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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 38910
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I manage a store that sells music and recently we've heard

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I manage a store that sells music and recently we've heard through the grapevine that some distributors and manufacturers of many of the discs we sell have been sued due to licensing/copyright issues. We have a lot of discs that were obtained from those distributors and manufacturers who were sued. For the time being we have removed them from our website because we fear legal action even though we don't know specifically which items are questionable. Technically we have never directly received any cease & desist notifications. Can we continue advertising the items since we bought them under the impression that they were completely licensed? We were considering putting a notification on each item saying something like "If you are a music publisher and there is a concern regarding copyrights of a song on our website, please submit cease and desist to us and we will remove the disc from sale until further clarification." Could that help prevent us from having legal action taken against us if there is any licensing/copyright issue with any of the merchandise we have in stock?
Copyright infringement is an automatic liability violation of law. It's like a traffic ticket. Infringe, and you're liable, no matter what your intent. Innocent infringement is grounds for a court to reduce any damage award -- but, you can still be sued for infringement damages.
Consequently, there is absolutely no way that you can avoid liability, other than by not selling infringing materials.
Legally, if you haven't made a copy of the music, or the discs, then you haven't directly infringed. However, you could be held to have committed "contributory infringement," because you are aiding the distributors in the commission of the infringing acts.
If it were my business, and I believed that some of the materials were infringing, I would contact the purported copyright owners and ask them if the music is licensed. Until receiving confirmation, I would not sell the materials. A copyright "takedown" notice on the website, is always good business practice. However, the physical sale of a disc cannot be protected by the takedown notice, because only digital/intangible activities on the internet are covered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
You can certainly take your proposed path, and sell until you are told to stop. But, if you get caught, you could be in hot water.
I hope I've answered your question. Please let me know if you require further clarification. And, please provide a positive feedback rating for my answer -- otherwise, I receive nothing for my efforts in your behalf.
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