Survivor band member Sullivan rocks Huckabee campaign for using 'Eye of the Tiger' at rally

By Scott Holland | Nov 19, 2015

Will Mike Huckabee rise up to the challenge of his legal rival? Palatine-based Rude Music, owned by Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan, is taking the former Arkansas governor to court over the allegedly unauthorized use of song "Eye of the Tiger" at a public event of his presidential campaign.

Will Mike Huckabee rise up to the challenge of his legal rival?

Palatine-based Rude Music is taking the former Arkansas governor to court over the allegedly unauthorized use of music at a public event of his presidential campaign.

Rude Music owner Frank M. Sullivan III named Huckabee’s presidential campaign as the defendant in the complaint filed this week in federal court in Chicago. The song in question is the band Survivor’s 1982 hit “Eye Of The Tiger,” which reached iconic status as part of the soundtrack to the movie “Rocky III.” Sullivan, a founding member of Survivor, is co-author of the song that reached No. 1 on domestic and international charts, won Grammy and People’s Choice awards and was nominated for an Oscar.

Huckabee’s campaign, the complaint notes, played “Eye Of The Tiger” Sept. 8 as the candidate escorted Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis from the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., to a public appearance. Davis had been detained for refusing to allow any issuance of licenses for same-sex marriage from her office, in violation of a court order. Her stance made her popular among social conservatives, a demographic key to the base of Huckabee’s presidential aspirations.

Sullivan maintained Huckabee should have known better.

“Huckabee is sophisticated and knowledgeable concerning the copyright laws, both as a private individual and media-savvy business owner,” the complaint states. “According to the records of the United States Copyright Office, Mr. Huckabee is the author or co-author of more than a dozen copyrighted works. Mr. Huckabee operated television stations in Arkansas and for years he has hosted political commentary shows on the radio and on Fox News. Mr. Huckabee is himself a musician whose band, Capitol Offense, has performed at political and other public events; in 2007, Mr. Huckabee received a Music for Life Award from the National Association of Music Merchants.”

Publicity surrounding similar incidents in the past should have alerted Huckabee to the issue of unauthorized public performance, Sullivan said. In 2012, according to published reports, Sullivan also sued former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for using “Eye Of The Tiger” without authorization as far back as 2009.

According to reports from National Public Radio, Jackson Browne sued the Ohio Republican Party for using the song “Running on Empty” in a campaign ad for Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008. Talking Heads singer David Byrne sued former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in an ad for Crist’s Senate campaign. Singer and rapper K’Naan wielded trademark law in asking Mitt Romney’s campaign to stop using the song “Wavin’ Flag” at campaign functions.

Huckabee, however, should not have needed to heed those precedents, Sullivan said, specifically referencing Huckabee’s own past conflicts, such as in 2008 when the founder of the band Boston demanded Huckabee stop using “More Than A Feeling” at campaign rallies for his presidential bid at that time. The complaint says “many of Huckabee for President’s senior staffers and communications and media consultants (including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chip Saltzman, Chad Gallagher, Alice Stewart, Hogan Gidley, Bob Wickers, Bryan Sanders and Chris Maiorana) are alumni of the 2008 campaign that encountered this very issue.”

In the complaint, Rude Music sought preliminary and permanent enjoinders keeping the campaign from using the song without authorization as well as damages and legal fees. A jury trial was requested.

Rude Music is represented in the action by Annette M. McGarry and Marianne C. Holzhall, of McGarry & McGarry, of Chicago.

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