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Songwriter’s Heirs Advance ‘Jungle Book’ Case

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Disney must face a royalties lawsuit filed by the heirs of the writer of "The Bare Necessities" song from the 1967 animated hit "The Jungle Book," a California appeals court ruled.

Terry Gilkyson was a songwriter in the 1950s and 60s, as well as a member of the band The Easy Riders.

He wrote several songs from Disney's 1967 animated adaption of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," although only "The Bare Necessities" was used in the film. The song was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy award.

Gilkyson signed separate contracts for the individual songs that established Disney as the author of the songs and the owner of their copyrights.

In return, Gilkyson agreed to receive a per-song fee of $1,000, plus royalties for the sheet music and licensing of the songs.

Disney paid the royalties to Gilkyson until his death in 1999, after which the royalties went to his children, Eliza, Tony and Nancy, according to court records.

In 2013, Gilkyson's heirs sued Disney for breach of contract, claiming the entertainment giant failed to pay royalties for VHS and DVD releases of the songs.

The trial court agreed with Disney that the Gilkysons' claims were barred by the four-year statute of limitations. The court noted that Disney released the DVD, which included some of Gilkyson's unreleased songs, in 2007, and the VHS containing "The Bare Necessities" in 1991.

The Gilkysons filed an amended complaint, which mentioned the released of "The Jungle Book 2" in 2008 and "The Jungle Book" on Blu-ray in 2014, but the trial court again ruled that their claims were time-barred.

However, the Los Angeles-based California Court of Appeals reversed the decision in a Feb. 22 ruling written by Justice Dennis Perluss.

"The Gilkyson heirs are entitled by virtue of the continuous accrual doctrine to seek recovery of royalties for use of their father's songs in home entertainment or audiovisual media for a period commencing for years before the filing of their complaint," Perluss wrote.

Perluss noted that part of the Gilkysons' breach of contract claim is timely under the continuous accrual doctrine.

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