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Kickstarter clarifies creator accountability

A hefty overhaul of Kickstarter's Terms of Use clarifies creator obligations and potential consequences for not fulfilling their end of the deal.


For backers on Kickstarter, funding a project is always a bit of a gamble. Often, creators are working on developing and manufacturing a product for the first time, which can cause unexpected hiccups; or an idea simply might not work as well in practise as it sounds in theory, as occurred with Neal Stephenson's recently canned sword-fighting video-game Clang.

Whatever the reason a project might fail, many backers seem to understand that, if you put money into a project, there is a chance you might not see a return on that money; that you are not buying a product, but providing funding to develop an idea; and that, if the project fails, the money is likely gone, with no recourse to backers.

As it turns out, however, Kickstarter sees it a little differently. The crowdfunding website has recently updated its terms of use to clarify creator obligations -- including the obligation to issue a refund if the creator cannot deliver on promised rewards and the possibility of legal action from backers.

Previously, the old terms of use buried this information in a wall of text.

"Project Creators agree to make a good faith attempt to fulfill each reward by its Estimated Delivery Date," it stated in one point; and, in another, "Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer's request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward. Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill."

The updated terms of use, which have also been edited with clearer language and page layout, expand on this obligation in no uncertain terms.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

"This update reflects the best practices we've seen from our community to get the best possible outcomes from challenging situations," Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler wrote in a blog post. "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."

The new terms of use will apply to all Kickstarter projects launched after October 19, 2014.