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Newt Gingrich Fights Back at 'Eye of the Tiger' Campaign Lawsuit

The Republican candidate says he has a right to use a motivational song as his entrance music and cites one of the song's co-writers -- the one not joining in as plaintiff -- as support.

Newt Gingrich at Campaign Podium - H 2012
Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Cue the theme to Rocky III. Newt Gingrich is fighting back. No, the former Speaker of the House still holds little chance of capturing the Republican presidential nomination. Instead, Newt is throwing a good couple punches against the co-author of the 1983 hit song, "Eye of the Tiger," performed by Survivor.

In late January, when Gingrich looked more like Rocky Balboa than Clubber Lang, he was sued for using "Eye of the Tiger" as the entrance music to several of his events, including the Conservative Political Action Conference. A response to the lawsuit was finally filed last month, setting off a few weeks of wild haymakers between the two sides in an Illinois federal court.

To be honest, there wasn't anything particularly extraordinary about Gingrich's initial answer to the lawsuit. Like many defendants who have been accused of copyright infringement, Gingrich's strategy was to admit nothing and draw the plaintiff, Rude Music Inc., into the center of the ring. Gingrich said the original complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, questioned the jurisdiction, brought up the statute of limitations, pointed to the First Amendment, and so forth.

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The reply almost immediately drew a motion to strike by attorneys for Rude Music, owned by former Survivor member Frank Sullivan. The plaintiff submitted that "it is clear that the defendants either have not investigated the incidents that gave rise to Rude Music’s infringement claim, or are simply trying to obscure the real issues with a slew of inadequate defenses."

Au contraire, says Gingrich's attorneys in response.

The candidate says he was given little "notice" to his alleged infringements, which includes claims of having played the song at four events, and says it was the plaintiff who failed to do the legwork necessary to bring a claim.

"ASCAP, with which Plaintiff is affiliated, offers a 'campaign license' for public performance uses associated with political campaigns including public performances at campaign events and on campaign websites," says a legal brief filed by Gingrich's campaign on Tuesday. "Plaintiff evidently conducted no investigation into whether any PRO licenses existed for the four (4) events depicted in the Complaint."

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And then, Gingrich throws another big punch.

"There is only one co-author of the composition, Jim Peterik," says the legal brief, referring to the man who we've previously pointed out is attempting to terminate a copyright grant on the song. "Mr. Peterik has been vocal in the media, most notably during a personal appearance on February 1, 2012 in Chicago, that he is 'not on board' with the present lawsuit. In fact, Mr. Peterik cited the potential existence of PRO license(s) which would authorize the subject performances and stated that he had no knowledge of this lawsuit prior to its filing. Mr. Peterik heralded 'Eye of the Tiger' as a 'motivational' song which he felt was appropriate for use in motivating people into action like voting and to 'shake ‘em out of their doldrums.'”

As evidence, Gingrich links to a story at Fox News' website how the song's co-writer disagrees with the lawsuit.

It's obviously too soon to figure out the outcome of the lawsuit. Other Republican politicians, including John McCain, Charlie Crist, and Chuck DeVore, have been sued for using pop music in campaigns, and each of them put up a fight at the initial stage. These public figures weren't very successful in their campaigns, however, and none of them saw the benefit of spending money on lawyers after their political runs had ended. They all settled. Will Newt be any different? Hard to see him making an apology like Crist, and thanks to the possible PRO license, he's probably got a better defense than the others, but the question might be whether like Clubber Lang, he's got a taste for "Pain!"

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner