MIT Fablab Charter

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Isabelle Liotard:

"Four basic conditions are required to become an FL under the MIT’s umbrella:

(1) allowing public access to the space: FabLabs must make technology and equipment accessible to everyone.

(2) subscribing to the FabLab charter .

(3) sharing tools (a minimum is required, including 3D printers) and procedures.

(4) being part of the global community of FLs and not remaining isolated.

The MIT Charter (which can be found everywhere including on the FabFoundation site) covers a certain number of points. Having given a definition of the space, the Charter explains what should be found in the FabLab and the organisational and governance conditions of this space (what the responsibilities involve and who can use the space). In general, the stated objective of an MIT FabLab is not commercial, even though there are a few cases of projects developed in these spaces that have led to setting up companies. The charter stipulates that knowledge should be made available via open source and open design so that it can be used by anyone, and not bound by IP and patents. Commercial activity is possible, but there are conditions: “Commercial activities can be prototyped and incubated in a fab lab, but they must not conflict with other uses, they should grow beyond rather than within the lab, and they are expected to benefit the inventors, labs, and networks that contribute to their success”.

There is no formal authorisation from MIT accepting a space as being connected with this charter. As a rule, spaces are asked to register on the Fab Foundation site and self-evaluate their compliance with the four criteria required by the Charter (Botollier-Depois et al, 2014). In actual fact, a FabManager we interviewed stressed the importance of peer recognition and cooptation for FabLab candidates. In order to receive this “approval” or “knighting”, the space’s founder has to be recognised by other FabManagers. The same goes for the team involved in the candidate site. Peer validation ensures the coherence of the site with regard to the Charter’s expectations, and constitutes acceptance. As such, the international conferences held every two years are very important because they enable FabLabs to make themselves known to others and forge relationships with people in the community." (