Every election season, at least one of the candidates seems to end up in legal hot water over music used by the campaign. This year it’s Newt Gingrich. He is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit for his use of the Rocky III theme song, “Eye of the Tiger.”
As reported by the Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Rude Music Inc., owned by Frank Sullivan, a co-author of the song. The complaint contends that Gingrich has used the song without permission at several events and campaign rallies. The plaintiff claims this violates the song’s copyright and is demanding an injunction to prevent further use of the song.
As mentioned above, Gingrich is not the first politician to face a lawsuit over his choice of campaign music. Back in 2008, singer Jackson Brown filed a lawsuit against John McCain over his use of the song, “Running on Empty.”
The interesting aspect of the current lawsuit is that Gingrich did not use the music in an advertisement, but rather only at personal appearances, making it different from existing cases. The courts have not addressed the use of copyrighted music at campaign rallies.
Gingrich has not yet responded to the lawsuit, so it is unclear if he had a license to use the song; it is possible since political campaigns often purchase blanket licenses from performance rights organizations such as ASCAP. If not, he may simply try to argue fair use.
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If you are uncertain about whether your use of a copyrighted song or other work is considered fair use, it is imperative to consult with an experienced copyright attorney. Contact me today by phone or email.