China yesterday blocked the Wikimedia Foundation’s application for observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations (UN) organization that develops international treaties on copyright, IP, trademarks, patents and related issues. As a result of the block, the Foundation’s application for observer status has been suspended and will be reconsidered at a future WIPO meeting in 2021.
China was the only country to raise objections to the accreditation of the Wikimedia Foundation as an official observer. Their last-minute objections claimed Wikimedia’s application was incomplete, and suggested that the Wikimedia Foundation was carrying out political activities via the volunteer-led Wikimedia Taiwan chapter. The United Kingdom and the United States voiced support for the Foundation’s application.
WIPO’s work, which shapes international laws and policies that affect the sharing of free knowledge, impacts Wikipedia’s ability to provide hundreds of millions of people with information in their own languages. The Wikimedia Foundation’s absence from these meetings further separates those people from global events that shape their access to knowledge.
“The Wikimedia Foundation operates Wikipedia, one of the most popular sources of information for people around the world. Our organization can provide insights into global issues surrounding intellectual property, copyright law, and treaties addressed by WIPO that ensure access to free knowledge and information,” said Amanda Keton, General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation. “The objection by the Chinese delegation limits Wikimedia’s ability to engage with WIPO and interferes with the Foundation’s mission to strengthen access to free knowledge everywhere. We urge WIPO members, including China, to withdraw their objection and approve our application.”
A wide range of international and non-profit organizations as well as private companies are official observers of WIPO proceedings and debates. These outside groups offer technical expertise, on-the-ground experience, and diversity of opinions to help WIPO with its global mandate.
“The Wikimedia Foundation calls on the member states of WIPO to reconsider our application for observer status and encourages other UN member states to voice their support for civil society inclusion and international cooperation,” said Keton.
The Wikimedia Foundation provides the essential infrastructure for free knowledge and advocates for a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.