Web Law for Nonprofits
Welcome to our web law pages for nonprofit arts organizations. Many nonprofits believe that they are insulated from liability for a host of legal complications. In most cases, this belief is false. Our goal is to provide an overview of the most important cyberspace legal issues, so you can be well informed as you promote your organization online. This isn't an exhaustive treatment of the issues. Instead, we simply offer practical answers to the questions we hear most often.
Please note that these pages are under construction.
Our web law pages are loosely organized in the chronological order of legal matters you might face as you build a new site from scratch of update an existing website.
If your organization is building its first site, this is the place to begin reading about selecting and registering a domain name.
There are thousands of web hosting companies. A good web host can help your organization flourish; a bad one can cost you time and money or, even worse, create an unfavorable first impression to audiences, donors and volunteers. What should you consider when searching for a web hosting provider?
Who is going to design your website? What are the key intellectual property ownership issues? How can a written agreement help prevent common problems that you may encounter while working with a freelancer or website development company? Read more.
You’ve chosen a domain name, registered it, found a host for your website and have a developer on stand-by. Now it’s time for content: text, images, requests for donations, links to other sites and more. This section addresses preliminary planning steps; copyright, including permissions; the rights of publicity and privacy; considerations related to children; “adult” content; third party content; trademark; protecting images and copyright registration; and age appropriate content.
While there is no law that requires nonprofits or other businesses to apply the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act to website design, making your site accessible to people with disabilities (an estimated 48 million Americans are disabled) can increase traffic and send a positive message to the public. Read more.
Increasing numbers of donors are using the Internet to make their charitable gifts. What laws apply?
Are you accepting online payments for tickets or merchandise? There are a number of important considerations related to keeping the process safe.
Tax-exempt organizations need to be aware of how the IRS distinguishes sponsorship acknowledgments from advertising. The latter may be subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT). Like many tax issues, the lines can be a bit gray but here are some basics principles.
Political and Lobbying Activities
The Internet has become one of the most powerful mediums for political activity but the IRS imposes a strict ban on election-related activity by tax-exempt organizations and some limits on lobbying. What are the web- and social media-related concerns? Read more.
These pages were conceived, researched and written by Brent Harrison, 2011 J.D. candidate, Washington University School of Law, with guidance from Attorney Zachary Hammerman. VLAA Executive Director Sue Greenberg contributed some content.