[hackerspaces] kids, insurances, parental control

Matt Joyce matt at nycresistor.com
Wed Jan 27 16:22:55 CET 2010

In the us, the requirement of insurance is a forgone conclusion.  It is
usually tied to the legal formation of corporations.  Even in a 501.3c
scenario, you exist as a for profit entity for some time until officially

If someone's personal name is on a lease, or if your organization has
founders...  these names will turn up in any legal inquiry and likely be
drawn into stuff.

In the US, when someone is injured, their health insurance provider will get
involved.  No ifs ands or buts.  They will investigate and given any
opportunity will sue everyone and their mother to recoup cost or avoid
paying the claim.

To operate without insurance or proper organizational paperwork in the us
would be stupid and irresponsible.  For a variety of reasons extending
beyond this.

Squatting, in the us, is not an acceptable situation for this very reason.
Using a persons home, the same.  It would put the home owner in direct
personal risk.

I agree this is morally wrong, functionally self defeating, and damned near
incomprehensibly stupid, but it is what it is for now.

It just takes a second, one moment of lapse in awareness for someone to get
hurt.  I've seen very cautious people get hurt doing mundane tasks.  During
a board etching demonstration a friend of mine accidently inhaled a lungful
of ferric chloride fumes.  Messed him up good and proper.  Could have easily
ended up in the hospital.  Boom, insurance at the door..

Do you have proper signage?  Ventilation?  In a properly zoned area?
Chemicals stored properly according to municipal codes?  Etc etc etc...

Boom lawsuit.

Now members are being deposed.  People with their names attached to the
organization or the event could end up being named directly in the suit...

This isn't a worst case scenario...  this is how this works.

They will sue everyone and anyone they have a chance to, sadly what makes
our hackerspaces special, also makes for a tremendous legal liability.  And
I don't care if the only person saddled with massive legal debt is the
organization...  that's fine.  But if someone ends up personally on the hook
for a few hundred thousand....  that's life changing.

No one wants that.

So, if you are of the mindset goddamn the torpedoes full speed ahead, well
then so be it, but for the love of god please be aware of what you are
getting yourself into.  Talk to a lawyer.  Be responsible.  When you do end
up in court, showing that you went out of your way to establish a safe and
legal workshop will definitely help you, even if you ignore some of the
advice entirely.

Also, read the shit you sign.  This is not an eula.  You can't say your cat
signed it.

And to the guys in european squats,  personally I get that you aren't
subject to a lot lof this...  but I still believe you are acting
irresponsibly in turning an abandoned property into a public venue.  I would
recommend to you, that if you are squatting, you do not invite people who
are not familiar with the situation into your spaces.  It would be a minor
form of duplicity to do so at the very least.

When you open your doors to the public at large, whether legally required to
do so or not you take on a huge responsibility to ensure basic requirements
are met for your guests.  That's a universal given.  Water, toilets, a safe
environment, adequate safeguards against fires and other reasonably
potentional risks.  It's a society accepted universal ethical code of
conduct that hosts provide these things to their guests.  If you are unable
to provide all of these things, then you cannot in good conscience open your

That's my feeling on the subject.

Do I think kids should be able to risk injury using solderingn irons and
power tools?  Absolutely.  But I think for younger kids parents need to be a
part of that for a ton of reasons.  Would I trust a 16 year old alone in a
shop?  In a case by case basis yes I definitely would.  Should this
matter...  hell yes it should.  In the USA however, we have very bad laws
that make this very difficult to make happen without establishing a legal
war chest.  and so, regardless of what I want the world to be, I have to
operate in regards to how it is.  Demonstrating that kids can work with
tools and that this hands on pursuit of knowledge is valuable....  is
absolutely paramount in changing the way things are, and we NEED to pursue
that as a society and as a culture.  But we should be responsible in
choosing how to best do that.

This is where FIRST sponsorship, and relationships with established public
resources such as libraries and museums comes into play in a very big way.
Jump all over this stuff.  Donate some weekends to a workshop at a science
museum or library.  Donate some evening to helping kids build a robot at
school.  Be involved, build a case for removing this stupid legislation.
Shouting, this is wrong has never been anywhere nearly as effective as
demonstrating what is right.  And that's the very essence of what
hackerspaces were born from.

Anyways that's my rambling early am thoughts on the subject.


On Jan 27, 2010 8:14 AM, "Ron Bean" <bucketworks at rbean.users.panix.com>

asbesto <asbesto at freaknet.org> writes: >So, for us, an "hackerspace" is our
home. Many of the times...
Squatting is different from having your name on a lease. Landlords
usually require us to have insurance. Insurance companies have their own

Also, bringing in kids you don't know is different from a member
bringing in his own kids.

We had one landlord express some concern about kids from the nearby
technical high school, because they sometimes start fights in the
neighborhood. Our response was "those kinds of kids usually aren't

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