A lot of musicians find out after the fact that one of their songs is being used, without permission, by a politician at rallies and other events, but many of those artists don’t go so far as to actually sue the candidate. However, recently released election records show that the campaign for former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a lawsuit over its use of Survivor’s 1982 fist-pumper “Eye of the Tiger.”
Huckabee used the song — the title track from Survivor’s third album and the standout hit from the Rocky III soundtrack — at a September 2015 rally in Kentucky feting the release of county clerk Kim Davis, who had made headlines for refusing to certify same-sex marriage licenses.
While one could easily argue that many political candidates have only the barest understanding of copyright law, the lawsuit [PDF] filed in Nov. 2015 by Rude Music (owned by the song’s co-writer Frankie Sullivan), argued that Huckabee has the bona fides to know better than to use copyrighted music without permission.
“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,” notes the complaint. “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. Moreover, Huckabee for President has a legal team.”
In response [PDF], Huckabee claimed that his playing of the Survivor song was a protected “fair use” because the Kim David rally was “of a non-commercial and religious nature, signifying joy and praise at the release of Mrs. Davis from confinement.”
The complaint was dropped in May 2016 after the parties reached an out-of-court settlement. However, CNN Money points to a federal election campaign disclosure document [PDF] showing that the Huckabee campaign made one payment for $12,500 to Rude Music for the purpose of settling the copyright infringement suit, with the remaining $12,500 itemized as a debt owed by the campaign.
Huckabee has asked the Federal Election Commission to allow him to start a separate legal defense fund to pay for this settlement, but a draft opinion [PDF] released last week concluded that the campaign should have to pay for its own legal problems.
“[T]he particular expenses at issue here arose directly out of quintessential campaign activity,” reads the opinion. “The plaintiff sued the Committee over its use of a copyrighted song at a campaign rally. The resulting attorneys’ fees and settlement payment therefore would not have existed irrespective of the campaign.”
As CNN Money notes, this is at least the second time that a presidential campaign has settled over an unauthorized use of “Eye of the Tiger.” Newt Gingrich’s campaign paid an undisclosed amount of money in 2012 after playing the song at a campaign event without permission.
Because it’s now in your head, here’s the original video for the song, featuring the sexiest band (of guys that look like that one substitute teacher who always got high behind the bus garage during lunch) ever: