KickStarter can be a great thing. When Tim Schafer's Double Fine released a KickStarter for a new point and click adventure game, Broken Age, the project was one of the most successful KickStarters of all time, with over 80,000 backers and over $3million raised. Schafer released the first part of the series to high critical success, and inspired game developers everywhere to reach out to crowd funding. However, being a success on KickStarter does not always lead to success in real life. Schafer's ambition following the recent financial win overcame his better instincts and the project soon went over budget. The same thing was seen when Grace Lynn, formerly Devi Ever, received double her financial goal on her guitar pedal KickStarter, only to announce that the project had failed and she now is trying to repay backers while struggling through debt.
It must be noted that KickStarter is a platform based on trust. If a project fails, or a creator decides to delete their account and run with the money, there is very little the company can do to stop them. If you are interested in funding a campaign it is up to you to do the research and find out whether the creator is trustworthy for yourself.
This has lead several scam artists to take to the medium. While it should be noted that the majority of funded projects are either successfully completed or refunded, this small minority works to give a bad reputation to the crowd-funding platform.
The service cannot be said to be blameless. Gil Hamlin was a victim of one such scam artist, when he funded a zombie themed t-shirt based KickStarter. He was disappointed but did not want to give up so easily. Using information discovered about the creator from LinkedIn, he wanted to make the other 91 backers aware that they had the right to serve him legal papers, and the other users thanked him for his work. KickStarter, however, had a different view.
His comment was deleted by moderators and he was sent this message:
"We're writing because we noticed you posting abusive comments on a project. This kind of activity is against our Guidelines (http://www.kickstarter.com/help/community) and it is not permitted. We take our guidelines very seriously; please take a minute to read through them.
Due to your inability to comply with our guidelines, your privileges to certain features on Kickstarter have been revoked. If you agree to comply with our guidelines going forward, they will be restored."
Believing that the KickStarter must have failed to understand the situation, Hamlin replied with this email:
I pledged for a Kickstarter project that completely failed to deliver - the guy took the money, vanished and has never communicated since. As Kickstarter were unwilling to assist with this, a few of us decided we would file a County Court Judgement to claim the money back through the courts. Therefore, we posted contact information to enable us to file this complaint with the courts. Unfortunately, as a result of this, Kickstarter have blocked me from communicating with any projects. I find this completely unacceptable for the following reasons:
1) Kickstarter have refused to do anything to help us get our money back, leaving the matter in our own hands 2) When we attempted to organise something to retrieve our money, accounts were mass blocked 3) I am now unable to communicate with any projects I have backed.
As it stands, by blocking our attempts to coordinate legal action against the rogue project, it appears that Kickstarter are wilfully aiding this attempt to defraud us. This is not a great situation.
I would appreciate feedback and lifting of my communications ban ASAP"
Contrary to lifting the ban, KickStarter instead replied to Hamlin with the same message only including the line:
"specifically, including contact information in a comment"
As a result of the ban, nothing came of the proposed legal action. While Hamlin understands that he was not supposed to use contact information in the comments, given the circumstances he feels KickStarter should try harder to protect its customers in the case of fraud. KickStarter's competitor IndieGoGo recently announced that it is now testing insurance to give backers peace of mind for a fee.
I reached out to KickStarter who declined to comment on the banning of privileges Hamlin's account, but had this to say in the case of fraud:
"While Kickstarter's not a store, after five years and 190,000 projects, creators on Kickstarter have an incredible track record bringing new and untested ideas to life. There's risk inherent in creating anything new, but the system overall works remarkably well. Backers ultimately decide which projects to fund, but the longterm health and integrity of Kickstarter drives everything we do. Please review our Trust & Safety page for additional information explaining how Kickstarter works and how we protect the system: https://www.kickstarter.com/trust"
What do you think? Should KickStarter have helped Hamlin find this scam artist?