In what is undoubtedly a turning point for crowdfunding, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on May 1 against Ed Nash and his Nashville, Tenn.-based company, Altius Management over the company's failure to deliver on a retro-horror-themed set of playing cards titled Asylum. In October 2012, Nash raised $25,146 from 810 backers, over $10,000 of its $15,000 goal:
Asylum is a fully customized Bicycle® Playing Card Deck - unlike any deck you've ever seen - and ONLY to be printed once. Designed by Serbian artist Milan C., and managed by entertainment industry veteran Ed Nash - this is a limited deck that you are going to want to own.
The product was to be delivered in December 2012, but it never arrived, and Nash stopped communicating on the site as of October 31, 2012. Of the 810 backers, 31 reported that they live in the state of Washington, the attorney general brought the suit on behalf of their constituents. The lawsuit alleges:
According to Kickstarter's Terms and Conditions, project creators are legally bound to fulfill backer rewards if funding is successful. All project creators must agree to these Terms and Conditions before starting a Kickstarter campaign. Additionally, Kickstarter's Project FAQ suggests that project creators experiencing delays in the fulfillment of their project's pledges maintain contact with their backers via Kickstarter's update and comment system. Kickstarter strongly suggests that "Regular communication is a must."
The suit is specifically about providing refunds, vs. actually delivering on the product. It asks for up to $2,000 per defendant, in addition to all attorney fees. Kickstarter responded in GeekWire:
Tens of thousands of incredible projects have been brought to life through Kickstarter. We want every backer to have an amazing experience, and we’re frustrated when they don’t. We hope this process brings resolution and clarity to the backers of this project.
And the Washington Attorney General said:
This is a new frontier. We hope this sends a message to other potential project creators to take their responsibilities seriously. We look forward to bringing more cases, if necessary, to protect consumers.
Ferguson's words will certainly be prophetic: Kickstarter's comments section on several unfulfilled Kickstarters are filled with links to the lawsuit and threats to engage attorney generals in other states. Given the number of tabletop games funded (and unfunded) on Kickstarter, this lawsuit will have serious repercussions for the game designers of other unfulfilled Kickstarters.
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