hour round trip each day of trial or be provided with lodging, in both instances generating additional court costs,” states the motion from federal prosecutors. “These costs are unnecessary given Defendant’s failure to demonstrate good cause.”

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'Today' films Charleston activists for Women's March on Washington segment

The segment will air this weekend

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 12:36 PM

The Today Show might feature Charleston in a segment on the Women's March on Washington this weekend - KINSEY GIDICK
  • Kinsey Gidick
  • The Today Show might feature Charleston in a segment on the Women's March on Washington this weekend
As part of its inauguration coverage, today the Today Show stopped by Lowcountry Local First to speak with local activists about this Saturday's Women's March on Washington. Some of the women featured in last week's cover story, "Women Activate," were in attendance including area march organizer Hayne Beattie-Gray. Other women interviewed included Karalee Nielsen Fallart, Melody Shemtov, Jamee Haley, and Stephanie Barna.

"This is part of a bigger segment that will include interviews with women from Princeton, N.J. to New York City, Chicago, and other city's around the country who are participating in the march," said NBC's onsite interviewer Donna Paine. For the segment activists will discuss why they've gotten involved in the Women's March and how they hope to bring about change.

NBC's Kate Snow will lead the segment which is expected to air on Friday morning.

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‘Inappropriate’ social media accounts target West Ashley High School students

Pages said to include inflammatory statements, photos

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 12:35 PM

West Ashley High School - CCSD
  • CCSD
  • West Ashley High School
Staff at West Ashley High School contacted police following several complaints from students and parents regarding multiple social media pages depicting “inappropriate pictures and posts” about current and former students.

On Jan. 4, the mother of a female student called the school to bring the Instagram pages to the attention of the school’s head guidance counselor. The following day several other students approached personnel with West Ashley High School’s guidance department to complain about the social media posts.

“On the page were several posts of students along with inflammatory statements made about them, as well as pictures of unknown females with their buttocks exposed,” read an incident report filed with the Charleston Police Department.

The incident report states that the online activity was then placed under investigation by Detective Doug Galluccio, task force officer with Homeland Security Investigations and full-time investigator for the city’s Cyber Crimes Division. When asked about the current state of the case earlier this week, Galluccio could provide no additional information.

With the incident at West Ashley High School highlighting the harmful potential of some social media platforms, at least one state lawmaker is looking to combat online harassment. South Carolina Rep. Cezar McKnight recently filed two pieces of legislation aimed at combating online harassment.

One bill would make it a misdemeanor offense to maliciously publish photographs or similar images on a website with the intention of harming a person’s character or reputation. Those convicted of the crime would face a fine up to $1,000 and the possibility of up to one year in prison. The other bill filed by McKnight would make those found guilty of posting photographs with the intent to harm a person’s character liable in a civil action for damages arising from any malicious publications.

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The Agenda: Haley to go before senators tomorrow; Downtown urban farm; Where Trump won big in S.C.

Trump pulled GOP votes from traditionally-blue areas

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 11:54 AM

  • Gov. Nikki Haley

975: The number of S.C. road deaths in 2016. Source: P&C

Report from the King Day at the Dome event yesterday: "Trump hangs over SC State House rally"

The story of how President-elect Donald Trump won can be seen in areas where Democratic voters didn't turn out in the same numbers they did in previous elections. And in areas like Horry County which showed a surge in Republican votes. Source: The State

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley will answer questions from members of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as part of a flurry of hearings for nominees slated to serve in the Trump administration. Source: P&C

Haley would succeed Samantha Power as U.N. ambassador, and the two recently discussed the challenges of the job as Haley gets set to take over the Cabinet-level post. Source: WFAE

Georgetown County state Sen. Stephen Goldfinch says environmentalists are the ones holding up state road improvements and wants those opposing infrastructure projects to be required to pay a 'bond,' or put money up as collateral to ensure fair dealing in order to object to a major project. (Background from 2015.) Source: Coastal Observer,

The City of Charleston and the Green Heart Project are working together to build an urban farm at the historic Enston Homes development off Upper King Street. Source: P&C

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