Recent copyright law claim against Billy Joel not about music

Glenn W. Peterson

Billy Joel is best known for his music. Over the years, he earned the nickname, the “Piano Man,” and has worked in the industry for decades. For this reason, hearing that someone filed a copyright law claim against him may cause California residents to believe it has something to do with music, but not this time.

The recent claim has to do with a home the music legend owns on the East Coast. He commissioned a contractor to perform renovations on the property that required architectural designs. At some point during that process, the contractor was terminated from the project and a new one was brought in to complete it.

At the center of this copyright infringement case is the architectural designs of the new company hired by Joel and the F. Scott LLC, which owns the New York property with Joel, are substantially similar to the ones the terminated company presented. For this reason, the company believes that the new company is using the same plans, which the accuser claims are copyrighted materials. Supposedly, a cease and desist letter was sent to the F. Scott LLC and Joel, but it was not heeded. Additional allegations include monies owed for work performed.

More than likely, the contractor will have to prove in court that the designs are protected under copyright law before any question of damages can be addressed. This case could serve as a caveat to California architects. It would probably be a good idea to copyright designs in order to gain legal protections should something go wrong with a particular project.