Former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee was ordered to pay $25,000 to a company owned by Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan to settle a lawsuit stemming from Huckabee’s unauthorized use of the band’s “Eye of the Tiger” at a rally in support of Kim Davis.
The former Arkansas governor initially came under fire for using the track at a September 2015 rally without permission. However, given the high-profile nature of this specific rally – Huckabee was celebrating the release of Kentucky county clerk Davis, who was imprisoned after refusing a court order to give marriage licenses to same-sex couple – Sullivan, the song’s co-writer, told Rolling Stone at the time he was weighing a lawsuit against the then-candidate.
“I do not like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand,” Sullivan said. “What upset me most [about Huckabee’s use] was that, once again, my song was being used to further a political agenda – and no one even bothered to ask for permission.”
In 2012, Sullivan also sued Newt Gingrich over that GOP candidate’s use of the Rocky III theme on the campaign trail; they eventually settled out of court. Mitt Romney, who also briefly used the track at 2012 rallies, escaped with just a cease-and-desist warning.
“The ‘Eye of the Tiger’ copyright is a very valuable asset, and we work very hard to protect it,” Sullivan’s attorney Annette McGarry told CNN. In court, Huckabee’s lawyer argued that “noncommercial, fair use” laws protected this specific use of “Eye of the Tiger.” However, Sullivan’s team countered that Huckabee had claimed the rally as a “presidential campaign expense.”
In addition to protecting the rights of his work, Sullivan also told Rolling Stone that he was considering a lawsuit because the rally so contrasted the guitarist’s own view on same-sex marriages.
“I do not agree with Kim Davis’ stance and do not believe in denying gay rights and the freedom for all individuals to choose the lifestyle they want to live,” Sullivan said at the time. “Our Constitution, and the words of our Founding Fathers, stand tall for freedom, which is what America is all about. I find it ridiculous in this day and age that this fight against gay marriage has gone on, even after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Let’s stop!”