The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) enables anyone to request information from a public authority which has functions in England and Wales. The Act provides a general right of access to information held by the authorities and obliges all public bodies, including government departments, Arts Councils and public culture services to disclose information within 20 working days of a request, providing there is no specific exemption. However, in 2019 the Information Commissioner called on Parliament to take action to close a loophole in transparency in the legislation that is allowing some local authority cultural services that are contracted out to private bodies to be exempt from public information requests. There are no requirements of residence, domicile or citizenship in order for a person (which can include a company) to be entitled to make a request.
The Charities Act 2006 made the Charity Commission responsible for assessing the public benefit of charities and ensuring they are “charitable”. Charities need to prove that all their activities conform to the principle of “providing public benefit” and have to register with evidence of this. If charities (including arts companies) are found to be failing in the delivery of public benefit, the Commission is empowered to enforce change, even as far as directing organisations’ assets towards charitable purposes.
The Equality Act 2010 legislated against discrimination in a range of areas (see chapter 4.1.5).
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), introduced in 1997, is designed to protect disabled people from discrimination in areas such as gaining physical access to premises, as well as legislation to ensure equal access to employment. Extensive legal guidelines came into force in May 2004 to ensure that new and existing non-domestic buildings are designed to be accessible to, and useable by, people with mobility and sensory impairments.
The Trade Marks Act 1994 (as amended) covers the registration and protection of registered trademarks in the UK.
Regulations banning smoking in premises that serve food to the public are in force.
There are several laws that cover the sale of cultural goods: the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the Trade Description’s Act 1968, the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
Other legislation that may impact on culture includes the Criminal Justice Act 1994 that also extended to film and video censorship.
When renting or managing studios where artists are working, there are many other regulations apart from the Health and Safety at Work Act (see chapter 4.1.5.) that need to be observed (such as the Building Regulations Act 1976 and the Fire Precautions Act 1971) in addition to insurance, leasing and contracting obligations. Many studio complexes will not insure the personal or creative contents of each individual studio, thus this becomes the responsibility of the renting artist. The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 specifies that the building or construction where art is displayed must have the correct insurance cover against fire, theft and flood; that any artworks are insured against theft, loss or damage and that the safety of audiences or visitors is safeguarded. Artists often find they have to take out their own exhibition insurance where owners or administrators of premises do not.
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