Three ideas: laws you never knew you were breaking
Avoid getting fined and whined at for the things you never knew were illegal.
1. Smoking in your own home
Ah, smokers. I'm afraid your lives just got a whole lot worse.
Not only have you been exiled by pubs and bars (treacherous former
comrades!) and affronted by most unappetizing images of what your
lungs may look like on the very packets that cradle your tabaccoey
pleasure (the last refuge, cruelly vandalised!) - now, now you
might even be breaking the law if you spark up in your own
If you run your business from a part of your home that you don't
use for anything else (you'll probably be paying business rates on
that part if this applies), you're legally not allowed to smoke in
that area. If clients visit your home or if you have an employee
working there with you, you're also banned.
Likelihood of getting busted: We really don't expect
a tirade of Kevlar-clad troops to go breaking your door down just
because you took a fag break in the wrong room. To be honest, it's
highly unlikely you'll get caught for this one unless your client
happens to be a health and safety inspector. But, regulations
aside, if you have customers in the house you're probably better
off keeping it smoke-free anyway. And if you have an employee
there, check with them first to make sure they're comfortable with
you lighting up.
2. Infringing copyright with the font you use on your
That's right. The very letters you're looking at right now are
subject to copyright law. And as we're guessing you haven't been
designing your own fonts in your spare time, the font you're using
on your website, marketing material and products is all copyrighted
But font copyrighting is a murky world. All font publishers have
different rules about what you're allowed to do with their
You're typically allowed to use one you've bought (or that comes
as part of a package) on your site for all static text. But if you
have any kind of download-able form or application that might lead
to a site visitor writing something in that font (giving them
access to it), chances are you're breaking the rules. (We did try
to warn you it gets a bit convoluted.)
Talk to the provider of your font if you're unsure, and read the
small print carefully when signing up to any DIY-website products
to make sure the copyright for the font is included in the cost. Be
especially careful with trademarks and logos, as if you use a
copyrighted font for these you really will be in trouble.
Likelihood of getting busted: Our insider at a font
publishing house says they find out about copyright infringement by
word of mouth or by spotting it themselves. In the massive world of
the web, you'd be pretty unlucky to get noticed. But it is
possible. And sadly we can't give you any more concrete statistics
than that because, frankly, this is such a complex area that no one
really knows the figures.
Worried but broke? Download one of the free fonts available at Identifont, Font Post, or Ace Free
Fonts, to name but a few of the many free font libraries
3. Playing music without a license
Gone are the halcyon days of playing music innocuously in the
background while you slave the day away. You technically have to
pay an additional licence fee if you play the radio, CDs or iTunes
in any working environment where there's more people there than
just you. The rationale behind this is that when you bought the
music, you only paid for a licence for one person to listen to it
(you). The more people there are around you, the more you need to
pay to license them to sing along too.
This law applies to shops, offices, bars, and the huge range of
other music-playing work situations. The charge varies loads
according to the size of your property, the nature of your business
and how many people are listening to it for any given amount of
time. In some cases you pay a fee per hour, in others per
The people you need to talk to about sorting all this out are the
Performing Rights Society (PRS). Its website shows you how to calculate what
you owe and you can apply for a license there.
Likelihood of getting busted: The interweb is loaded
with people who've felt the PRS's foot up their backside
(figuratively speaking, of course). One forum-goer complained of
receiving five letters a week. But it's almost exclusively premises
open to the public that are at risk here: shops, pubs,
hairdressers, et al.
If that's you, we're heard of more than a handful of people who've
been caught out by undercover PRS snoopers who've then shafted them
with a hefty fine, and we recommend you look into getting a license
But if you work in a private office, you're probably pretty safe.
We can't say categorically you won't be found out, and we would of
course never suggest you dodge the long arm of the law, but let's
just say there may be more useful things you could spend your money
on. Like more CDs.
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