by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 25th 2013 4:03pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 15th 2013 1:41pm
from the moving-on... dept
Apparently, the answer was that however the app was designed, it would be insanely expensive to port to other platforms. That seems like much more of a design mistake than anything else. It seems likely that her project failed for a few key reasons, including that it was just about porting an app that came out years ago, rather than anything new. Also, the "rewards" were somewhat unimpressive. And, of course, Bjork fans who were iPhone users had little reason to contribute as well. There's also the big one: unlike some other stars, Bjork really hasn't embraced connecting and communicating with her fans. That's her choice, of course. No one says she needs to. But, it's much harder to raise a ton of crowdfunded money that way.
Still, many are saying that the project failed because she's rich and famous and could have just paid for everything herself. But that seems silly. There are plenty of ways that the rich and famous can make use of crowdfunding and plenty of reasons why it makes sense to do so. The project failed because it was a bad project for crowdfunding, and because Bjork isn't necessarily connected with her fans in a way that makes sense for crowdfunding.
Amanda Palmer, who remains an example of "doing Kickstarter right" has weighed in on this issue, making some really good points about why anyone should be able to use Kickstarter, even the rich and famous. Here are a few snippets, but the whole thing is worth reading:
crowdfunding should, by its very nature, be available to EVERYBODY....And yet, people still get upset. To some extent, this feels a bit like "hipsterism." People feel that these platforms are special because the rich and famous haven't necessarily discovered them yet. But why is it so wrong if they do find them and do use them? If people want to support the projects they will, and if they don't, they won't. That's what makes these platforms so useful.
here's what i think: THE MARKET IS EFFICIENT.
if ANYBODY wants to give a go at having the community help them with a project, that’s the ARTISTS prerogative. if it fails, then the interest wasn't there.
it should't matter if it's justin bieber, obama, the new kids of the block reunion project, lance armstrong, oprah, or the friendless 18-year old down the street who's been hiding in his bedroom making EDM music.
ANYBODY CAN ASK. that's democracy.
and since crowdfunding is – by definition – in the hands of the community: THE COMMUNITY WILL DETERMINE WHETHER A PROJECT IS SUCCESSFUL.
Fri, Feb 15th 2013 3:34am
from the crowdsourcing-factchecking dept
So I expect more of the same as we learn of another case of a Kickstarter project claiming false affiliations and making promises it couldn't hope to keep. Dirty Bird Sports, as the group was called, claimed that it was raising funds to put out an NCAA football game for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and claimed to have the backing of several well-known names in the football world, all of which turned out to be false.
Boasting a backing from well-known Atlanta Falcons running back Jamal Anderson, the project claimed that it was hoping to create a competitor to EA's NCAA Football game and only needed the relatively paltry sum of $500,000 to develop a PS3 and Xbox 360 title.
However, many of the 3D models and assets compiled by the group, calling itself "Dirty Bird Sports", were found to have been lifted from sites selling other artists work, a roundup of which can be seen at Kotaku.While some might freak out over this, that last bit is what's most interesting to me, and is the proper evidence for pushing back against those claiming the sky is falling. Once again, a vibrant internet community has assisted in outing the liars and scammers, proactively preventing any actual financial harm from occurring. While that same community may not end up with a 100% success rate in stopping such cases, I see these instances as an indication of the maturing of the platform and a direct result of the growth of interest in Kickstarter as a whole. As with any other aspect of crowdsourcing, the benefits rise as the size of the crowd increases. That the internet community is so successful in warning the rest of us of these dangers should be taken as a selling point of Kickstarter, not some scary boogeyman.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 11th 2013 11:52am
from the improved-processes dept
The takedown involved the Gamestick project, an Android-based video game console the size of a USB stick, built into a controller. It's a really cool project, which you can check out here. Not surprisingly, it has received tons of attention, buzz and (of course) donations. But, yesterday, for a brief time, the campaign disappeared for a period of time due to a DMCA takedown. Unlike in the past, the message on the missing page at least contained a little more info:
The campaign was turned back on after a little while, and the full story came out. Apparently, one of the video games that the company shows working in the video was not "cleared" for use by its creators, and they sent the takedown. Playjam edited the video in the question and Kickstarter quickly put the video back up.
This is a message from Kickstarter Support. We’re writing to inform you that a project you backed, GameStick: The Most Portable TV Games Console Ever Created, is the subject of an intellectual property dispute.
The law requires that we remove the project from public view until the process is complete or the dispute is resolved. If we are not able to re-post it within 30 days, we will cancel the project, all pledge authorizations will expire, and the project will be permanently unavailable.
If you’d like to manage your pledge, you can do so through the project page:
If you have any questions, we encourage you to message the creator directly. You can also do this from the project page.
Thanks so much for your patience and cooperation,
All's well that end's well, though there are still a few oddities here. First off, Kickstarter's notice (while better than no notice!) isn't really accurate. The law does not require Kickstarter to remove the project from view. It does provide incentives for Kickstarter to do so, but that's not the same thing. Of course, Kickstarter has the right to remove whatever project it wants, and no one expects them to have to make a full call on each takedown notice, but it's simply not accurate to say they're required to do so. It's just that they risk losing safe harbors if they don't.
The other oddity: the copyright claim itself. I can't see how the video itself or anything on the campaign page would be infringing. Misleading? Perhaps, if it implied that the specific game would be on the device that wasn't fully licensed. But that's not a copyright issue. The video itself might be evidence that PlayJam itself was infringing on the nameless video game company's copyright with its use of the game. Perhaps there's an argument that whatever was seen of the game in the video would be a copyright issue, but that seems like a huge stretch. There would be strong de minimis or fair use responses in both cases. Also, unless there are significant additional circumstances, it seems odd that the video game company didn't embrace this as a way to get free publicity from a very popular Kickstarter project. So it still strikes me that the Kickstarter page and the video itself should not have been seen as infringing. That they might have been misleading is reason enough to change it, but it's unfortunate when people automatically assume that situations like this must be a copyright violation.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 10th 2013 11:27am
from the not-bad-at-all dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 7th 2013 8:45am
from the but-the-industry-is-dying dept
And, yes, the "but what about my $100 million movie" crowd will scoff and argue that this number is so "small." But, two points there: first, this number is growing very, very, very fast. And if you can't understand how trends explode, then you're going to be in trouble soon. Second -- and this is the more important point -- those funds helped create 8,000 films. For those who have been arguing about culture and how we're going to lose the ability to make movies... this suggests something amazing and important is happening which goes against all those gloom and doom predictions. By way of comparison, the UN, which keeps track of stats on film production, claimed that in 2009, 7,233 films were made. Worldwide.
Also, some will inevitably suggest that these aren't "real" films and don't "count" or aren't important. But, of course, the data shows that it's creating a nice long tail of film production, and that includes some very "real" films no matter how you measure. According to the Kickstarter post:
- At least 86 Kickstarter-funded films have been released theatrically, screening in more than 1,500 North American theaters according to Rentrak. Another 14 films have theatrical premieres slated for 2013.
- According to Rotten Tomatoes, three of the 20 best-reviewed films of 2012 are Kickstarter-funded (The Waiting Room, Brooklyn Castle, and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry). Another Kickstarter-funded film, Pariah, was among the best-reviewed of 2011.
- Two films have been nominated for Oscars in the past two years: Sun Come Up and Incident in New Baghdad. A third, Barber of Birmingham, launched a project after being Oscar-nominated. Three documentary features and two documentary shorts are currently shortlisted for Oscar nominations in 2013: The Waiting Room, Detropia, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Inocente, and Kings Point.
- Kickstarter-funded films comprised 10% of Sundance’s slate in 2012 and 2013. In total, 49 Kickstarter-funded films have been official selections at the prestigious festival.
- Kickstarter-funded films comprised 10% of the 2012 slates at the SXSW Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. In total, 57 Kickstarter-funded films have premiered at SXSW and 21 at Tribeca.
- At least 16 Kickstarter-funded films have been picked up for national broadcast through HBO, PBS, Showtime, and other networks.
- Kickstarter-funded films have won at least 21 awards at the Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, and Berlinale festivals.
- Eight Kickstarter-funded films are nominated for Independent Spirit Awards this year.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 11th 2012 12:35pm
from the with-help-from-alexis-ohanian dept
The music industry may have screwed Lester Chambers for decades, but we the internet public can right their wrong.
Thanks to the open internet (things we fought for against SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, etc.), sites like Kickstarter and other innovations that are being worked on by entrepreneurs right now, we have the opportunity to do right by artists and cut out those who'd mistreat them. We have the opportunity to create solutions that will support artists in the digital world.
In looking over this, I'm reminded that earlier this year, during a debate with Jonathan Taplin, Alexis similarly offered to help struggling career musicians launch Kickstarter campaigns, and was mocked for his offer. It raises questions, yet again, as to who is actually helping musicians out these days? The people whining about how copyright laws must be enforced... or the people actually setting up and creating new services to help musicians make money?
by Leigh Beadon
Fri, Nov 30th 2012 6:38pm
from the balancing-act dept
Kickstarter is an amazing platform that faces a lot of interesting challenges. Chief among them is a combination of quality control and expectation management — both of which revolve, in many ways, around image. As in: what is Kickstarter in the eyes of users? On the one hand, the company wants to weed out the worst projects, because it knows that a few high-profile failures could cause serious damage to its image. On the other hand, it wants users to understand that there are always risks involved in backing a project, so they should be discerning and be prepared for delays or other problems. This led to their recent changes to the rules, focused on divulging risks and challenges (which basically everyone agrees is a good thing), preventing people from treating Kickstarter like a simple store or pre-order platform (a more controversial move), and minimizing promises by banning product renderings (the source of the most debate). In the latter two areas, Kickstarter is treading a fine line.
Firstly, there's the "Kickstarter is not a store" aspect (which was the name of their initial blog post about the rules). The core change here was prohibiting projects in the Product Design and Technology sections from offering multiple-item reward tiers (e.g. get three widgets, get five widgets, etc.) which had previously been a pretty popular strategy for launching new consumer products on Kickstarter. They felt that offering multiple items would lead to a lot of disappointment when some projects inevitably go wrong, since it gives the impression that the product is "shrink-wrapped and ready to ship" — and if it is, then it shouldn't be on Kickstarter, a platform geared at helping products to completion, not selling finished ones. That makes sense, but it comes with a few problems:
- Kickstarter acknowledges that in some cases it makes sense to sell products as a set — but that in such cases, you won't be allowed to sell them individually. This ignores the wide variety of versatile products that might make sense individually or in sets. For example, take the Ubi computer (a sort of stationary Siri) which finished its funding just two days before the rule change. It's a device designed to be useful as a standalone unit or a network of units throughout a large home — so it offered one, two, three, five and ten packs (and got backers at all those tiers). Now, for comparison, look at the still-funding Light by Moore'sCloud, which is similarly designed to be useful as a single unit or a house-wide solution, but is unable to offer multi-unit package tiers. It's not a perfect comparison because the Light also has an extremely ambitious funding goal and its entry-level price is a bit lower, but it's interesting to note that despite having 1,398 backers to the Ubi's 1,190, it has raised only $157k to the Ubi's $229k. Though both projects are precisely what the Kickstarter rules are supposed to favor — new devices in the advanced prototype stage that needed resources to finalize the development — the Light seems to be held back by the new restrictions.
- Of course, it's not quite that simple, because there's a weird loophole in the rules. Though projects aren't allowed to offer multiple items at specific reward tiers, they are allowed to offer them as add-ons. For those unfamiliar with the Kickstarter add-on process, well, it's not really a process at all: creators tell backers how much money to add to their pledge for various things, then it's up to them to survey the backers after the project ends to find out which add-ons they want, and square that up with the pledge amount. If anyone made a mistake like failing to cover shipping, they have to deal with it themselves using something like Paypal, absorb the loss, or piss off the backer. Thus, many products actually are available in bigger quantities, but many Kickstarter users are unaware of this process, or confused by it, and project comment pages are filled with repeated back-and-forths about how to order. Rather than preventing Kickstarter from being a store, the change has just made it a store with a worse customer experience.
- Then there's a second weird loophole. The rules only apply to the Product Design and Technology categories — projects under Publishing, Graphic Design and Tabletop Games, for example, can still offer multiple copies at various tiers in a very store-like way. In a way this makes sense, since books, posters, board games and decks of cards all have much clearer, simpler supply chains and paths to completion than a new tech gadget or a unique manufactured product. But that's not universally true: some of the best product innovations are the simplest — easy to create, and destined to become ubiquitous. If they fall under the product design category, though, they are forced to pre-sell them one at a time. And then you get some real anomalies, like the still-funding (and highly successful) Dice Rings. They are a manufactured product design in every sense, but because they were accepted to the Tabletop Games category, they can offer reward tiers with rings in several different quantities — and a huge portion of their backers have pledged for those higher tiers. And, once again, they are exactly what Kickstarter is looking for: a neat idea in a late-prototyping stage that needed a final push to enter production. But they would have faced massive restrictions were it not for some lucky category overlap.
As these loopholes and anomalies show, there are plenty of products that have a perfectly good reason to offer multiple-item tiers without going against Kickstarter principles, and such projects seem to benefit highly from doing so. When you look at this, you realize that the rule change has a built-in negative effect: it optimizes against the best-planned and most reliable projects. It's basically saying "if you don't have a significant risk of failure, you shouldn't be here." But while it's important for entrepreneurs to be aware of risks and challenges, they also pretty universally have a lot of faith in their idea — so telling them they aren't allowed to promise people five widgets, when that may have been a key part of their widget sales strategy, just drives the most confident creators elsewhere.
The other controversial rule change is the ban on product renderings and simulations. This was an attempt to avoid situations like when Felix Salmon pointed out that the prototype of the hugely popular Lifx Lightbulb was a long, long way away from the snazzy mockup plastered all over the Kickstarter page, and made a pretty compelling argument that the whole thing was vaporware. Again, this makes partial sense — but it seems like there are a lot of situations in which product renderings, responsibly used and properly labelled, would be vital to educating potential backers about a project. In a recent submission to Techdirt, Tom McWilliams, creator of the Tiger Cam 3D video microscope, provides an example from his own experience in attempting to launch the project on Kickstarter:
3D imagery is hard to demonstrate when you aren't physically immersed in the actual experience. Most of the time we see 3D advertised using pictures of objects flying out of the screen at us or funny block letters emerging from a picture. We did some (not all) of the same type of effects in our Kickstarter project video to try to emphasize that the really cool part of our product was the 3D experience it offered.
The week we were set to launch our project on Kickstarter, the press release was issued about Kickstarter's new guidelines for technology projects. After a bit of concern, and a lot of review, we presumed that we had complied with these new guidelines, including those prohibiting product simulations. After all, we weren't simulating what our project might do in the future, we were illustrating what our 3D microscope does right now, using the medium we had available to us. After submitting our project, it was declined by Kickstarter because it was deemed that simulations of any kind in our project video were prohibited. We then went back to re-think the video. After removing our 3D-like graphics in the video our project was accepted, but it seems that the message might have been lost in translation.
It's easy to understand the rationale behind the new technology guidelines from Kickstarter. Kickstarter projects are about concrete projects looking to fund their next steps, not about what someone thinks they might be able to create if given the backing. But when simulated images convey the essence of a project in a way that a thousand words cannot, even if disclaimer were to be boldly displayed, there is room, one hopes, for conversation.
McWilliams also raises an excellent question about what exactly a "simulation" is:
Some technology projects are easy to demonstrate by showing a user's interaction with them. But often isn't this simulated? Did that alarm clock really wake up the actor in the video, or was it a simulation? Other projects might be more difficult to demonstrate and ask for a stretch of the imagination in order for the viewer to understand the true user experience. Our 3D microscope product certainly garners this challenge, and we feel that in the end maybe we weren't able to convey this experience to potential project backers.
It seems like Kickstarter realized that managing backer expectations, and controlling the quality and the honesty of projects, was a complicated challenge, so they decided to make a bold move that they hoped would initiate wide-scale change for the better, even if it did a little collateral damage. Unfortunately, such strict broad strokes seem to be creating more problems than they are solving, and unfairly disadvantaging projects with perfectly legitimate interests that run counter to the rules.
Luckily, Kickstarter is still an evolving platform, and none of this is set in stone. It's only been a couple of months since the change, and the company can likely be convinced to revisit the rules once it has a little bit more data to see what effect they had. But, ultimately, they have to listen to their users, both creators and backers. They may not want to be a mere store, but they can't be a haven for creators who hedge every bet while scaring away those with ambitious goals. In striving to manage expectations, Kickstarter can't forget that the best entrepreneurs have high expectations of themselves.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 21st 2012 7:39pm
from the that-is-ridiculous dept
3D Systems claims that Formlabs "took deliberate acts to avoid learning" about 3D Systems' live patents. The lawsuit claims that Formlabs looked only for expired patents -- which seems like a very odd claim. Why would they only seek expired patents? Either way, the lawsuit claims that all of the articles that highlighted how the expiration of patents made Formlabs' printer possible meant that Formlabs must have known about its patents. Again, not quite sure the reasoning makes much sense here.
But what's really crazy is that 3D Systems isn't just going after Formlabs... but Kickstarter as well. You can read the whole filing here. 3D Systems is claiming that because Kickstarter takes a cut, it's equally liable.
Upon information and belief, Formlabs and it sales agent Kickstarter knew or should have known about, or were willfully blind to, 3D Systems' extensive patent rights in the area of three-dimensional printing and stereolithography, including but not limited to 3D Systems' U.S. Patent No. 5,597,520 covering improved methods of stereolithographically forming a three-dimensional object by forming cross-sectional layers of an object from a material capable of physical transformation upon exposure to synergistic stimulation, by virtue of their sales of machines touted by Formlabs as using "stereolithography (SL) technology," which is a technology invented and extensively patented by 3D Systems and its founder Charles Hull.The accusations against Kickstarter are really ridiculous -- suggesting that it encouraged infringement:
Upon information and belief, Kickstarter contributes to the infringement of the '520 Patent by offering to sell and selling within the United States the Form 1 3D printer which is an apparatus for use in practicing patented processes of the '520 Patent, constituting a material part of the invention, knowing the same to be especially made or especially adapted for use in an infringement of the '520 Patent, and the Form 1 3D Printer is not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use.Most bizarre of all? 3D Systems claims that because Kickstarter encourages "hacker and maker" projects, it's knowingly encouraging infringement -- as if "hackers and makers" are only about infringement. This is a really cynical attempt to tie those words to a negative connotation where clearly none is meant.
Upon information and belief, Kickstarter knowingly or with willful blindness induced and continues to induce infringement and possessed specific intent to encourage another's infringement by, or was willfully blind as to the '520 Patent and with respect to, its activities and Formlabs' activities described above.
Upon information and belief, Kickstarter had specific intent to infringe the '520 Patent by virtue of its agency, business and sales arrangement with Formlabs, which had actual knowledge of the '520 Patent and/or was willfully blind to the existence of the '520 Patent as set forth in the allegations above.I've read those paragraphs over a few times and I still can't see what the issue is there. How is supporting hackers and makers somehow evidence of "intent to infringe"?
Indeed, in Kickstarter's own Guidelines as to "Project must fit Kickstarter's categories" at http://www.kickstarter.com/help/guidelines?ref=footer, under section 02, under "View Design and Technology requirements," Kickstarter is actively encouraging "hacker and maker" companies to make 3D printers for Kickstarter to sell, stating: "Not everything that involves design or technology is permitted on Kickstarter. While there is some subjectivity in these rules, we’ve adopted them to maintain our focus on creative projects: D.I.Y. We love projects from the hacker and maker communities (weekend experiments, 3D printers, CNC machines) and projects that are open source. Software projects should be run by the developers themselves."
Either way, 3D Systems has now permanently placed itself into the category of companies not worth ever doing business with. Suing Kickstarter just because a competitor was selling a better, cheaper 3D printer and you got jealous? Shameful.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 26th 2012 8:56am
from the pointless-articles dept
...this revolution has a few mitigating circumstances. First, Kickstarter might produce many new documentaries, but the odds are that those documentaries will be of a very particular kind (this critique also applies to other sites in this field like indiegogo.com, sponsume.com, crowdfunder.co.uk, pledgie.com). They are likely to be campaign and issue-driven films in the tradition of Super Size Me or An Inconvenient Truth. Their directors seek social change and tap into an online public that shares the documentary's activist agenda. A documentary exploring the causes of World War I probably stands to receive less—if any—online funding than a documentary exploring the causes of climate change.I see. And does the "old" system of Hollywood regularly make documentaries exploring the causes of World War I? I'm really not sure I understand how this is a criticism at all. Unless a platform can fund any and all types of movies, it's not really that big of a deal? Under those conditions, nothing is particularly good. Basically, what this paragraph seems to argue is that, "gee, Kickstarter is good at funding projects that lots of people want to see, but not so good at funding projects that people aren't as interested in." I'm not sure that's a critique. It seems to be the purpose of the site itself.
Second, some films require significant startup costs (think drama-documentaries or history movies) or involve considerable legal risks that may be hard to price and account for. Say you are making a film that includes an undercover investigation of the oil industry. When you have the BBC's lawyers backing you up, you'll probably take many more risks than when you are relying on crowdfunding. But if Kickstarter is your platform of choice, you'll probably forgo venturing into the thorny legal issues altogether.I'm curious to know if there's any actual evidence to support this argument. One could just as easily claim that when your project has the backing of a big corporation with liability-averse lawyers, you're a lot less likely to be allowed to take risks, than when you rely on crowdfunding. I don't know which is true (though having spent too much time around movie industry lawyers, I'm pretty sure my statement is a hell of a lot more accurate than Morozov's), but where is the actual data to support this bizarre claim?
There are further complaints that seem equally silly. For example, Morozov points out that someone raised money on Kickstarter to help get his film on physical screens in movie theaters -- and that's somehow proof that Kickstarter isn't that special, since the "old" way of showing a movie is still involved. I'm at a loss as to how any of this is mutually exclusive. There is nothing inherent to Kickstarter that says if you use it, you can only do things online. What's wrong with using it to show a film in theaters?
All in all, this seems a lot like Morozov set up what he thinks Kickstarter should be about -- and then knocked that down. In the logical fallacy world, that's known as a strawman.