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Viagogo fined for breaking Italian anti-touting law

An Italian court has rejected an appeal by Viagogo against a €3.7 million fine for hosting listings for tickets sold in contravention of Italian law.

The judgment, handed down by the regional administrative court (TAR) of Lazio (Latium) on 2 April, upholds a 2020 ruling in favour of the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM), which brought legal action against the secondary ticketing site for listing tickets to 37 events at above face value between March and July 2019.

Ticket touting is effectively illegal in Italy under the country’s 2017 budget law, which states that tickets to entertainment events may only be sold by authorised retailers. Consumers are permitted to sell unwanted tickets only for a price equal to, or less than, their original face value.

The judges rejected Viagogo’s argument that it was acting merely as a “passive hosting provider” connecting resellers with potential buyers, which would exempt the resale platform from liability under Italian law. Instead, Viagogo was found to provide a range of services and promote and advertise tickets in a way that could not be considered to be carried out without any awareness or control on its part.

“The service provided by Viagogo […] does not have the characteristics of passive hosting,” the court concluded, “given that it clearly does not consist merely of the ‘storage of information’ but rather optimisation, advertising and promotion of the tickets on sale.”

“Uncapped secondary marketplaces … have long been shielding under the liability exemption offered by EU law”

“Nor has the appellant in any way substantiated the claim that such complex activities would be carried out by the platform in a completely automatic manner and without any awareness and/or possibility of control on its part,” adds the ruling.

Additionally, even if Viagogo had qualified as a ‘passive hosting provider’, it would still not have benefited from the liability exemption afforded by the law as it did not act quickly to remove or disable access to the listings once notified by authorities, according to the court.

The ruling follows similar decisions in both Italy (Mediaset v. Yahoo) and the European Court (L’Oréal v. eBay, Google v. Louis Vuitton) which have held websites responsible for the content ‘passively’ hosted on their platforms.

“Uncapped secondary marketplaces such as Viagogo have long been shielding under the liability exemption offered by EU law by claiming to have little to no knowledge of the activity taking place on their sites,” comments Sam Shemtob, director of the Face-Value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT).

“It is time that they’re held responsible for the illegal activity they promote and profit from, both in Italy and across Europe.”

 


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Italy’s live music association appeals to EU for aid

Italy’s live music association, Assocmusica, is urging the European Commission to allocate financial aid to the creative industries via national budgets and EU funds.

Assocmusica, along with European Live Music Association (ELMC), directly addressed the European parliament directly last week to ask for support with Europe’s cultural recovery.

Members of the European parliament have also expressed strong concern the EU’s Next Generation Recovery Plan does not specify a budget for the direct benefit of the cultural and creative sectors.

The associations are now asking the European Commission and the EU countries to allocate at least 2% of the mechanism for recovery and resilience stated in the Recovery Plan in support of the cultural and creative.

“In such a critical moment, both for the future of the EU and for our sector, it is necessary to intervene to safeguard its survival”

“The digital revolution, and the chapter of investments in environmental sustainability, hypothesised in the Recovery Fund are issues we would like to discuss with the government and we hope to be heard in the appropriate forums,” says president of Assomusica, Vincenzo Spera.

“In these difficult times, many have turned to culture, music and art to overcome moments of discouragement and loneliness. In such a critical moment, both for the future of the EU and for our sector, it is necessary to intervene to safeguard its survival.”

“For these reasons, I would like to make a further, urgent appeal to our institutional representatives to work on creating an adequate financial ‘framework’ to support a key sector for the growth and cultural diversity of our continent.”

The associations have laid out a number of proposals for EU ministers to consider, including an increase in the budget for the Creative Europe Programme in the next Multiannual Financial Framework, which is renewed next year, to €2.8 billion and the introduction of the 4% reduced VAT on tickets for live performances.

An emergency fund for live entertainment workers, powered by European resources, and precise financial plans to ensure operational continuity in the industries and cultural and creative sectors and to ensure predictability for their operators, has also been called for.

 


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NZ Commission wins appeal for Viagogo injunction

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has successfully appealed against a High Court decision that prevented the issuing of an injunction against Switzerland-based online ticket reseller Viagogo.

On Wednesday (2 October), New Zealand’s Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s ruling that it did not have the jurisdiction to place an injunction against Viagogo, given that the secondary site had not been served with court proceedings in its native Switzerland.

In February, the High Court had rejected the Commerce Commission’s application to place an interim injunction against Viagogo. The injunction sought to prevent the use of “false and misleading” information around ticket prices and availability.

The judgement finds that, although the court “cannot finally determine a claim against a defendant while any protest to jurisdiction is outstanding”, the power “to grant interim relief is not limited in the same way”.

The Commission had claimed that Viagogo misled consumers by marketing itself as an “official” seller, exaggerating the scarcity of tickets, indicating tickets “guaranteed” entry and advertising ticket prices without including additional fees.

“The Commission will need to consider the changes made to Viagogo’s website, and decide whether in light of those changes it wishes to pursue its application for interim relief”

However, the judgement notes that “matters have moved on” since the hearing, stating that the Commission needs “to consider the changes made to Viagogo’s website, and decide whether in light of those changes it wishes to pursue its application for interim relief.”

A Viagogo spokesperson comments: “We have worked hard to address the New Zealand Commerce Commission’s concerns and remain committed to ensuring that Viagogo’s platform is compliant with the law.

To that end, given the extensive changes that have been made to the site, it is our hope that we can work directly with the Commerce Commission to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Viagogo legal action in an array of countries. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently halted proceedings against the site due to increased transparency, in a move that concerned anti-tout groups.

Courts in Australia and Germany have recently ordered Viagogo to make changes to the way it presents information. The site was banned from advertising through Google in a “landmark moment” in July.

 


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Festival Republic withdraws appeal over Wireless licensing restrictions

Festival Republic has withdrawn an appeal lodged in November with Haringey Council regarding licensing restrictions for this year’s Wireless festival. The new restrictions demand reduced noise levels and a final night 9.30pm curfew for the festival, which has taken place in north London’s Finsbury Park since 2014.

The restrictions came into place following a campaign led by residents’ group Friends of Finsbury Park (FOFP) and supported by Hackney and Islington Councils. The campaigners cite antisocial behaviour and public disruption as motivations for their objection to the festival.

The festival promoters initially appealed the decision, stating that the earlier curfew and noise restrictions would “seriously damage” Wireless’s international reputation. The appeal argued: “Headline artists will be deterred from appearing and the enjoyment of the audience will be materially diminished.”

“Headline artists will be deterred from appearing and the enjoyment of the audience will be materially diminished”

However, Festival Republic this week withdrew the appeal at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court after reaching an agreement about sound levels with Haringey Council.

Despite the apparent compromise, campaigners remain displeased with the outcome. Martin Bell, a FOFP member calls the measures “a betrayal of those who call for tougher controls on the event.”

Festival Republic has been contacted for comment.

Wireless festival is the UK’s biggest urban music festival, last year welcoming almost 40,000 festivalgoers over three days of music from J Cole, Post Malone and Stormzy, among others.

A full copy of the Haringey Council licensing report can be read here.

 


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