Pats win bid to get names from ticket reseller StubHub
BOSTON -- The New England Patriots have won a bid to get the names of all the fans who bought or sold -- or tried to buy or sell -- tickets to home games through online ticket reseller StubHub Inc., a move one technology group sees as an invasion of privacy.
In a lawsuit against San Francisco-based StubHub, a subsidiary of eBay Inc., claiming that the Web site encourages fans to break state law and violate team policies, the Patriots said they could seek to revoke season tickets of people who use StubHub.
A lawyer for the Patriots wouldn't say what the team plans to do with the 13,000 names, which StubHub gave it last week after losing its appeal of a Massachusetts state court ruling.
Team rules bar reselling game tickets for a profit. State law, though rarely enforced, restricts ticket markups to $2 above face value plus some service charges.
Patriots tickets have been offered on StubHub at prices many times higher, including two 50-yard-line seats for New England's Dec. 16 game against the AFC rival New York Jets listed Thursday for $1,300.05 each. Their face value is $125.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, said the court order to turn over the names infringes on the privacy rights of Patriots fans.
"The Patriots, just at the beginning of the season, were filming opposing teams and accused of surveillance and given a slap from the National Football League about that. Now they're turning the cameras on their fans, so clearly there is a lack of understanding about what privacy is," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the center.
StubHub parent eBay is a member of the center's working group on free speech online.
StubHub, one of the largest online ticket sellers, argued that the Patriots' request violated its confidentiality agreement with its customers and said the team wants to create a monopoly on the resale market for its own tickets.
"It is plain that the Patriots seek this highly confidential customer information to further their unlawful, anticompetitive campaign against StubHub and its customers," StubHub said in court papers.
The Patriots, who say they are trying to ensure fans get tickets at reasonable prices, are entitled to know who may be violating their rules.
"One of our claims against StubHub is that knowing we have rules against resale on the Internet, they are out there soliciting people to violate our rules," said Daniel Goldberg, a lawyer for the team. "In order to pursue that claim, we need to understand who has been persuaded by that inducement to list their tickets [on StubHub]."
Goldberg said the Patriots' rules on resale are clear and printed on the back of every ticket.
"We have hundreds of people on waiting lists willing to comply with our rules, so if individuals prefer not to comply with the rules, that's their choice," he said.
Goldberg would not say how the Patriots plan to use the customer information it won in court.
In his order this summer, Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel said the Patriots have "legitimate interests" in knowing the identity of people who resell tickets through StubHub.
The judge said the Patriots could use the information for purposes beyond the lawsuit, including canceling violators' season tickets or reporting violators to authorities. Goldberg said StubHub turned over the names last week.
The Patriots have revoked tickets of fans who resell on any site except the Patriots' own TeamExchange Web site, which limits sales to face value. That Web site is run by Ticketmaster.
Tony Troilo, a season-ticket holder from Mansfield, said he appreciates the Patriots' efforts to protect its fans by strictly enforcing its rules against ticket scalping.
"But on the flip side of that, I think there are probably a lot of good, loyal fans who for whatever reason can't make it to a game and obviously don't want to eat the ticket," Troilo said. "It seems like it shouldn't be a crime for them to go on StubHub.com."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press