(CN) - Songwriter James D. Papa claims in court that World Wrestling Entertainment diverted his royalties over a dozen songs he licensed as wrestlers' theme music by altering the copyrights without permission.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Papa wrote entrance music for wrestling superstars such as the song "Steinerized" for the Steiner brothers, "Man Called Sting" for Sting and "Master of the DDT" for Jake "The Snake" Roberts, according to the complaint in federal court in Dallas.
All his songs were registered with Broadcast Music Inc., the lawsuit states, and many appeared on the 1992 album "Slam Jam I."
Papa says he retained all publishing rights for the tunes.
But when a video game producer from non-party THQ asked about using "Bad Street USA," which he co-wrote with defendant Michael Hayes in 1983, in the video game "Legends of Wrestlemania," Papa says he found out that WWE had improperly registered a copyright to the tune in order to snag his royalties.
"Eventually, through working with BMI, Papa was able to correct the registration to properly reflect his ownership in the work," the complaint states. "However, by the time the registration was corrected, THQ had decided no to use the song."
After that, Papa claims he found out that WWE had re-registered the copyrights to other songs when an "investigation revealed a systemic pattern of errors and omissions by WWE personnel that effectively misappropriated Papa's musical works and deprived the Plaintiffs of royalty payments."
The re-registrations "erroneously" list defendant James Alan Johnson as a "Songwriter/Composer" and defendant Stephanie Music Publishing as the works' publisher, according to the complaint.
Not only did the WWE re-register the songs to divert Papa's royalties, it also "engaged in a systematic course of infringement" by using his songs in the DVD "The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling" and on the cable channel "Classics Matches of Wrestling Channel," according to the lawsuit.
And WWE allegedly used the songs as ringtones without permission.
Plaintiffs Papa Berg Inc., James D. Papa (dba Papa Hayes Music, Papa Berg Publishing, Grand Theft Productions, Grand Theft Records and Nabe Nabe Music) seek injunctive relief unspecified damages for copyright infringement, unfair competition, tortious interference and civil conspiracy. Papa and his companies are represented by Mark Taylor and Peyton Healey of Powers Taylor in Dallas.