By David S. Olson |

In an April 8, 2016 ruling, the Central District Court of California held that a 2014 case alleging copyright infringement could proceed to trial notwithstanding that the underlying song, Taurus (by the rock band Spirit), was released in 1968, whereas the allegedly infringing song, the iconic Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, was originally released in 1971.  The decision is not getting a whole lotta love from the general public or Zep fans who have been made to wonder why the plaintiff’s case was not found to be untimely.

Since 1957, the Copyright Act has required that infringement actions be filed within three years. In deciding the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants based on laches (unreasonable delay), District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner found that he really did not have two paths he could go on because a new, remastered version of Stairway to Heaven was released in 2014 and the lawsuit was thus in fact filed within the three year limitations period in the Copyright Act.  As such, per binding Supreme Court precedent, the case could not be barred by the doctrine of laches and would have to wind on down the road to trial.

Judge Klausner’s decision has generated a lot of public comment but it is important to remember that this ruling can and should be seen as a case specific exception to the general rule that one must act quickly in asserting claims or else face the prospect of seeing those claims getting trampled under foot by a statute of limitations, laches, or related time bar.   As such, the song remains the same in that any time you believe you have been or may have been civilly wronged, it is still as critical as ever that you consult with an attorney as quickly as possible, including to ascertain the time in which you have to assert any claims.  Acting promptly ensures you will not be left dazed and confused later if your claims are dismissed based on a failure to act in a timely manner.

Thank you for joining us on ClarkTalk!  We look forward to seeing you again on this forum.  Please note that the views expressed in the above blog post do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to substitute the need for an attorney to represent your interests relating to the subject matter covered by the blog.  You should certainly consult legal counsel of your choice when considering this or any other legal issue.  If you wish to consult with the author of this post, please contact David Olson by email at or telephonically by calling him at (213) 629-5700.

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