This decision was described as “a milestone in the development of charity law in England and Wales” by charity law specialists Stone King LLP, who advised Wikimedia UK on its successful application. They explained: “Wikimedia UK’s registration as a charity is a significant step toward the updating of charity law to reflect developments in modern communications and the evolution of user-generated content. The promotion of open access to content and user-generated and -enriched content has not, until now, been recognised as a charitable purpose. Stone King and Wikimedia UK are therefore delighted that the Charity Commission has made the bold and wholly justified step that acknowledges the profound contribution that properly managed and regulated open content makes to society.”
The news came right before the launch of this year’s global Wikimedia fundraiser, where Wikimedia UK is participating. The Charity Commission’s decision means that for the first time, British donors will be able to declare donations as Gift Aid under UK tax law.
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.” The decision about the application follows a recent resolution where Wikimedia UK’s members affirmed (with 49 votes for, none against and one abstention) that “the Objects of the Charity are, for the benefit of the public, to promote and support the widest possible public access to, use of and contribution to Open Content of an encyclopaedic or educational nature or of similar utility to the general public, in particular the Open Content supported and provided by Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., based in San Francisco, California, USA.”
Over the past year, Wikimedia UK’s activities have included partnerships with cultural sector organisations (GLAMs) such as the British Library, the British Museum, Derby Museum, the UK National Archives, Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the National Maritime Museum, as well as collaborations with academic institutions. The chapter has hired its first Chief Executive, Jon Davies, and will open its office in central London on November 14th. Its 2012 Activity Plan outlines the chapter’s key projects for the next year.
Tilman Bayer, Movement Communications