Iron Man Composer Battles Tech Giant Sony and Ghostface Killah

copyright infringementThe US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the composer of the 1960s Iron Man theme song, finding material facts in dispute as to whether the song was commissioned as a work for hire. Jack Urbont v. Sony Music Entertainment, Case No. 15-1778-cv (2d Cir., July 29, 2016) (Hall, J).

In 1966, Jack Urbont wrote the theme songs for various characters in the “Marvel Super Heroes” television show, including Iron Man. In 2000, hip hop artist Dennis Coles (known as Ghostface Killah), Sony and Razor Sharp Records produced and released the album “Supreme Clientele” featuring the Iron Man theme song on two tracks, prompting Urbont’s June 2011 copyright infringement lawsuit against Sony, Razor Sharp Records and Ghostface Killah. At trial, the district court found that the defendants had standing to challenge Urbont’s ownership of the copyright under the “work for hire” doctrine, and granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on standing, finding that the Iron Man song was a “work for hire” composed at Marvel’s instance and expense, and that Urbont had not presented evidence of an ownership agreement with Marvel sufficient to overcome the presumption that the work was for hire. Urbont appealed.

Third-Party Standing to Assert Right to Hire Defense

On appeal, Urbont cited the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s 2010 holding in Jules Jordan Video v. 144942 Canada,which rejected third-party standing under the work for hire doctrine. The Second Circuit rejected Urbont’s argument, explaining that in that case both potential owners of the copyright were parties to the lawsuit, neither of which disputed ownership. Here, Marvel was not a party to the suit, and a plaintiff in a copyright infringement suit bears the burden of proving ownership of the copyright when ownership is challenged either by an employer or a third party. Citing Island Software & Computer Serv. v. Microsoft, the Court explained that Sony, a third party to an alleged employer-employee relationship, did have standing to raise the “work for hire” defense to try to refute Urbont’s alleged ownership of the copyright.

The Copyright Act Claim

Under the Copyright Act, an employer is considered an “author” of a copyrightable work in the case of works made for hire. Citing to its 2013 case Marvel Characters v. Kirby, the Second Circuit explained that absent an agreement to the contrary, a work is made for hire when it is “made at the hiring party’s ‘instance and expense,’” i.e., when the employer induces the creation of the work and has the right to direct and supervise the manner in which the work is carried out.

In reversing, the Second Circuit credited the district court’s reliance on evidence supporting the assertion that the song was a work for hire developed at Marvel’s instance, including that Urbont had not previously been familiar with the Marvel superheroes and had created the work from material given to him by Stan Lee, who had the right to accept or reject his song. However, the Court concluded that Urbont’s evidence that he retained all creative control over the project and that Lee was not permitted to modify the work, coupled with his testimony that he approached Lee, not the other way around, weighed against finding that the work was created at Marvel’s instance.

As for the expense factor, Urbont claimed that he created the song with his own tools and resources, including renting a recording studio, supported his assertion that it was he, not Marvel, who bore the risk of the work’s success. Although the $3,000 payment Urbont received weighed in favor of a finding that the work was created at Marvel’s expense, Urbont’s testimony that he also received royalties undermined such a conclusion. The Second Circuit explained that while a hiring party’s payment of a specific sum in exchange for an independent contractor’s work satisfies the “expense” requirement, the payment of royalties weighs against finding a “work for hire” relationship. The Court thus found that a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether the Iron Man composition was a work for hire created at Marvel’s instance and expense.

Finally, the Second Circuit found that the district court erred in concluding that Urbont failed to produce evidence to rebut the presumption that Marvel owned the work, noting that on summary judgment, the district court was required to accept Urbont’s testimony in support of his position.  The Court reversed and remanded the case back to the district court.

© 2016 McDermott Will & Emery

Led Zeppelin Prevails in Copyright Infringement Case: Now on Appeal in Ninth Circuit

Led Zeppelin Copyright InfringementIn May 2014, the Trust acting on behalf of the estate of Randy Wolfe (a/k/a Randy California) of the rock group Spirit filed a copyright infringement suit against Led Zeppelin related to the first chords in the band’s most famous song, “Stairway to Heaven.” See Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, 15-cv-03462, U.S. District Court, Central District of California(Los Angeles). The Trust brought the case against Led Zeppelin after a 2014 Supreme Court decision opened the door for a broader interpretation of the time frame to seek damages for copyright infringement under the U.S. Copyright Act. See Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1962 (2014). The Petrella decision limited the application of the defense of laches and permitted lawsuits to be brought involving older copyrighted works with more recent acts of infringement that fall within the statute of limitations pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 507(b). Hence, in the Skidmore case, despite the decades-old circulation of “Stairway to Heaven,” the plaintiffs decided to bring suit against Led Zeppelin within three years after the release of a re-mastered version of the famous song.

In Skidmore, the crux of the plaintiffs’ case was that Led Zeppelin (with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant as co-authors) allegedly stole the opening passage of “Stairway to Heaven” from “Taurus,” an instrumental by Randy Wolfe that can be found on Spirit’s 1968 debut album. The dispute largely concerned a brief musical passage 45 seconds into “Taurus.” It was alleged that the iconic opening guitar sequence of “Stairway to Heaven” (which was released in 1971, three years after “Taurus”) was copied from “Taurus.”

The Trust also sought an injunction against the release of any additional albums containing the song “Stairway to Heaven” in an attempt to obtain a writing credit for Wolfe, who died in 1997. This case was not the first time Led Zeppelin had been accused of copying another artist’s work. The Trust’s lawsuit listed other songs for which Led Zeppelin had paid settlements over songwriting credits, including “The Lemon Song,” “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” Whole Lotta Love,” and “Dazed and Confused.

On April 11, 2016, Los Angeles District Judge Gary Klausner ruled that there were enough similarities between “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven” for a jury to decide the claim. On June 23, 2016, following a trial, an eight-member panel jury unanimously found that the similarities between the songs did not amount to copyright infringement. The decision came one year after a jury (in a lawsuit filed in the Central District of California before Judge John A. Kronstadt) ruled that Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (produced by Pharrell Williams) infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” In the Blurred Lines case, Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $7.4 million (reduced to $5.3 million) and ongoing royalties to Gaye’s family. The Blurred Lines decision is currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit.

The Trial

Jurors in the Led Zeppelin case had to decide two issues: First, was it plausible that members of Led Zeppelin had sufficient opportunity (i.e., access) to hear “Taurus” before they wrote “Stairway to Heaven”? Second, if so, were the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven”  “substantially similar” to “Taurus”?

Issue 1: Access

Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, Jimmy Page, singer, Robert Plant, and bassist, John Paul Jones, all took the stand to testify about their recollections of Spirit and whether they attended Spirit performances, listened to Spirit music or recalled playing the same shows. The Led Zeppelin band members also were questioned by the plaintiffs’ counsel on how “Stairway to Heaven” was created 45 years ago. The jurors sided with the plaintiffs on the issue of access, finding that Page and Plant would have been familiar with “Taurus.” Specifically, the jury relied on the evidence presented in court that (1) Page had the Spirit record in his collection of more than 10,000 records and CDs, (2) Spirit had appeared as an opening act for Led Zeppelin and (3) other members of Spirit testified to encounters with Led Zeppelin members.

Issue 2: Substantial Similarity

The jury next had to determine whether the famous opening to “Stairway to Heaven” was substantially similar to the instrumental opening portion in “Taurus.” Both sides presented expert musicologists, who offered divergent opinions on the musical composition of “Taurus.” Defense experts testified that the two songs shared little in common other than a chord sequence that dates back 300 years. Plaintiffs’ experts said there were significant other likenesses, including the use of arpeggios, similar note combinations, pitch and note durations.

However, the jury never heard the original recording of “Taurus,” notwithstanding its conclusion that Led Zeppelin had access to the recording. The original recording of “Taurus” was made prior to 1972, when sound recordings were not subject to federal copyright protection. The Sound Recording Act of 1971 (effective February 15, 1972) changed federal copyright law to include protection for sound recordings. Instead, jurors had to hear and rely on expert renditions of the sheet music (i.e., the underlying musical notes) for “Taurus” to assess and decide the issue of “substantial similarity” to “Stairway to Heaven.”

Notably, the Trust’s expert played the sheet music on guitar, the instrument used in recorded versions for both “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven,” whereas Led Zeppelin’s expert decided to play the sheet music on piano. Irrespective of similarities in the sound recordings, theSkidmore case was decided based on the only protectable aspect – the musical composition of “Taurus” and not the sound recording. During deliberations, the jurors asked to see clips of each expert rendition more than once. Ultimately, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Led Zeppelin.

Comparisons and Impact: Blurred Lines and Led Zeppelin Cases

The “Stairway to Heaven” infringement decision came one year after a jury ruled Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” In the Blurred Lines case, the eight-member jury also returned a unanimous decision based on the musical composition of “Got to Give It Up” and not the actual recorded version of Gaye’s song. However, the outcome for Led Zeppelinwas decidedly different from the Blurred Lines ruling.

The Blurred Lines decision, and its large award of damages, has been followed by a noticeable uptick in copyright infringement claims surrounding popular songs and recordings. Well-known artists such as Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Robin Thicke and Justin Beiber are making news for copyright infringement claims being brought against them. However, the recent verdict in favor of Led Zeppelin suggests that limitations inherent in protected music can limit a determination of infringement. Even though the jury sided with the plaintiffs regarding Led Zeppelin’s access to Spirit’s “Taurus,” the jury concluded that the protected elements of “Taurus” − the musical composition in the sheet music and not the sound recording − were not “substantially similar” to “Stairway to Heaven.” It is too soon to say whether the Blurred Lines outcome or the Led Zeppelinresult will be the norm.

Notwithstanding the appeal, the Led Zeppelin case reinforces the notion that different aspects of an entire song, specifically the musical composition, the instrumentation and the final recording, each are subject to analysis in a potential copyright infringement claim, and the analysis can dictate different outcomes in claims of infringement.

As for the appeal, the Trust’s attorneys are challenging the jury verdict in the Ninth Circuit. The notice of appeal reads:

Please take notice that Plaintiff Michael Skidmore, Trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from the final judgment entered on June 23, 2016, as well as any and all interlocutory rulings, decisions, and orders that gave rise to the judgment and are merged therein.

The filing does not provide legal arguments for why the case should be reconsidered, making it difficult to anticipate the basis for appeal. Furthermore, Led Zeppelin’s publishing company is seeking more than half a million dollars from the Trust in legal fees already incurred for the defense, triggered by a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows prevailing parties in copyright cases to seek legal fees. See Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 136 S.Ct. 1979 (2016). Given the appeal, these fees will only increase. This case and the Blurred Linescase are ones to watch as their outcomes could impact the music industry and copyright law in general.

ARTICLE BY Lamis G. Eli of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
© 2016 Wilson Elser

Band Led Zeppelin Says Song Chords Too Common to Copyright

Can you say “Stairway to Heavy Royalties?” You may have imagined the old Led heads, Robert Page and Jimmy Plant, sitting in a grungy garage somewhere back in the seventies striking those iconic four chords for the first time and truly crafting the song “Stairway to Heaven” from whence there was none. Now you may have to change that image and imagine them sitting in the front row of a Spirit concert feverishly jotting chord progressions down on a notepad. That’s what a former member of the band Spirit is claiming in a lawsuit over a song that has allegedly grossed in excess of $525 million.

Led Zeppelin, Music, CopyrightHave you even heard of the seventies band Spirit? Apparently Led Zeppelin used to tour with them back in the 1960’s and former Spirit band members claim they often saw Page and Plant sitting in the front row at their concerts—with perfect front and center seating to rip off a catchy riff. Robert Wolfe, who wrote the song “Taurus,” which opens with the legendary riff, reportedly thought about suing for copyright infringement as far back as the 1980’s, but his family stated he could not afford it. It’s fun to ponder the type of expert vetting we might do in this case: “Did you attend Woodstock?” “Where were you in proximity to the stage?” “Were you able to grasp a true ‘concept and feel’ for the music?” You may find that comical, but that is the exact question the judge pinpointed as the key issue in this matter—“a subjective assessment of the ‘concept and feel’ of the two works”—a determination he believes he is no more qualified to make than a jury, which is why the case is going to trial.

Another interesting aspect of this case is also the age of the music. In 2016, we’re nearing fifty years since “Stairway to Heaven” was written. Meaning, the case could have wide implications for the music industry as a whole. If a ruling comes back that Led Zeppelin ripped off a copyright, it may embolden many other wayward artists out there who may be carrying a long-time grudge and feel their songs were swiped as well. In short, a ruling in favor of Spirit could potentially boost spirits and spark many copyright suits. Established record labels and big icon artists who have been raking in the royalties for decades have plenty to worry about with this trial.

Led Zeppelin has countered, claiming a descending chromatic four-chord progression is so common in the music industry that it simply cannot be copyrighted. Meaning, it doesn’t matter how obviously similar the songs may be or whether they have the same ‘concept and feel,’ because the riff is too common to copyright. If this argument holds, Spirit has nothing to protect. But if you’re playing the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” in your mind right now, I’ll bet you find it unique enough to try to defend.

If you can’t conjure the song on your own, I’ll bet you’re eager now to hear the two songs side-by-side? So is the jury. Go on. You can jam out on the job as long as it’s still considered “work.” Give it a listen.

© Copyright 2002-2016 IMS ExpertServices, All Rights Reserved.

Short Samplings of Songs May Not Be Considered Copyright Infringement After All

song samplingThe Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just decided that song sampling without permission does not necessarily infringe the copyright. Many artists have built careers by sampling an old song to create a new work. Until now, courts have told the artist to “get a license or do not sample.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in 2005 that there is no de minimus exception to sampling. The de minimus exception, which applies to the copyright law generally, states that if an artist borrowed an insignificant portion of an existing work, the artist did not infringe. The Sixth Circuit held that this exception did not apply to sampling. This meant that if an artist sampled a portion of a song that lasted a fraction of a second, the artist nonetheless infringed.

Now, the Ninth Circuit in VMG Salsoul, LLC v Madonna Ciccone (“Salsoul”)took “the unusual step of creating a circuit split” and decided that thede minimus exception does apply to sampling. In Salsoul, Madonna sampled a 0.23-second “horn blast” from a disco song and incorporated the blast into her 1990 song “Vogue.” The Ninth Circuit explained that Madonna did not infringe because “a reasonable juror could not conclude that the average audience would recognize the appropriation of the horn sound.” Therefore, her sampling was de minimus and did not infringe.

This Ninth Circuit decision will impact the music world and likely lead to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that clarifies the legal limits of unauthorized sampling.

ARTICLE BY Todd A. Davidovits of Polsinelli PC
© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in California

Google Tries “Pretty Woman” Tactic in Oracle Copyright Suit

I’m not sure Julia Roberts’ use of that blonde wig and eighties cut-out dress when she Google versus Oracleleaned against Richard Gere’s car in Pretty Woman should be considered “fair use,” but perhaps a court might say otherwise. How does Julia’s transformation from wayward to womanly in that iconic 1990 film come into play in a fight between tech giants Google and Oracle over the use of copyrighted java? Because they both hinge on “transformative use.”

Google’s going to trial again? Say it isn’t so. I have to wonder how many lawyers Google, alone, employs. But, if you’re going to stand as one of the front-runners in today’s fast-paced, internet-driven services market, you have to be prepared for lawsuits. Google has been fending off some serious claims by Oracle in a copyright suit filed in San Francisco since 2010, but when the focus of the debate turned to expert witness testimony, we wanted to highlight the matter for discussion and debate. Oracle initially sued Google claiming improper use of copyrighted Java, particularly Google’s use of its application programming interfaces (“APIs”) on its Android platform, to allow developers who are familiar with Java to quickly convert their web apps to Android.  Oracle is now reportedly seeking royalty damages in excess of $8 billion.

Initially Google argued, and the trial court agreed, that APIs were not subject to copyright. That ruling, however, was overturned by the Federal Circuit on appeal, which means Google’s remaining defense is whether its use of the APIs was “transformative,” which would make it acceptable under the Fair Use Doctrine. What standard of “transformative use” are the parties looking to?  2 Live Crew and their ripping parody of “Pretty Woman” in their 1989 album, “As Clean As They Wanna Be.” Please tell me you’re envisioning that iconic cover right now. Apparently the Supreme Court in a 1994 ruling, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., found 2 Live Crew’s version of “Pretty Woman” so creative and original that it qualified as “fair use,” not copyright infringement. Oracle is arguing the opposite by claiming Google’s use of the Java APIs did nothing to transform the code. Google simply plugged it into to a larger body of work, but in no way altered it, which does not qualify, according to Oracle, as transformative.

Oracle has sought to exclude the testimony of Google’s computer science expert from opining that Google’s use of the Java code altered it sufficiently to qualify as a transformative use, claiming his opinion “flies in the face” of the Federal Circuit’s finding that Google was wrong in claiming its use was transformative simply because it incorporated other elements in the Android system. Google has fought back, stating the Federal Circuit never decided whether the work was transformative and specifically remanded the case so that issue could be decided by a jury. Are you finding both of those arguments a bit rambling and repetitive? Apparently so did the trial court judge when he lamented his role as the gatekeeper who has to “excise every detail of expert testimony on a granular level.” With reams of lawyers on either side fighting over every detail and every dollar, however, that is probably precisely what he will have to do.

If you feel it may be hard, not being a computer science guru, to make a determination as to whether Google’s use of the Java at issue was “transformative,” imagine how the jury is going to feel. In May, 2012, a jury found Google had infringed Oracle’s copyrights but they could not decide whether use of the code in question was “fair.” This will be the second trial and second jury that attempts to answer this question. It will require an expert with exceptional communication skills, who is as persuasive as Julia, to effectively break this Java jumble down and win over the potentially tech-savvy, but stubborn “Richards” in the jury box. That’s the expert we would find for them, anyway, if Google gave us a call.

© Copyright 2002-2016 IMS ExpertServices, All Rights Reserved.

Copyright Suit Alleges Huckabee Campaign Lacks "Eye of the Tiger"

Mike Huckabee’s poor performance in the Iowa caucuses – leading to his subsequent withdrawal from the race – isn’t his only concern lately. Huckabee’s presidential campaign organization faces a lawsuit for playing Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” without permission during a rally for Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who was released from jail for contempt of court stemming from her refusal to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. (See Rude Music, Inc. v. Huckabee for President, Inc., No. 15-10396 (N.D. Ill. filed Nov. 18, 2015)). The plaintiff, Rude Music, Inc., owned by Survivor’s guitarist Frank M. Sullivan III, and the publisher of the musical composition, filed a copyright infringement action against Huckabee for President, Inc. in November of 2015. According to the complaint, as Huckabee led Davis from the detention center, a clip from Survivor’s Grammy-winning song “Eye of the Tiger” was used for dramatic effect. Rude Music alleged that this public performance infringed its copyright, and is seeking an injunction barring future unauthorized performances and monetary damages.

Made famous in Rocky III and regularly blasted from stadium speakers to stoke up the home team and the crowd, “Eye of the Tiger” was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for six weeks in 1982 and features a catchy melody with lyrics that inspire listeners to prepare for life’s battles. In the movie, the song plays over dramatic scenes of Rocky battling opponents in the boxing ring before his triumphant match against Clubber Lang. Not to be outdone, Huckabee’s rally for Mrs. Davis attempted to use these same themes to paint a virtuous battle between a defiant state court clerk versus the federal government.

Like trash talk at a pre-fight weigh-in, Sullivan was quick to respond to the rally on his Facebook page: “NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use ‘My Tune — The Eye Of The Tiger. I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!”….” After the suit was filed, Mike Huckabee responded, calling the lawsuit “very vindictive” and renewed his support for Mrs. Davis’s position. Unsurprisingly, Sullivan expressed his opposing view and went on to state that he does not “like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand.”

In his Answer to Rude Music’s complaint, Huckabee asserted several affirmative defenses to the infringement claim, including fair use (arguing that his alleged use of a one-minute clip of the song during a noncommercial and religious rally should constitute fair use). Interestingly, Huckabee also counterpuched that the rally for Kim Davis was not a campaign event at all, rather a religious assembly within the meaning of Section 110(3) of the Copyright Act. Certain provisions of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 110(3)) create an exemption to copyright requirements for the “performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatic-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.”  Huckabee claims that because “Eye of the Tiger” isn’t incorporated or performed in musical theater, it is a nondramatic musical work for purposes of the Copyright Act. Therefore, because he considers the Davis rally to be a “religious assembly,” the alleged improper use of the song does not constitute infringement under the Copyright Act.

Apparently “Eye of the Tiger” is a popular tune along the campaign trail, as this isn’t the first time that Rude Music filed a lawsuit against a presidential candidate for using its song at a rally. Newt Gingrich was sued by Rude Music in 2012 after Rude Music claimed that Gingrich played “Eye of the Tiger” at events going back as far as 2009. In any case, Huckabee will still need to start “risin’ up to the challenge of [his] rival,” only now his opponent is an 80s rock star instead of other Republican hopefuls, since, as the Iowa Caucus results proved, Huckabee wasn’t a Survivor after all.

© 2016 Proskauer Rose LLP.

Copyright Suit Alleges Huckabee Campaign Lacks “Eye of the Tiger”

Mike Huckabee’s poor performance in the Iowa caucuses – leading to his subsequent withdrawal from the race – isn’t his only concern lately. Huckabee’s presidential campaign organization faces a lawsuit for playing Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” without permission during a rally for Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who was released from jail for contempt of court stemming from her refusal to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. (See Rude Music, Inc. v. Huckabee for President, Inc., No. 15-10396 (N.D. Ill. filed Nov. 18, 2015)). The plaintiff, Rude Music, Inc., owned by Survivor’s guitarist Frank M. Sullivan III, and the publisher of the musical composition, filed a copyright infringement action against Huckabee for President, Inc. in November of 2015. According to the complaint, as Huckabee led Davis from the detention center, a clip from Survivor’s Grammy-winning song “Eye of the Tiger” was used for dramatic effect. Rude Music alleged that this public performance infringed its copyright, and is seeking an injunction barring future unauthorized performances and monetary damages.

Made famous in Rocky III and regularly blasted from stadium speakers to stoke up the home team and the crowd, “Eye of the Tiger” was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for six weeks in 1982 and features a catchy melody with lyrics that inspire listeners to prepare for life’s battles. In the movie, the song plays over dramatic scenes of Rocky battling opponents in the boxing ring before his triumphant match against Clubber Lang. Not to be outdone, Huckabee’s rally for Mrs. Davis attempted to use these same themes to paint a virtuous battle between a defiant state court clerk versus the federal government.

Like trash talk at a pre-fight weigh-in, Sullivan was quick to respond to the rally on his Facebook page: “NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use ‘My Tune — The Eye Of The Tiger. I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!”….” After the suit was filed, Mike Huckabee responded, calling the lawsuit “very vindictive” and renewed his support for Mrs. Davis’s position. Unsurprisingly, Sullivan expressed his opposing view and went on to state that he does not “like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand.”

In his Answer to Rude Music’s complaint, Huckabee asserted several affirmative defenses to the infringement claim, including fair use (arguing that his alleged use of a one-minute clip of the song during a noncommercial and religious rally should constitute fair use). Interestingly, Huckabee also counterpuched that the rally for Kim Davis was not a campaign event at all, rather a religious assembly within the meaning of Section 110(3) of the Copyright Act. Certain provisions of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 110(3)) create an exemption to copyright requirements for the “performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatic-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.”  Huckabee claims that because “Eye of the Tiger” isn’t incorporated or performed in musical theater, it is a nondramatic musical work for purposes of the Copyright Act. Therefore, because he considers the Davis rally to be a “religious assembly,” the alleged improper use of the song does not constitute infringement under the Copyright Act.

Apparently “Eye of the Tiger” is a popular tune along the campaign trail, as this isn’t the first time that Rude Music filed a lawsuit against a presidential candidate for using its song at a rally. Newt Gingrich was sued by Rude Music in 2012 after Rude Music claimed that Gingrich played “Eye of the Tiger” at events going back as far as 2009. In any case, Huckabee will still need to start “risin’ up to the challenge of [his] rival,” only now his opponent is an 80s rock star instead of other Republican hopefuls, since, as the Iowa Caucus results proved, Huckabee wasn’t a Survivor after all.

© 2016 Proskauer Rose LLP.