This Note addresses [the perpetual copyright limitations period under Federal Law]—specifically, how it came to be, its current application, and what can be done about it. In Part II, this Note gives the background information of the case-in-chief, Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, and briefly idenitifies its relevant holdings. Part III provides an outline of substantive copyright law, focusing on the subject matter of works protected under the law, the scope of those protections, and the legal basis of musical work infringement claims. Last, in Part III, this Note looks to Skidmore's application of this substantive law. Part IV explores the various limitations on actions for copyright infringement, including the defenses of: (1) an expired statute of limitations; (2) waiver or abandonment of rights; and (3) the equitable doctrine of laches. It then looks to Skidmore's application of these defenses in relation to Led Zeppelin's motion for summary judgment. Part V provides an in depth discussion of Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, a 2014 Supreme Court case in which several issues related to limitations on actions in copyright were addressed. Then in Part VI, the Supreme Court's holding and reasoning in Petrella are applied to and analyzed through the lens of the facts in Skidmore. In this section, this Note will argue that the court, in applying Petrella, failed to properly consider and appreciate the circumstances of the case in light of the Supreme Court's recognition in Petrella that exceptional circumstances may bar a copyright infringement action, even when a statute of limitations is present. Part VII suggests changes to the Copyright Act which, if employed by Congress, would eliminate the ambiguity in the statute and relieve the federal district courts of the heavy burden it creates.
Joseph A. Greene,
Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin: Extraordinary Circumstances and the Perpetual Statute of Limitations in Copyright Infringement,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol69/iss2/7