As if his sliding poll numbers were not enough to get him down, Newt Gingrich has now been sued for copyright infringement for using the song “Eye of the Tiger” on the campaign trail without authorization from the song’s owner.
Frank M. Sullivan III, composer of the song and co-founder of Survivor, filed the lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Chicago alleging the Republican presidential candidate has been using the song without permission. The song, created and performed by the group Survivor, became an international success after its release in 1982 and was also the theme song to “Rocky III.” According to the suit, Gingrich has been using “Eye of the Tiger” since 2009 during conferences and public events.
U.S. Copyright Act grants certain rights exclusively to the owner which are different from the rights given to a person who merely owns a copy of the work. The owner of a copy of a work may resell or even destroy the copy they own. They may not, however, reproduce, create derivatives, distribute, publicly display, or publicly perform the work because these rights belong to the owner of the copyright and no one else (unless by permission of the owner).
Newt likely ran afoul of the exclusive rights to publicly perform and display the work since he, according to the lawsuit, did not have the permission of Mr. Sullivan or the band, to use the song during his public appearances.
Mr. Sullivan claims that Newt should have known better since he himself is the author or co-author of forty copyrighted works and since the Copyright Act was extensively amended while he served as a Congressman. Gingrich is also the CEO of Gingrich Productions Inc., a multimedia production company that features the works of Newt and his wife, Callista. The Complaint even turned Gingrich’s own words against him, quoting a stump speech where the politician stated “[i]f a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue.” Indeed they do, Congressman. The suit seeks damages, any profits gained from using the song, attorney fees, court costs, and an injunction barring Newt
from using the song in the future.
Gingrich is by no means the first politician to draw the ire of a musician for using a song on the campaign trail. U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) was sued by the other Joe Walsh – the guitarist from the Eagles, for reworking his hit with the James Gang “Walk Away” into a campaign song called “Lead the Way.”
John McCain’s campaign angered ’70s rock group Heart for using the song “Barracuda” at vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s rallies. McCain and the Republican Party miffed several other bands including The Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp, and Jackson Browne, by using various copyrighted works on the campaign trail. Browne sued over the use of his song “Running on Empty.” Even as far back as 1984 Bruce Springsteen complained of Ronald Reagan’s use of his song “Born in the USA” during Reagan’s reelection campaign.
If the “Eye of the Tiger” lyrics are any indication of Sullivan’s approach to this case, Gingrich should settle quickly: “And the last known survivor / Stalks his prey in the night / And he’s watching us all with the / Eye of the tiger.”
Nicholas D. Myers, Esq.