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Is playing music in your store a copyright violation?

Music can help sets the tone in a place of business. The right playlist could motivate your employees to do better at their jobs or could even make shoppers feel more enthusiastic about spending their money. Whether you run a large retail facility or a small corner shop, creating a positive environment can go a long way toward building your brand and achieving success.

Before you throw on a playlist to create a musical ambiance for your customers, you will want to make sure that you have the proper licensing rights. Whether you intend to play music from a digital system or through a radio station, you could run afoul of copyright laws.

Playing music in your store, even if not for profit, is a performance

People who create artistic works have copyright protections from the minute they published those works or make them accessible to the public. You have the right to consume and enjoy the media you purchase for private reasons without fearing copyright infringement claims. However, once you start making those protected works accessible to others, you run the risk of violating someone’s copyright.

Whether you play the radio so customers can listen to pop music or spin CDs of your own over the sound system, doing so without licensing from the person who wrote the song or the musicians performing it could lead to copyright claims.

You do not need to directly profit from the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials to face consequences for doing so. Even public performances where you don’t charge any sort of admission or cover charge could violate the rights of artists and creators. Playing music in your shop constitutes a public performance for the purposes of copyright enforcement.

What can people do if you violate their copyright?

Copyright violations can lead to different enforcement efforts. Sometimes, a cease-and-desist letter will be the only action taken. If the copyright holder feels that your alleged violation was a mistake, they may give you an opportunity to correct that oversight and stop playing their music in your store.

On the other hand, given that music copyrights are often owned by large businesses and conglomerates, sometimes even investment groups, they may take a more aggressive and financial approach to their enforcement efforts. You have the right to push back against copyright infringement claims made against your business, especially if you face financial consequences.