Intellectual Property Attorney

Hot Off The Presses: Newt Gingrich Is Sued For Copyright Infringement Over Playing Of “Eye Of The Tiger” Song Recording

Rude Music, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois yesterday claiming that presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, Newt 2012, Inc. and the American Conservative Union violated U.S. copyright laws by making public performances and distribution of Rude Music’s “Eye of the Tiger” song recording in connection with Gingrich’s campaign without authorization. Rude Music’s “Eye of the Tiger” song recording is particularly well-known – having been used as the principal theme song for the
Rocky III motion picture, and having received widespread recognition and awards, including an Academy Award nomination for best original song.

In the lawsuit, Rude Music — a company solely owned by SURVIVOR co-founder and “Eye of the Tiger” co-author
Frankie Sullivan — alleges that, since at least 2009, Gingrich has taken “the stage at political conferences and similar public events as a recording of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ was played over the public address system.” As examples, Rude Music alleges that “Eye of the Tiger” was “featured” at the “Conservative Political Action Conference (“CPAC”) [held] in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in 2010.” Moreover, Rude Music alleges “Eye of the Tiger” has been regularly used at “numerous campaign appearances” this year in advance of the presidential election in November. The lawsuit also alleges that defendant American Conservative Union (which hosts CPAC) “posted on the internet video recordings of at least the 2010 and 2011 conferences, featuring Mr. Gingrich and ‘Eye of the Tiger.'”

Had Mr. Gingrich secured the necessary public performance license, he could have simply played the “Eye of the Tiger” song recording at his campaign events. The problem for Mr. Gingrich is that he allegedly went further – making the song into his “theme song” – in essence suggesting that the song’s creator and performers were “backers” of Mr. Gingrich, and wrapping it into his campaign materials.

In an ironic twist, in its complaint Rude Music seeks to preclude Mr. Gingrich from being able to avail himself of an “innocent” infringer defense by making reference to: (i) extensive amendments to the Copyright Act by Congress during his tenure in the United States House of Representatives; (ii) his own efforts to secure – and profit from – copyrighted works; and (iii) last, but by no means least, his now legendary performance during the South Carolina debate, when he proclaimed – while criticizing the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act: “We have a patent office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue….”

Unfortunately for Mr. Gingrich, Rude Music took his advice to heart and did just that – seeking in their lawsuit an injunction, actual damages, profits, statutory damages, enhanced to reflect Mr. Gingrich’s willful infringement, and reasonable attorneys’ fees, disbursements and costs.

Copyright infringement allegations concerning the unauthorized uses of songs in political campaigns are not a new issue. As long ago as the 1996 campaign of Bob Dole, Mr. Dole ran into trouble for morphing the legendary “Soul Man” recording into “Dole Man.” In 2008, it was widely reported that several musical groups, including HEART and John Mellencamp, asked the John McCain-Sarah Palin campaign to stop using their copyrighted works. In 2009, Mr. McCain settled a lawsuit brought by Jackson Browne concerning unauthorized use of the song “Running on Empty” in an advertisement. Just last year, Tom Petty demanded that Michele Bachmann stop using his work “American Girl” at campaign events.

Copyrights are a valuable asset to musical groups and artists. Musical groups and artists should – and understandably do – take prompt, immediate action to address and prevent any unauthorized use of their copyrighted works.

For a copy of the complaint please send us an email with the subject line “Rude Music, Inc. Complaint.” If you have any questions about copyright infringement or
Rude Music, Inc. v. Newt 2012, Inc.,
et al please send us an
email or call us at (203) 849-8300.

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