If an infinging work is posted online, the infringement is ongoing and the clock doesn’t start until after the work has been removed and the infringement ceased.
If the work was somehow hidden (IE: Search engines didn’t pick it up or it was hidden in a password protected area) the clock starts when the plaintiff either discovered the infringement or when they should have reasonably done so. A situation such as this is analogous to someone discovering years after a car accident that they have a previously undiagnosed injury that needs to be treated, as long as there was no reasonable way they could have known about the injury, the plaintiff may still sue for damages, even if the SOL has long since expired.When Problems Can Arise When dealing with plagiarism online, the odds of ever encountering an SOL limitation are slim.If the SOL on a criminal offense is seven years, then prosecuters have until seven years after the crime to charge some one.Similarly, if a SOL on a personal injury case is two years, then the the plaintiff has two years after the injury occurred to file their case.Never having dealt with this aspect of copyright law, my own battle being barely three years old, I began to research it and what I turned up shows that the SOL of copyright is much like the law itself, hopelessly muddled and burderned with excessive complexity.
But, in the end, what I learned was that the SOL is almost certainly no obstacle to anyone wanting to file suit against a potential plagiarist, no copyright holder who acts within reason has anything to fear from it. The Wikipedia defines a statute of limitations as "a statute in a common law legal system setting forth the maximum period of time, after certain events, that legal proceedings based on those events may begin" In simpler terms, an SOL is a time limit that one has to start legal proceedings after an event has occured.It is not a question of whether or not I can sue for copyright infringement, the only question is whether I can claim damages for all six years or just the most recent three.The courts have been split on that matter and either ruling is possible.The average copyright holder, acting with a reasonable amount of swiftness and determination, will not likely face an SOL defense with a good chance of success.The intent of the law is to prevent people from waiting to file suit, not allow infringement to escape unpunished.Conclusions In the end, while SOL defences have worked in some copyright infringement cases, those generally dealt with people who did not act on an infringement after it was discovered but, instead, waited until they were dire financial straits to file suit.