'Pioneer' of Wrestling Entrance Music Sues WWE for Copyright Infringement

WWE World Wrestling Entertainment Logo - H 2012

WWE World Wrestling Entertainment Logo - H 2012

Of all the things to trip up Vince McMahon's World Wresting Entertainment, one might not expect copyright to be on top of the list.

And yet, just days after cult wrestler Val Venis denied rumors he'd be returning to the ring, tweeting "Not so long as they support sopa/cispa," referring to controversial copyright and privacy legislation, the WWE finds itself moving from copyright enforcer to the other side of the ring in grappling with a copyright lawsuit from a man who purports to be the "pioneer in the confluence of music and professional wrestling."

Papa Berg says in a new lawsuit that in the 1980s, he wrote songs that became the entrance music for wrestlers. His first "hit" was "Badstreet USA," used by the Fabulous Freebirds. Some of his other songs include the "Man Called Sting," "Simply Ravishing," "The Natural" and "Steineeized."

In his lawsuit filed in Texas federal court, Berg says he was contacted by videogame producer THQ, which wanted to use "Badstreet USA" for the game, Legends of Wrestlemania. He was made an offer, but THQ purportedly wanted to confirm his ownership. Then, THQ informed him that its records showed the song was owned by the WWE.

So Berg contacted BMI to check on the registration, and he says he learned the song "had been improperly and erroneously registered" by the WWE, "resulting in the royalties being redirected to" the professional wrestling company.

Berg says he eventually was able to correct the registration, but by the time it was resolved, THQ informed him that it had decided not to use the song.

Now, Berg is going after the WWE after his investigation "revealed a systematic pattern of errors and omissions by WWE personnel that effectively misappropriated Papa's musical works and deprived" him of royalties. He's targeting the use of songs on DVDs, ringtones, and its round-the-clock cable channel that features classic matches.

He demands a preliminary injunction, an order seizing and impounding all infringing works, and further monetary damages.

The WWE, which makes about $500 million in revenue a year, hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner