Ownership Rights Of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ In Dispute

Ownership Rights Of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ In Dispute

The rights to one of the most heard and loved guitar riffs to have ever been produced, Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ are currently being disputed.

Orignally written for the 1982 Sylvester Stallone movie ‘Rocky III,’ the classic-rock anthem entered the Billboard charts immediately, and continued to grow to the point where it is now played at virtually every major sporting event.

A little-known copyright law enacted in 1978, set a 35-year limit for ownership of music, beginning with songs released in 1978. The deadline for songwriters and performers to exercise “termination rights” to take back copyrights, they signed away to labels or publishing companies is Dec. 31. Instead of making a fraction of the royalties in many cases, they’ll be taking 100 percent.

Ailing record and publishing companies are expected to push back. Using legal strategies, they will attempt to hold on to songs that can still make them money, which includes ‘Eye of the Tiger.’

Survivor keyboardist Jim Peterik, who co-wrote the song with guitarist Frankie Sullivan, is fighting for rights of the song, “Every song I’ve written, I feel like they’re my children,” said Petrik, who then added, “it is about saving artists and writers from unscrupulous publishing deals. It’s a godsend for the songwriter.”

‘Eye of the Tiger’ was a hit when released, and it has had amazing stamina: TV shows, ads and other films have used it. The song is also a staple at sporting events — it opens with driving guitars and crashing drums and cymbals. With its declaration of “Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival,” it provides a stirring soundtrack to live athletic contests.

“When I get my publishing back, I’ll be making twice as much on a ball game that uses ‘Eye of the Tiger,’” Peterik said.

Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association, told Peterik about “recapturing” control in 2007. Through Herbison, Peterik met Brent McBride, who co-founded Copyright Recapture in 2004 with his brother Wes and their father Jim McBride, who wrote the Alan Jackson No. 1 hits “Chattahoochee” and “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.”

“If you signed your publishing deal after 1978, you get your publishing back 35 years from the signing,” Peterik said.

“If you signed prior to 1978, it’s 56 years. When I registered for recapture, there was a controversy with Warner/Chappell [his parent company] if it was 1978 or 1977. They issued the contract in 1977. But I didn’t sign it until 1978. I got in under the wire. So under this clause, in 2017 [35 years after publication] I get my publishing back for ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ which is enormous.”

“Eye,” he said, is “one of the biggest copyrights of all time — it’s in the top five with ‘White Christmas’,’ and ‘We Will Rock You.’ ”

Regaining the song would give him “the option to keep it with Warner if they make me the right offer, keep it for myself, but I would have to administer it [solicit spots, do paperwork for offers, etc.], which is not what I do. Or I could sell it to the highest bidder — any publishing company that would want it. I’ve already had pre-offers. But it ain’t a bird in the hat until it’s the bird in the hand.”

More on this story is expected to arise, so stay tuned.