Newt Gingrich might feel like Rocky Balboa when he takes the stage at campaign events to Survivor’s 1982 hit “Eye of the Tiger,” but it’s the co-writer of the song who is ready for a fight.
Chicago-born Frankie Sullivan sued Gingrich in federal court Monday, saying the Republican presidential candidate is using his “Rocky III” anthem in his campaign without permission.
Sullivan, who has a home in the northwest suburbs, insisted it’s not about politics. It’s about someone who should know better using his copyright material for free.
“My legacy, my life, has been ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ ” Sullivan told the Sun-Times Monday. “Those copyright laws are there to protect people like me who are lucky enough to create a copyright. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is an iconic copyright. It’s become a lifelong legacy – something you want to pass down to your kids.”
Sullivan didn’t want to get into whether he likes Gingrich or his politics. His co-writer on the song, fellow Survivor founding member Jim Peterik, however, gave Gingrich a partial endorsement.
“My wife is a big fan,” Peterik said. “I’m becoming a fan of Newt Gingrich. He has a mind of his own. He’s not a talking head. Originally, I didn’t like him, but look at the competition. He’s looking better and better.”
Peterik is not a party to the suit that Sullivan filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. They share the copyright, but tend to stay out of each other’s way when it comes to cracking down on infringers.
”I hate suits,” Peterik said. “I hate being in court. I avoid that meticulously. When I [heard about the lawsuit on the radio Monday} I said I’m not surprised, but I’m surprised.”
Peterik described himself as “very apolitical” – and wouldn’t draw a line on which politician should use “Eye” for events.
“If someone is out there trying to make a difference, let him do it. … Unless it was Adolf Hitler,” Peterik said.
Sullivan and Peterik wrote the song in the music room of Peterik’s west suburban LaGrange home at Sylvester Stallone’s request in late 1981, four years after Survivor was formed. Stallone was looking for a theme song for “Rocky III.”
Peterik said they wrote the piece in an hour and a half, and spent a week stretching out the lyrics.
It rose to No. 1, won a Grammy and became a cash cow for the men as advertisers, sports teams and countless others coveted its rocking beat and underdog theme. Peterik told the Sun-Times last year the song can command a “quarter of a million for a good [ad] campaign.” For movie usage, it can bring in up to $100,000. For TV, $15,000 to $25,000, he said.
According to Sullivan’s lawsuit for his Rude Music publishing company, Gingrich began using the song as early as 2009 during political conferences and public events such as the Conservative Political Action Conferences and the Southern Republic Leadership Conference.
Gingrich has also used the song publicly during campaign appearances in Pennsylvania and a pre-caucus swing through Iowa, 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 also “blared” the song during a stop at an excavation business in Walford, Iowa, and “Eye of the Tiger” also was 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 as a business owner.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, Gingrich is author or co-author of 40 copyrighted works, the suit noted. And while he served as a congressman, the Copyright Act was extensively amended, the suit said.
During a recent debate in South Carolina, Gingrich criticized the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, saying, “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 claims copyright infringement and asks Gingrich to knock it off. It also seeks damages, any profits gained from using the song, attorney fees and court costs.
Gingrich’s campaign could not be reached for comment.
It’s not the first time Sullivan has taken on a politician over “Eye.”
In a statement during the last presidential campaign, Sullivan said: “Survivor has no affiliation with John McCain or Sarah Palin. They have no right to use ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ in any way as part of their campaign. Using our music without our permission can give people the impression that we are supporters of their campaign – this is not the case.”
Sullivan said dealing with McCain was no problem and the issue was quickly resolved.
On Monday, he said he’s just exercising his rights with Gingrich – and encouraged other Americans to do the same if they feel cheated.
“The laws are there to be enforced. And I happen to have a copyright that has been my livelihood. That’s all it’s about.”