Articles > Startups

Am I Breaking Copyright Laws by Playing Music in My Store?

November 14, 2020   Jennifer AndradePhilip Evangelou

Great music is essential in a store or a restaurant. The right track can set the right mood to attract customers and boost your business’s popularity. However, business owners are often unaware of the legal requirements attached to playing music. Business owners may think they are doing the right thing by paying a monthly subscription to Spotify or Apple Music, however, this is not enough to prevent copyright infringement. The Copyright Act seeks to protect artist’s rights of ownership in their tracks and ensures that they are compensated for any commercial use of their work. Therefore, it is critical that business owners take the right steps when playing music in their stores.

Music Streaming Services 

Spotify and Apple Music each have terms and conditions governing the use of its platforms by their subscribers. It is important to take note of their terms and conditions by business owners hoping to use these platforms in their store. This is because both Spotify and Apple Music prohibit the commercial use of their services by users. This means, where music on these platforms are being played in a commercial context or space, it will be breaching their terms and conditions. Stores and restaurants are indeed commercial businesses and are not allowed to play any track from Spotify or Apple Music. 


Another method people often think satisfies Copyright regulations is buying CDs. However, this too comes with limitations. CDs only transfer the purchaser rights to own the physical disc, to play it in a private context, and to give it to anyone who is doing the same. If a business owner plays a CD that they have purchased in their store or restaurant, they will once again be breaching copyright laws. Copyright laws also prohibit people from moving tracks on a CD onto another file type such as an iPod, and playing music from that file type in a commercial setting without the owner’s permission. Most often, the file type does not determine whether music is being played lawfully. The important question will be whether music is being played for a commercial and personal use. 

Music Licensing Societies 

One way to safely play music in your venue is to obtain a licence by a Music Licensing Society such as the Australasian Performing Rights Association and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright owners Society (APRA AMCOS) or the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA). By paying an annual fee, these societies will provide business owners with the necessary licence to play music in their store and consequentially, pay the relevant artist. Each society offers different packages for different needs and music styles, therefore, it is recommended that business owners shop around to find a package that best suits their requirements. The prices of these packages will also differ depending on the range, amount, and purpose of the songs. 


If a licensing society does not suit a business’s needs, there are several other options that allow for a business to legally play music in their store or restaurant. 

First, a business owner seeking to play a track or album can reach out to that artist and seek permission to play their music. 

Second, there are various online websites that provide a wide range of royalty-free music such as or Each of these sites come with their own terms and conditions which are important to read through. 

Legal consequences

Failure to follow the rules in place by the Copyright Act could result in a business being severely penalised. 

A court order can be made to stop a business from playing the music in their venue. Individual business owners could potentially be fined up to $60,500 and corporations can be fined an even greater amount of $302,500. Police can also issue on-the-spot fines of $1320 and seize any material connected to the music such as a CD or an iPod. 

If a business is playing music through Spotify or Apple Music in their commercial space, these corporations can seek damages on the basis that there has been a breach of their terms and conditions. 

Therefore, it is critical that a business is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that they are lawfully playing music in their place of work such as a restaurant or a retail store. Otherwise, they can be fined an exorbitant amount, killing the mood before it even begins.

If you need assistance to ensure your retail store is compliant, y music in your store get in touch with us via the contact form or by calling 1300 338 997.

About Jennifer Andrade

Jennifer AndradeJennifer is a legal content writer with OpenLegal, with a particular interest in employment, contract and copyright law.

About Philip Evangelou

phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.