We present an unbiased determination of the charm content of the proton, in which the charm parton distribution function (PDF) is parametrized on the same footing as the light quarks and the gluon in a global PDF analysis. This determination relies on the calculation of deep-inelastic structure functions in the FONLL scheme, generalized to account for massive charm-initiated contributions. In contrast to the usual situation in which the charm PDF is assumed to be generated perturbatively by pair radiation off gluons and light quarks, vanishing at a scale set by the value of the charm mass m_c, we find that the fitted charm PDF vanishes within uncertainties at a scale Q~1.5 GeV for all x ~0.1 and low scales does not vanish, but rather has an "intrinsic" component, very weakly scale dependent and almost independent of the value of m_c, carrying about 1% of the total momentum of the proton. The uncertainties in all other PDFs are only slightly increased by the inclusion of fitted charm, while the dependence of these PDFs on m_c is significantly reduced. When the EMC charm structure function dataset is included, it is well described by the fit, and PDF uncertainties in the fitted charm PDF are significantly reduced, though we verify that excluding the EMC data does not qualitatively modify any of our findings. The increased stability with respect to m_c persists at high scales and is the main implication of our results for LHC phenomenology. Fitting the charm PDF modifies the predictions for processes such as high p_T and large rapidity charm pair production and Z+c production, and thus we expect that future LHC data will further constrain the charm content of the proton.