Forskningsavdelningen

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DRAFT - DO NOT LINK (as of time of writing, this does not represent a consensual statement of the Metalab)

please correct, clarify, reduce, compress

It has come to our attention that on Saturday, November 28th, the police of Malmoe conducted a reportedly unwarranted search in the location of the hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen.

Police states that they acted on suspicion of illegal alcohol sales to the public (Sweden has strict alcohol regulations) during the punk concert arranged by another group on a different level on the premises. Wi-Fi equipment (a long range antenna and common household routers) and key copying machines were found on site and seized, on suspicion of IT intrusion and preparing to commit grand theft. However, these tools are not illegal per se and have perfectly legal uses. Lock-picking, for example, is practised as a sport by members of official clubs in Europe; these regularly engage in education of the public and deliver striking demonstrations about the security flaws of common locks. Participation in this sport is no more a preparation for burglary than sport shooting is a preparation for murder.

We are members of the Metalab, a hackerspace in Vienna - and as such a sister project of Forskningsavdelningen. Our organisation is privately financed as well as publicly subsidised and has been host to widely recognised (see Pressespiegel) talks, conferences, workshops, and social events. Moreover, the Metalab has given birth to various commercial, civic, philanthropic, and social ventures. These sorts of advances can only grow in certain environments, and hackerspaces - like the Metalab - strive to provide such an environment. An environment that may seem odd or ominous to outsiders. An environment that usually harbours technology that's not a common sight in just any home or office. But after all, this is the whole point of a hackerspace.

Hackerspaces enrich their region's cultural and technological scene. They are places of information, discussion, experimentation and openness. They are the real world manifestations of a new paradigm, originated in the free, border-less and undiscriminating nature of the internet and its communications structures. Hackerspaces are places where freedom of opinion meets creativity and spawns inspiration. They're the birth-place of start-up firms that employ cutting edge technology, of altruistic community projects and of art in new media.

One would certainly expect that it is in the public interest to foster this kind of organisation, as it is the case in Vienna and many other places around the world.

But not so in Malmoe. Not only were the actions of the Swedish police potentially in violation of the civil rights of the club members, they also suggest that engaging in creative collaboration might put you in danger of being prosecuted for dubious reasons. Hackerspaces, being what they are, create potential for everyone. To put such organisations in random legal peril will eventually prove detrimental to a free society as a whole.

We hereby strongly object to the official reasoning leading to the raid and expressly state solidarity with our friends in Malmoe.

We request the responsible authorities to cease and desist from any further measures not covered by rule of law, and to immediately return all confiscated equipment which was removed without probable cause.

Additionally, we request a public investigation into the true nature of this sting operation as well as against the agitators responsible to clarify whether or not they maliciously presented false reasoning to perform this operation against a private interest organisation without legal grounds under the rule of law.

We also request a statement of Austrian and Swedish authorities as to what legal uncertainties organisations such as ours have to face in continuing our work.


Sources:

A next to complete list of activities, visitors and press coverage in the metalab:

Some commercial ventures originating at the metalab:

For more information about hackerspaces, please see:

For more information about the metalab, please visit:

The Metalab is a non profit organisation located in Vienna, Austria and counts more than a hundred paying members.

Potentially "suspicous" organisations with long standing impact on society and technology:

This statement will be communicated to the media, the Austrian Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Swedish Department of Justice.