Following on from my post last week about the role of patron at Kickstarter, NPR has run a piece called, “When A Kickstarter Campaign Fails, Does Anyone Get The Money Back?” This appears to have nudged Kickstarter into responding with a blog post, “Accountability on Kickstarter.”
I suggest that you read or listen to NPR’s show before reading Kickstarter’s reply but one of the key statements Kickstarter makes on this matter is below.
Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?
That’s great, but does it change anything in reality? Are you really going to take out legal action to recover $100? I think not. Kickstarter even points out that it feels that legal action is only appropriate if the creator has failed to make a good faith effort.
Consequently, I don’t think this changes anything. Kickstarter is still a great site, but go in with your eyes open as to the possible outcomes, especially the one where you lose all your cash.
Note that UK folk may have some protection if they paid for a failed project using a credit card under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 as it appears to cover purchases outside of the UK too. I am not a lawyer, etc.
I like Kickstarter. It’s a world full of promise, where great ideas vie for money. I’ve pledged for a handful of projects, most of which met their funding targets and of those, all delivered on their promises. A few of the products weren’t as I expected but who hasn’t bought something that they later regretted?
For sure, it’s not always million dollar projects at Kickstarter. Plenty of projects fail to meet their targets and many of them rightly so. I’m not going to name names, but you don’t need to look very hard for projects that have no merit whatsoever (IMHO). Conversely, there are many worthwhile projects that don’t make the cut too.
But what of those projects that do get funded but don’t deliver on their promises? Fortunately, there haven’t been too many of them and while Kickstarter distances itself from the projects themselves, it encourages project owners to return the funding if the project gets into difficulties. But there are no guarantees…if the money is gone, it’s gone.
In a consumer and customer-oriented world, an older world perhaps more accurately describes our role. Patron.
From Oxford Dictionaries, definition of a patron:
1. a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or cause: a celebrated patron of the arts
The definition makes no mention of reward or goods and it’s easier to comprehend with the more artistic projects on Kickstarter given the historical context of the term. Regardless, it applies equally well to the technological ones in that there might be a hope of a product at the end of the project but there is no certainty.
Don’t get me wrong – I like Kickstarter and will continue to support projects there. However people need to understand the risks. At the moment, Kickstarter occupies a useful unregulated niche but I fear that a few high-profile failures losing millions of dollars will draw it to the attention of the authorities and regulation. I sincerely hope that day won’t come, but until then, remember you are patron at Kickstarter.