Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

Letter From a Reader: "Hey! Is That Legal?"

I received an email from a friend who asks the eternal question "What a minute - is that legal?" Read his question and give him your thoughts:

Dear Lawgirl

This fall there'll be a limited Broadway run of The
Odd Couple with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.
Prime location seats were priced at $250. The next
highest ticket price is $100. The first day tickets
went on sale via phone and internet, sales were
astronomical.

Credit cards have been charged for the purchases, but
tickets have not been mailed out. Recently, many
people who purchased $100 tickets have received
letters from Ticketmaster saying a mistake was made
and their tickets should have been sold for $250.
Their only option is to authorize an additional $150
charge per ticket or their purchase will be forfeited.
Complaints to Ticketmaster have gained no results.

Obviously, people are furious and suspect that the
producers have discovered that people will be
perfectly willing to buy more $250 tickets than they
expected, so they've just raised the ticket price.

Can they do this?

Dear Furious

Off the top of my head, I think the answer is "yes."

As anyone who studied for the NY Bar Exam may recall, a theater ticket is generally considered to be a "revocable license" rather than a "property right." A theater ticket permits you to sit in that theater seat on the specified night (the property) but, because it is only a license, it is revocable for any reason by the property owner.

Compare this with your apartment lease, which gives you a property right in your apartment for the period of your lease. If your landlord tries to renege on your lease, you can sue him for "specific performance" (i.e. the right to get possession of your apartment). By contrast, if the ticket seller reneges on the ticket sale, the most you can get is a refund of your money. You are not entitled to "specific performance" (i.e. the right to sit in that seat and watch the show).

I wish I had better news for the disappointed theater-goers. Hopefully, there will be enough bad publicity from this situation, the producers will change their policy.

If anyone else out there has another opinion, please make yourself known.

Love the Lawgirl
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