CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago musician who composed the classic rock song “Eye of the Tiger” is suing Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for using the song without permission.
Survivor co-founder Frankie Sullivan, whose legal name is Frank M. Sullivan III, filed the lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Sullivan owns Rude Music, a Palatine-based corporation which publishes his musical compositions.
Guitarist Sullivan and keyboardist-vocalist Jim Peterik wrote “Eye of the Tiger,” which was released on May 29, 1982, and topped the charts around the world. It also became the theme song for the movie “Rocky III.”
The song has been copyrighted since June 7, 1982, the lawsuit said.
Gingrich began using the song as early as 2009 during political conferences and public events such as the Conservative Political Action Conferences from 2009-11 and the Southern Republic Leadership Conference in 2010, the suit claims.
Gingrich has also used the song publicly during campaign appearances in Pennsylvania and a “pre-caucus swing” through Iowa before its Republican caucuses, the suit said. A video on the Newt 2012 Inc. website features Gingrich entering a packed Moose Lodge in Doylestown, Pa., for a speech as the song “pulsed,” the suit claims.
Gingrich’s campaign bus “blared” the song during a stop at an excavation business in Walford, Iowa, and “Eye of the Tiger” was also played when he entered and exited an event in Des Moines, the suit claims.
The suit claims Gingrich is “sophisticated and knowledgeable” about copyrights, both as a former elected official and a business owner.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, Gingrich is author or co-author of 40 copyrighted works. While he served as a congressman, the Copyright Act was extensively amended.
Gingrich is also chief executive officer of Gingrich Productions Inc., a Washington-based multimedia production company that features works from Gingrich and his wife, Callista, the suit said. They have produced historical and public policy documentaries, photographic essays, and written and audio books.
During a recent debate in South Carolina, Gingrich criticized the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, stating, “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 …,” the suit said.
The suit also names the American Conservative Union for posting internet video recordings of its 2010 and 2011 conferences that featured Gingrich and the “Eye of the Tiger” song, which was unlicensed, unauthorized and infringed upon Rude Music’s copyright.
The suit claims copyright infringement and seeks that Gingrich and the American Conservative Union stop using unauthorized performances of the song. It also seeks damages, any profits gained from using the song, attorney fees and court costs.
Kristy Campbell, an American Conservative Union spokeswoman, said she hadn’t seen the lawsuit as of late Monday afternoon, but would be reviewing past music licensing agreements. A spokesman for Gingrich was not immediately available for comment Monday.
This is not the first time in recent years that a politician has gotten into legal trouble for using a popular song without permission.
When he was running for office two years ago, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) was slapped with a lawsuit by the other Joe Walsh – the guitarist from the Eagles.
The Eagles’ Walsh alleged candidate Walsh took his 1970 hit with the James Gang “Walk Away” and changed the lyrics to turn it into a campaign song called “Lead the Way.”
Candidate Walsh went on to win the election, and has gained notoriety in his freshman term as a Tea Party firebrand. He has also come out against SOPA and its companion act, the Protect IP Act (PIPA.)
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.