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
The Patriots, who say they are trying to ensure fans get tickets
at reasonable prices, are entitled to know who may be violating
"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
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."