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I'm pretty sure my friends will all have heard about the recent project Kickstarter should not have funded. If not, this guy wanted to publish a "seduction guide" based on "research and development done on Reddit". His words on Reddit, carefully erased prior to sending in his Kickstarter proposal, essentially advocated sexual assault. Kickstarter admits they were informed about this shortly prior to the end of the funding period, but they did not pull the project and they did not even hold the funds until they had time to determine if the project violated their terms of service.

Kickstarter's apology is here: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/we-were-wrong

Kickstarter admits they were wrong and makes a large $25,000 donation to fight sexual abuse. However, people are still upset, and right now I am seeing more talk about what Kickstarter did wrong than about the creator of the project. Which brings me to this question:

Why does Kickstarter's actions in this matter matter so much to artists, writers and patrons of the arts?

One of the reasons Kickstarter has succeeded so well for so many artists is that they vet projects so people feel confident that they are supporting worthy art.

This was not worthy art. Kickstarter failed in its vetting process (I don't really blame them for that--nobody is perfect and these kinds of abusers are usually very good at hiding what they're up to). But--and this is a big but in terms of Kickstarter's credibility as a supporter of worthy art--Kickstarter sent the money before they took the time to investigate whether there had been a violation of their terms of service.

It's not about whether Joe Rape-Promoter can publish his book, it's about whether buyers of art will continue to trust Kickstarter enough to feel good about donating to Kickstarter projects. If you're thinking "I might be supporting rapists and teachers-of-rapists" when you see a Kickstarter page, even if the artist for this project is your grandmother, you will probably not feel good about sending her your money through Kickstarter.

What it comes down to is that Kickstarter's reputation matters.

Because Kickstarter has made it clear that they have standards for a Kickstarter project and they vet the projects prior to approving them, their reputation matters in a different way than a traditional publisher or book store's reputation. This unique reputation is inherently part of any Kickstarter project--because of this reputation, buyers could feel good about spending money there.  Essentialy, every time they sent money off through Kickstarter, they believed they were supporting good art and keeping worthy artists from starving in garrets. For once, buyers believed, their money wasn't supporting some greedy corporation, but was instead (except for handling fees) going directly to an artist with a dream worth supporting.

Is that a bit like saying Kickstarter gives people a nice daydream of doing good in the world? Absolutely. But it's really not so far from the truth. Artists get paid for their work, books get published, movies, clocks, jewelry and fine garments get made, and the world contains some wonderful things it wouldn't have otherwise. The supporters of these projects deserve to feel good about making some wonderful dreams come true.

Every artist who uses Kickstarter relies on that idealistic daydream, as does every buyer who sends their money off to someone they've never heard of, hoping to get a product in the mail or e-mail some months in the future. It's not just a daydream--Kickstarter has helped thousands of dreams become reality.

So, someone decided to use that dream for evil. Sadly, that's not really surprising. As we know from our best fiction--even our kids' comic books--one must always be vigilant in the fight against evil.

Kickstarter was our artist's superhero, if you think about it. No one wants to see Wonder Woman fail to catch the villain, and we especially don't want to see the villain hoodwink Superman and get away with the money. But in this case, so far, it looks like the villain is laughing all the way to the bank.

No wonder we're upset.  We want Kickstarter to hold that villain accountable!

Here's hoping Kickstarter can do that, or can at least set in place policies that will prevent any other villain from doing the same.  I want that nice daydream of a place where I can safely send money to artists, even ones I've never heard of before, and feel confident that I'm supporting good art and worthy artists--and I want that dream to once again be a part of my everyday reality.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 22nd, 2013 09:32 am (UTC)
I guess other people are expecting a whole lot more of Kickstarter than I do. I have never actually considered that KS was in any way effectively vetting anything to guarantee that it was anything, including "not outright fraud". Not that I don't know that they have terms of service, but it doesn't occur to me to count on them to enforce the ToS any more than I count on LJ to use their ToS to stop trolls. I assume they'll try but not that they'll succeed. c_c
Jun. 28th, 2013 06:09 pm (UTC)
I don't think people expected Kickstarter to discover every single time when a creator was lying to them. If they had learned only after the fact that they'd been hoodwinked, I think people would have mostly been angry on Kickstarter's behalf instead of angry at Kickstarter.

In this case, they were contacted about the violation of their TOS _before_ they sent the money, and sent the money anyway. I think a lot of people saw this as evidence that Kickstarter was not (at least in this case) even trying to enforce their rules and principles.
Jun. 22nd, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
Here under my rock, I hadn't heard about this controversy until now, and I'm not taking the time to read up on it, just going with what you said here. For me personally, it doesn't make much difference; KS has lost its mystical shiny air for me not because of one project that they shouldn't have vetted but because so many projects are just marketing efforts by large established organizations rather than actual independent things that had no chance of happening before KS. "real" KS projects do happen, but I think it's on the individual funder to look into them and decide how special they are, rather than assuming "it's on KS, it must be wonderful".

In general, I think too many people expect far more from sites that host content posted by others. No matter what the site claims in its TOS, it's nigh impossible for them to check everything the way a conscientious editor would have for a print publication decades ago before corporate cost cutting made conscientious editing a myth.

But my opinion doesn't have much impact on the market. What matters is the general direction of the opinion on the net, which is so capricious and wacky that no one can predict it.
Jun. 28th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
I certainly agree that an individual donor should look at a project and decide whether to support it. Of course, there's so many, I can't imagine anyone trying to fund all Kickstarter projects (or even all kickstarter SF books).

One of the things I liked about Amanda Palmer's kickstarter project was that with a large fan base, she offered a digital copy of the entire k-funded album for the lowest ($1) donor level.

Even when you're not an unknown or little-known indie artist who has no other options for getting your work into the world, there are ways to do a Kickstarter well, and to use it to accomplish things traditional publishing/marketing won't do.
Jul. 25th, 2013 03:45 pm (UTC)
*tap tap*

Is this thing on?
Jul. 26th, 2013 02:50 am (UTC)
Oh, look!
A new comment on this old post?

Hi there!
Jul. 26th, 2013 12:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh, look!
It's the most recent one I've seen...
Jul. 27th, 2013 03:19 am (UTC)
Re: Oh, look!
Oh, wow, so it is.

I should do something about that.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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