In the last couple of years of crowdfunding, two things have ceased to be shocking. First, that Kickstarter can be a really good thing for undermonied game developers. And second, that it can go badly wrong – even for the most experienced project managers.
Kickstarter the organisation has traditionally stood well back from disputes over failed projects. But updated Terms of Service that’ll come into effect after October 19 will grant backers what they’ve been missing: a legal leg to stand on, should things go south.
Kickstarter aren’t asking creators to guarantee the success of their project – a sure bet is an oxymoron, after all. But they do expect developers to make “every reasonable effort” to bring a failed project to its “best possible conclusion”. In Kickstarter’s eyes, a creator has only fulfilled their obligations to backers if:-
- they post an update that explains what work has been done, how funds were used, and what prevents them from finishing the project as planned;
- they work diligently and in good faith to bring the project to the best possible conclusion in a timeframe that’s communicated to backers;
- they’re able to demonstrate that they’ve used funds appropriately and made every reasonable effort to complete the project as promised;
- they’ve been honest, and have made no material misrepresentations in their communication to backers; and
- they offer to return any remaining funds to backers who have not received their reward (in proportion to the amounts pledged), or else explain how those funds will be used to complete the project in some alternate form.
Here’s the crucial bit – if creators don’t manage to meet these terms, they “may be subject to legal action by backers”. In short, this new paragraph in Kickstarter’s ToS might become the backbone of legal cases against developers in the future.
“This update reflects the best practices we’ve seen from our community to get the best possible outcomes from challenging situations,” wrote Kickstarter on the change.
“Incorporating them into these terms is a small but important part of building a healthy, trusted environment where people work together to bring creative projects to life.”
How’s your own backer success-failure ratio? Mine’s still TBD.