IMPORTANT We need to point out that VolResource does not employ legally trained staff - the information given on these pages is our understanding from experience and reading, but shouldn't be taken as definitive. The purpose here is to flag up issues which you may need to explore further and point you in the right direction. You should take legal advice where appropriate.
Follow the trail
- Copyright and other common issues for charities etc.
- General legal resources on the web.
- Some particular legal traps or common issues for organisations.
- Legal publications page, with links for direct purchase where available. Many of the Charity Admin handbooks will also cover the main legal issues of relevance.
- Taxation issues Essential reading, whatever your legal status. Covers VAT as well as income tax (payroll) and corporation tax.
- Legal status of an organisation - see Registration: Charity and/or Company
- See Health and Safety, or Data Protection under Information Management. Both are essential matters for all voluntary organisations to think about, sooner rather than later.
- Employment regulations for such things as Minimum Wage, Employment Contracts. Note that volunteers are covered by more employment regs than most people realise.
- Look at the Legal Services page if you want to contact professionals - commercial services, grant-funded facilities or pro bono schemes.
- Insurance is important even where it isn't a legal requirement (note that if you employ anybody, it is required).
Copyright and trademarks
See the UK Intellectual Property Office for more details on Trademarks, Copyright and Patents.
Many people don't realise they need a licence to play pre-recorded or live music in public - this includes over phones, at events in the office, conferences etc. Some CDs for playing 'music on hold' are specially copyright free (actually they cost more to start with, but have no recurring charges). Community Matters "offers a low-cost blanket licence to charitable community organisations managing community centres or similar buildings.... The licence covers only the activities run directly by the organisation or by its sections" - annual fee for member organisations £35.25, non-members £47.00. Otherwise, contact PRS for Music (was MCPS - PRS Alliance) on 020 7580 5544. Licensing: phone 020 7306 4500.
Copyright exists on anything which has been published - there is no need to print the copyright symbol, although this usually helps clarify who is the copyright holder. While there isn't one central clearing house as such, there are various agencies dealing with particular areas. If you wish to reproduce more than a quote or short extract, such as part of a review, you should normally contact the publisher in the first instance.
For copyright on newspaper cuttings, features etc, contact the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA media access), phone 01892 525273, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Copyright Licensing Agency licenses photocopying and scanning on other works, and is owned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the Publishers Licensing Society, and also operates for the Design and Artists Copyright Society.
Copyright law extends to items published on the web (including this site). We obtain permission before reproducing items here, and would expect the same the other way round. Obviously if somebody is sending out publicity material, there is an expectation that this can be reproduced. So far, it is held that creating links to other web sites is not covered, but it would be highly dubious if a link was disguised to make the connected page seem a part of your own site (= 'passing off').
Can include charity logos, trading names. Dealt with by the Intellectual Property Office (was Patent Office), a mark can be registered for UK, Europe or worldwide, but the last can be particularly complex and time-consuming.
Please see the Working Relations page.
- Sandy Adirondack**,
co-author of Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook, has useful info
targeted at keeping voluntary organisations up-to-date with relevant
legislation, such as topics above, employment law, discrimination legislation
- British Law is
a portal run by volunteers (law researchers and others) linking through
to law advice organised by topic, for individuals and small organisations.
- Law on the Web is mainly
advice for individuals and small businesses, but is designed to be highly
- compact law (was Law Rights)
is a source of 'free legal information for England and Wales' mainly
for individuals, but includes Health and Safety at Work, Minimum Wage
- BAILII British and Irish Legal
Information Institute provides 'Comprehensive Access to Freely Available
British and Irish Public Legal Information'. Has news and reports on
various court decisions, as well as legislation info.
- New Law Online has become LawTel.
For those looking for more indepth reporting on judgements and other
legal matters. Subscription required.
- International Centre for Not for Profit Law Listed here more for completeness, you can get a list of UK law directly relating to non-profits.