Composer Sues for Royalties on 'Charge' Cheer

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Published April 15, 2011

| FoxNews.com

The man who says he wrote "da-da-da-DA da-DA…Charge!" may be cheering it up himself if he wins a lawsuit claiming loss of royalties.

Former San Diego Chargers musical director Bobby Kent is suing the American Society of Composer, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for not paying him any of the profit from the ubiquitous line from a song he wrote more than 33 years ago, one that is now a staple in sports arenas throughout the country.

Back in the 1970s, Kent and co-writer Bernardo M. Hollman created song titled "Stadium Doo Dads." Sports fans know one line from the song -- da-da-da-DA da-DA…Charge! -- much better than the longer piece, which Kent registered with ASCAP in 1978.

He’s now asking for royalties that he argues he should have earned after ASCAP issued blanket licenses for the cheer’s use by major sports leagues. Kent also accuses the ASCAP of "intentionally" hiding a policy from him that states ASCAP does not track songs publicly performed in stadiums.

Kent alleges ASCAP allows users who pay a fee based on the size of their audience and arena access to any of the more than 8.5 million songs registered with the group. But according to Kent, he never saw any royalties.

A request for comment from the ASCAP by FoxNews.com was not returned.

"Certainly it's a bona fide claim, it's not frivolous," property and intelligence lawyer Frank Natoli told FoxNews.com. Natoli also speculated that Kent may have trouble winning the case because he's been out in public with the cheer for such a long time.

But Kent’s lawyer, Richard Wolfe, sees no such challenge to winning. “I can’t go back to day one,” Wolfe told FoxNews.com, “There are limitations.”

Another issue: Many stadiums play only "da-da-da-DA da-DA…Charge!" and not the entire song.

"You can't copyright something that would be so short," said Natoli, "it would be more of a trademark." The court documents say Kent did successfully register a copyright claim in 1980, and was granted one for "Stadium Doo Dads," the following year. But it makes no mention of a trademark on the cheer.

The Los Angeles Lakers are the only professional sports team to respond to Kent's demand for a $3,000 licensing fee -- the team agreed to pay it. Wolfe said he will go after other teams who have refused to pay the fee.

Kent faces another challenge: Some question whether he in fact wrote the “charge” line.

A 1990 Sports Illustrated article titled “Give Him Credit for the Charge” credits former University of Southern California football player and drum major Thomas Walker, known as “Tommy the Toe," with writing the cheer. The article said that Walker composed a six-note trumpet blast in 1946 that played “da-da-da DUT-da-DUH” – before the fans then screamed, “Charge!” The article also said the Los Angeles Dodgers adapted the cheer in 1959.

“That’s completely hogwash,” Wolfe said. “First of all, they never filed a copyright registration, and they would have had to renew it in 29 years, which they never did.” He also argued that the two songs sound nothing alike. “There are only six notes which are substantially similar, although they are not in the same bar or tempo,” he said.

But Tony Fox, associate director of the USC Marching Band, told FoxNews.com he finds it rather “incredulous” that Kent wouldn’t have heard the “charge” cheer before he wrote “Stadium Doo Dads” in the 1970’s, “since by then it had already become an iconic musical rallying cry used all around the country.”

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