By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/22/2005 6:35:16 PM ET 2005-04-22T22:35:16

The only way you can get to see Bruce Springsteen perform in East Rutherford, N.J. — in a concert that sold out on the first day seats went up for grabs — is to buy tickets at hugely inflated prices from scalpers. And now, the Internet makes it easy for them to nail down the best seats to all sorts of major events.

"It's a constant cat and mouse game of technology, trying to thwart people from getting unfair amounts of tickets," says Ticketmaster president & CEO John Pleasants.

These days, two-thirds of people who attend concerts and shows don't stand in line, they go online to buy their tickets.

When you use the Internet to buy tickets from a company like Ticketmaster and you log on to their Web site, you're taken to a page with a randomly selected "secret word" that you have to retype. The words are partially camouflaged in a way that's supposed to make it impossible for automated systems to recognize them. But hackers have come up with software that can read the words and can sign up for huge blocks of tickets automatically.

"This software allows the scalpers to do it over and over and over again very quickly," says Steve Knopper of Rolling Stone magazine.

Knopper writes about this in the new issue of Rolling Stone. He says you don't have to be a big ticket broker to take advantage of the software.

"In the age of eBay, pretty much everybody's a scalper," he says. "There are fans that buy four seats to a show and resell two of them so they can make up their costs for the first two."

Ticketmaster says it spends a great deal of resources trying to defeat high-tech scalpers.

"As soon as you think your system is impenetrable, someone finds a way to get around it," says Ticketmaster's John Pleasants.

The attorney who represents the group Goo Goo Dolls says performers are angry.

"Most of my artist clients really want to make sure their fans can afford to see them and to get to see them, you know, at a price they think is fair," says Peter Paterno.

The high-tech scalpers say it's all perfectly legal in most places, even if it strikes a sour note with artists and fans. 

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