I think some chill breezes are about to start being felt in Kickstarter's cosy little virtual world.
I think two issues are being conflated here.
The first is the responsibility for delivery and the suit. These are totally in the way that things should be done, and I think it's telling that kickstarter itself as a platform is not a defendant in the suit. If you collect money, even on a speculative venture like this, you open yourself up to a responsibility to deliver.
But I think that has little to nothing to do with the platform in and of itself.
Kickstarter gives a platform for the offering, and for that platform, charges a fee, and dispenses funds. To expect that they would have control over each individual offering is pretty ludicrous. Even the payment platforms, i.e. MasterCard, Visa, Amazon, have limits to the claims on such.
The first paragraph of the quote follows my beliefs, i.e.:
I've backed a few dozen Kickstarter projects over the years, and there have always been questions about possible fraudulent projects. While I've personally found that nearly every project delivers late (often very, very late), I don't think any of the projects I've backed has completely failed to deliver (there are a couple I'm still waiting on, though...). Still, the risk of such a "default" is always a possibility, and that's always been the case. Backing a product at an early stage always comes with the risk that it may never deliver. Kickstarter itself has tried to do a better job in making people aware of this upfront with its "Kickstarter is not a store" claims.
A few hundred in my case... and a few have packed up shop, but that's how I determine what to back and how much, and as such, the 3-5% failure rate is acceptable to me. But if it weren't, I'd be within my rights to sue the project creator over non-delivery.
TL;DR - the suit is unfortunate and the situation for those backers. They are well within their rights to have pursued action. But to claim that Kickstarter has an obligation or any power over the backend situation is a pretty specious claim IMO.
I don't think it's entirely accurate to say the issues are being conflated. There's the alleged fraud surrounding the failure to deliver on a contractual obligation on the part of the campaign itself. And then there's the larger issue of whether or not Kickstarter's "don't ask, don't tell, not my problem
" policies permit or encourage such fraud to take place under their roof. That's definitely not
a discussion Kickstarter wants regulators or state attorneys to start having. Because there are rules and legal theories surrounding contributory negligence and "aiding and abetting." And just saying "we didn't know" or "we don't get involved with that stuff" doesn't change any of that. Especially if it's happened more than once or twice. Like the old saying goes: "Dupe me once - shame on you
. Dupe me twice - shame on me
Kickstarter uses a lot of language to completely excuse itself from culpability (or even the slightest hint of responsibility) for anything that goes down on it's website. This argument is much like the "safe harbor" concept of ISPs not being responsible for content posted on or through them. Which is fine when it comes to words
. But it's pretty self-serving where money
transfers (and their percentage takeoffs) are involved. And like it or not, there are some major regulatory and legal frameworks in place that govern conduct and responsibility in such matters. Kickstarter insisting things are "different" with them because...well..."just because
" isn't going to hold much water if it starts to hit the fan.
I think Kickstarter has been given a pretty free ride (so far) considering the amount of money that passes through them. And that's largely because most in government and business saw that an open incubator arrangement might serve a valuable purpose and therefore gave them the benefit of the doubt
and cut them a lot more slack than they have most investment matching services. (And yeah - I know it's for "projects" - not "investments." But Kickstarter doesn't get to make up it's own definitions or claim it's own interpretations of things because...well..just because
And that's unfortunate. Because if it continues, Kickstarter may soon discover it's well got poisoned by those people who went in without a clue, and tried to walk away without a word. Kickstarter needs to get more involved when complaints by supporters get made. Stonewalling and turning a blind eye isn't going to get Kickstarter off the hook if there's a problem. Life is never going to be that simple. Even when it's on the web.
That's rather unfortunate. People really should
make an effort to read some of this stuff. Because it's those persnickety
details and legal theories that our business and financial world operates under. And sometimes, once you struggle through and actually read real court filings, you develop an appreciation for the logic behind it as well. (Hint: it's nothing as simple as the "big & mighty vs the small
" conspiracy stuff a lot of self-taught economic types and "freethinkers" would like us to believe.)