Lawrence Graham's angle on intellectual property, media and sport issues.
Lawrence Graham LLp
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RFU and Viagogo in ticket scrum

Last week we reported on the case of a famous footballer obtaining a court order against Twitter forcing it to disclose the names and contact details of its users who flouted an injunction protecting the identity of the footballer.  See our blog here.

This type of disclosure order is gaining popularity in relation to anonymous internet users and is being used as a means of unmasking the identity of such internet users with a view to taking further action.

In April 2011, the High Court made a landmark decision which could assist UK sports and events promoters in pursuing people who re-sell tickets for profit via secondary ticket broker websites such as Viagogo, Seatwave, eBay and Gumtree.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) was granted a Court Order which forced Viagogo Ltd to disclose the names and addresses of people who sold tickets above face value for England rugby matches via its website. See the Court Order in full here.

This means the RFU will be able to identify and sanction those people who have breached its terms and conditions by offering tickets for resale and profiting from such activity.  Such sanctions may include naming and shaming, ticket bans and/or court action.

This decision has massive implications for all secondary brokers and people who re-sell tickets via their websites.  Based on this decision, any secondary broker may be ordered to disclose customers details in breach of privacy policies and in turn sellers may be pursued for damages.  In addition, this decision throws up important issues regarding data protection.  As raised by Viagogo's lawyers, this type of decision could lead to difficulties where the secondary broker has an obligation to keep its customers' personal details confidential in accordance with its privacy policies.

In the run up to the 2012 Olympics this decision is potentially very important in implementing a strategy to manage the illegal re-sale of tickets.  No doubt other sporting associations, such as the Football Association and festival and concert organisers will also be interested in this decision and the opportunities it opens up for them to take action against ticket touts and secondary brokers.  If sports and events promoters follow the RFU's lead and take a tough approach to the role of online secondary brokers in the re-sale of tickets, this could lead to the demise of secondary broker websites.

Viagogo has filed an appeal against the decision and has indicted that it is committed to vigorously defending both its customers rights and their information.  The appeal hearing is listed to take place sometime between September 2011 and January 2012 so it will be sometime before we know the outcome, but we will continue to monitor this case's progress.

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