Web Law for Nonprofits

Welcome

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.

Contents

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.

Domain Names
If your organization is building its first site, this is the place to begin reading about selecting and registering a domain name.

Web Hosting
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?

Website Developers
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.

Website Content
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.

Privacy Policies
If your site only contains information about your mission and programs and does not collect personal information from web users, you may not need a privacy policy. However, privacy policies create goodwill and are considered a best practice. This section also addresses terms and conditions policies, which is a disclaimer for any problems caused by the site.

Accessibility
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.

Fundraising
Increasing numbers of donors are using the Internet to make their charitable gifts. What laws apply?

E-Commerce
Are you accepting online payments for tickets or merchandise? There are a number of important considerations related to keeping the process safe.

Sponsorship Rules
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.

Credits

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.

THIS WEBSITE HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR A LEGAL OPINION. ONLY YOUR ATTORNEY CAN ADVISE YOU ABOUT WHICH LAWS ARE APPLICABLE TO YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION.

"Our organization's approval of 501(c)3 status is in-large part due VLAA who assigned a wonderful lawyer to assist us with a complex IRS application. They continue to help us by offering outstanding seminars as well as website consultation and web-related legal information."
Marsha Shepley, Ballroom Dance Academy of St Louis