Are your customers enjoying a little Beyoncé as they peruse knitwear? Or getting their Bach on as they drain that last sip of merlot? Well, according to Daniel Brody and Andrew Ferren at Goulston & Storrs’ Retail Law Advisor blog, the recordings or live performances of popular covers are subject to copyright, even if it’s just the radio playing, and your company could be liable for infringement.

“Although you do not need a license to play the radio in your car, ‘public performances’ of music in hotels, restaurants, bars, retail stores and shopping malls may require proper licensing,” the authors warn. Artists generally join one of three performing-rights organizations and rely on them to enforce their rights. Any store or restaurant that wants to perform or use the music may secure performance rights, for a fee, from the organizations: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music Inc.; and SESAC Inc.

The tricky part of the equation is the fact that musicians generally join one of the three organizations, so there can be some tracking down to do to find out who has the rights to what greatest hit. However, as always, there are some exceptions. With respect to radio, a restaurant or bar that is less than 3,750 square feet in area or any other type of establishment of less than 2,000 square feet is automatically exempt from obtaining rights, according to Brody and Ferren.

Marlisse Silver Sweeney is a freelance rep­orter in Vancouver.