Wikimedia Foundation blocked once again by China for accreditation to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Flags of WIPO Member States

14 March 2023, San Francisco, CA, USA – Yesterday, the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, was rejected for accreditation to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). The accreditation was once again blocked by China, marking the fourth time that China has raised objections to the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia affiliate groups participating in WIPO.

WIPO is the specialized United Nations (UN) agency that determines global policies on copyright, patents, and trademarks. The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is composed of WIPO country representatives, non-governmental organizations, and private companies which offer expertise in helping the specialized UN agency realize its global mandate. Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects rely on open, flexible copyright policies to ensure that knowledge can be created, accessed, and shared freely by people online, globally. 

“Today’s decision at WIPO strengthens our resolve to ensure that the agency’s work takes free knowledge, public interest communities like Wikipedia into account,” said Stephen LaPorte, Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel. “The Wikimedia Foundation, and the global free knowledge movement that it supports, offer crucial insight into the laws and policies that regulate accessing, remixing, and sharing information online, an expertise recognized by our recent accreditation at ECOSOC. We urge member states and WIPO’s leadership to support our application at the coming General Assembly meeting in July.”

This latest rejection from WIPO comes on the heels of the Wikimedia Foundation gaining accreditation in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2022. ECOSOC observer status allows the Wikimedia Foundation to contribute to international discussions shaping the future of the internet, including the role that access to knowledge can play in furthering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

China opposed the accreditation of the Wikimedia Foundation at WIPO, inaccurately claiming that the organization spreads disinformation through Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. The accusation misrepresents the Wikimedia model, where volunteer community-led content moderation prioritizes neutrality and requires citations of reliable secondary sources in its content.

Several representatives from countries that often side with China in the United Nations agreed that there was a lack of consensus to make a decision on the Wikimedia Foundation’s accreditation. Other country representatives dismissed China’s objection, pointing out that the Wikimedia Foundation’s application is fully compliant with WIPO’s admission criteria. They highlighted that having diverse representation and expertise among WIPO observer organizations is important for the SCCR’s work. No formal vote on the Wikimedia Foundation’s accreditation was called, contrary to the WIPO Rules of Procedure

When there are differing opinions among countries, WIPO Rules of Procedure highlight that a decision should be made by a simple majority vote. A vote last year, during the 2022 General Assembly, clearly showed that WIPO is not obligated to make decisions by consensus.

The Wikimedia Foundation will apply for official observer status again at the coming WIPO General Assembly meeting in July 2023.

About the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Our vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. We believe that everyone has the potential to contribute something to our shared knowledge, and that everyone should be able to access that knowledge freely. We host Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, build software experiences for reading, contributing, and sharing Wikimedia content, support the volunteer communities and partners who make Wikimedia possible, and advocate for policies that enable Wikimedia and free knowledge to thrive. The Wikimedia Foundation is a United States 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA.

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