Just gonna respond to a couple things for clarification sake, nothing more.
You did say google it, you then criticise me reading the articles google provided? As you say I only signed up when I heard the news to find out what was going on, I don't know Josh Parnell or how he spent the money, I can say nothing good or ill about him, he could be a fraudster he could just be a person who made bold claims took people's money and then lacked the skills to follow through. I don't think its unreasonable to ask for that money back, just if say Star Citizen (another project I backed (I like space fighter sims) ) was cancelled, I would preferably want that money back, is that really an unreasonable position to take with a vendor?
Keep in mind, a lot of what I speak from is from the viewpoint of someone in the US. If someone took donations/pledges/backings for a project and had ill-will regarding the delivering of a product, then we would define that as fraud, and of course is illegal. However, if someone's intention was to deliver a product 100%, but then was not able to fulfill it, that's not really punished (with the exception of certain circumstances). This is also why it's usually hard to prove (for better or for worse) that fraud was committed. It's easy to see a project creator committed fraud when they buy themselves exorbitant gifts while not delivering a product. However, as you said, you did just join. To save you some time scouring the forums, Josh has put forth a LOT of information documented here from numerous devlogs and communications that show he was trying to deliver a product.
The article linked shows a case of fraud, which also means the project creator didn't have intention to deliver a product worthy of the money raised. A lot of it has to do with intention
-- which is really difficult to prove in our courts; but once again, with all the devlogs posted, he can easily show that fraud was not committed.
Asking for money back is a reasonable stance to take with a vendor; however that isn't as clear cut either. Say a store is going out of business. Say they sold self-made knick-knacks. One of those knick-knacks is a very detailed teapot that has gold inlaid and so forth. Maybe it cost a good $500 (and the value was there). But maybe it had a defect that caused it to leak. In this case, if the store is going out of business, do you think you'll be able to ask for that money back if there is no money to spend?
That store will already have to settle its debts first (rent, utilities, etc) as those are considered first-party debtors. You are considered a second-party debtor and while you can request money, or file a lawsuit, you'll only see anything if the first-party debtors didn't eat up all the money, and once again, based on percentages and other numbers. Very rarely you'll see any return for the same reasons it's going out of business.
As for Star Citizen; they can't seem to stop gloating over how much money they have. This, along with the fact that they're still in development (as well as not wanting to deal with the headache) makes it easier for them to refund the money. Are they legally obligated to? It's grey. One could argue they are because they're past their delivery date, but one could also argue that they have produced *something* even if it isn't yet the original idea.
Now, if Josh had say, put the money away, lived at home (thus incurring no expenses against the original amount, or trivial amount), and found the project to be too large, I'd agree with you wholeheartedly. If there was a significant amount that could be returned (no idea where I'd draw the line), I'd also be inclined to ask for money back.
I don't think it would really matter where he's based as the CJEU and other courts have proved if you are providing a service in a country (e.g your website is accessible in those place) then you are bound by those countries laws just as much as your own.
This is true for a service. However, in the US, what was being sold was defined as a product, and not a service (yes there is a difference - legally speaking). This causes some more muddy areas if the CJEU defines a service differently. This would bring about a whole bunch of extra nonsense in trying to define *what* exactly was being sold, and whether it technically translates or not. This would easily become a whole different monster all because the US defines things differently.
The basis for location laws though are on the idea that "Did he commit a crime where he executed the contract?" If the answer is 'No', then outside of extradition, there's no real way to be able to pursue any action against him, regardless of what it is.
I think you have missed the point between rewards and just backing a project. If there had been no rewards promised you'd be right, but as there is there is a duty to deliver the rewards as per the contract.
There was an infamous piece of hardware called the Phantom Game Console. It won many vaporware awards for well over a decade. The company was selling a new game console based off of PC hardware (similar to the XBox). They had investors who threw money at it, and many contracts they were beholden to. Now, lawsuits were eventually able to prove (to some degree) they had committed fraud.
However, they re-organized and eventually came out with a lap-board, something completely different than the original scope as well as nowhere near quality of product that was originally promised. The fact they were able to deliver anything at all
was enough to wipe the fraud charges and basically have the courts say "Now you guys are all better". Sure, reputation was in the trash, but they weren't really legally beholden to the original contract.
Yes, I am summarizing *very* briefly, but this is an example of if Josh so much as made a sticker and sent it out to everyone, his obligations could be considered complete.
The Oculus RIft when it was on Kickstarter raised a TON of money. So much, they were able to deliver their product as well as use the leftover money to get big time investors. Eventually they sold for an ungodly amount of money.
People felt cheated because they didn't get a piece of the pie. Afterall, their money was what made the company go from a couple million to a few billion. While lawsuits were filed because the people tried to run with the idea they were basically investors, the courts came back and stated they weren't shareholders, and thus not financially obligated to get any money in return.
Also another very brief summary, but the same idea, but in reverse.
tl;dr US law is stupid in many regards for these sorts of things with too many loopholes.