Three ideas: laws you never knew you were breaking

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 home.

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 website

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 too.

But font copyrighting is a murky world. All font publishers have different rules about what you're allowed to do with their fonts.

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 online.

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 year.

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 asap.

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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