Wikimedia UK, the UK membership organisation which supports Wikipedia, has set a precedent by gaining charitable status in the UK under the new charitable purpose of promoting “open content” such as Wikipedia.
Until now, the promotion of open access to content and users-generated and –enriched content has not been recognised as a charitable status by the Charity Commission.
Lawyers Stone King, which represented Wikimedia UK in its application to the Charity Commission, said it was delighted that the Commission had made this “bold and wholly justified step” that acknowledges the profound contribution that properly managed and regulated open content makes to society.
“The decision reflects the Commission’s acceptance that charities can operate for charitable purpose other than those expressly set out in the Charities Act 2006,” said a spokesman. “ And that more comfortably fit under the heading ‘objects of general public utility’ famously proposed by Mr Samuel Romilly and others in the 19th century.”
However, while accepting Stone King’s application on behalf of Wikimedia UK, the Commission has been at pains to point out the publication of information useful to the public and promotion of open content are not inherently charitable activities.
Wikimedia UK recently appointed its first chief executive Jon Davies, former chief executive of charity Family need Fathers, and it will open new offices in central London on November 14th.
On the 14th, Wikimedia also launches its annual global fundraiser aiming to raise £1m to support Wikipedia and its sister projects
Going forward, Wikimedia UK plans to work with a growing range of major organizations, including the British Museum and British Library.
Roger Bamkin, chair of Wikimedia UK said, “Achieving charitable status is the culmination of hard work by the Board and by Wikipedian John Byrne and board member Steve Virgin. John, in particular, has worked tirelessly with the volunteer community to create the most persuasive case and to recruit the best legal team to present it.
"Wikimedia UK is anticipating another successful year of outreach and believes we will build further upon the time, dedication and effort of a wonderful group of volunteers in the Wikimedia community. We would like to thank the charity team of Stone King LLP for their outstanding work, and understanding of our unique activities.”