Welcome to our weekly feature, “Question Of The Week.” As you can tell from that entirely original title each week we pose a question to our panel and they chime in with their opinions. No one sees one another’s responses until the story is posted, so each contributors thoughts are their own. Responses are posted in no particular order.
And remember, as with all editorials, the views expressed in this editorial are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Cliqist.com.
The question of the week for the week of 6/22/14 is :
Should Backers Be Able To Sue Developers For Broken Promises?
Mitchell “Moe” Long
I, like many, feel very strongly about campaign organizers actually following through with their promised goodies. As to suing? I’m not sure that’s the answer. Ultimately id depends on the individual circumstances. The situation may not be entirely at the fault of the organizers. Of course, even if the bumpersticker printing company the campaign managers outsourced to went under and your $5 only got you a game…you were paying to fund this awesome game, not get a piece of memorabilia. Granted, there’s a substantial difference in a low-level reward and a high-level tier, such as a party with the developers. Broken promises stem from a plethora of root causes, so it isn’t as simple as slapping the campaign organizers with a lawsuit. If backers have been lied to deliberately, I’d probably sue. Ultimately it boils down to why the promise wasn’t kept.
Although it makes sense from a moral standpoint, backers really have no standing to take campaign organizers to court. This is thanks to Kickstarter’s setup which grants backers very little rights. Backers are certainly not investors, because if they were, they’d actually have “ownership” of the company and its decisions. There is also no legal agreement entered into which states a product must go a specific way – even if they veer off their initially advertised course.
This is detailed on Kickstarter’s Trust & Safety section. There they disclose that backers “trust the creator to do a good job” and that “some projects won’t go as planned.” Although Kickstarter will take action in extreme cases of system abuse, that is them attempting to keep their company name safe, and means that users themselves aren’t meant to get into legal tangles with campaigns themselves. It’s problematic when Kickstarter fails to hold someone accountable…. But on the other end of the spectrum, it would be extremely frightening for project leaders to have to fear legal action if they at any point change the course of their projects. Such an atmosphere would likely lead to a marked decrease in crowdfunding projects.
That’s one of life’s great mysteries isn’t it? I think it really comes down to how a person interprets crowdfunding. If you donate to a project with the mindset that you’re basically pre-ordering the game they’re showing off, you’re doing it wrong. While it would be nice to have some sort of assurance that a.) You’ll get what you were promised and b.) To make sure it’s a quality product, that’s simply not the way crowdfunding is currently set up. I think if it’s proven that a company squandered their Kickstarter funding on hookers and fast cars, then yeah, they deserve the full penalty of the law because it’s fraud at that point, but if the game isn’t finished because the developers are inexperienced, you should’ve read the staff bio section. Crowdfunding does not guarantee a satisfying outcome. You’re not pre-ordering. You’re donating some of your cash to help a team have the resources they need. It’s up to them what they do with that. So, all in all, same basic rules for crowdfunding and gambling: Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. You might score super big, but that comes with bigger risks. Assess those risks and make an adult decision. But definitely sue those guys that blatantly screwed you.
The short answer is that I don’t think they should.
The long answer goes back to a point I made in an editorial last month; the point was that we should be donating less money to more projects. People get their eggs into a single basket and feel crushing disappointment when it doesn’t happen exactly the way it was initially promoted. What’s strange to me is that people seem to think this is a phenomenon unique to crowdfunding, but it’s been going on forever. Read an old interview with Dave Perry talking about Messiah, or Peter Molyneux talking about any of his games. They weren’t sued for dramatically under delivering on their promises; it’s the nature of the promotional beast.
Backers need to remember two things about Kickstarter. 1) It’s a charity, expecting anything in return is going to lead to disappointment. 2) You’re financially supporting someone’s attempt at doing something, not placing an order at McDonalds.
Have a question you’d like our panel to answer? Post it below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your toughest crowdfunding questions!
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