You know that Election 2012 is in full swing when the songwriters start suing the candidates. The latest case: Survivor vs. Newt Gingrich.
In a suit filed in federal court in Chicago, “Eye of the Tiger” songwriter Frankie Sullivan alleges the GOP candidate violated copyright by playing the adrenaline-thumping 1982 hit from “Rocky III” at rallies.
This tune sound familiar?
Last year, Tom Petty sent a cease-and-desist to Michele Bachmann for using “American Girl,” and in 2008, Heart blasted Sarah Palin for playing “Barracuda.”
What’s at stake here? Probably pride more than money. Survivor rakes in thousands by licensing the song for movies or ads. But simply playing oldies to pump up a crowd only costs a host a few pennies per attendee if they’ve got a proper license from the music publisher, a routine step often handled by the venue.
What makes a writer call his lawyer is when a song is played so much it sounds like the campaign theme. Whether that counts as copyright infringement is unclear — case law is murky. (Politicians may be in deeper trouble if they broadcast a song in an ad, as Charlie Crist did with “Road to Nowhere,”.) But then these matters are usually settled out of court; a lawyer for Survivor told the New York Times that Mitt Romney agreed to stop playing the same song after getting a complaint. The Gingrich campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Read earlier: Campaigns adopting songs is nothing new, but squabbles with musicians are, 6/29/11