Contract Law: The creator of Jungle Book’s famed song “Bare Necessities” almost lost his royalties by forgetting the bare necessities.

Case Update: The heirs of Terry Gilkyson, the songwriter of Jungle Book’s famed song “Bare Necessities”, sued Disney for Disney’s alleged failure to pay royalties in connection to the use of the song.  Generally, the statute of limitations for a written contract in California is 4 years.  Disney argued that the plaintiffs’ claim is stale as the contract was entered into around the same time of the original release of the song in 1967 and that Disney had not breached the contract in the last four years.  However, the plaintiffs raised the continuous accrual doctrine to attempt to revive their claim.

The plaintiffs argued that Disney’s obligation to pay royalties was a recurring obligation that triggered a new limitations period each time the song was used and royalties were not paid.  The court agreed and applied the continuous accrual doctrine to hold that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was timely.  But the court limited it.  The plaintiffs were only permitted to seek recovery for royalties that should have been paid for a period beginning four years before the filing of the lawsuit.  While the plaintiffs were able to seek recovery for the last four years of damages, they certainly lost out on a large portion of their claim.

Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Reminder to Contracting Parties:  Statute of limitations are extremely important to remember and comply with.  The failure of an injured party to file their lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations can and likely will prohibit their case from being tried in court.  Although there are certain exceptions, statute of limitations for written contracts are 4 years and for oral contracts 2 years.  It is best practice to avoid relying on the exceptions and ensure your lawsuit is filed within the prescribed time frame; it is a bare necessity.