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back to article Men at Work swiped Down Under riff

Australian band Men at Work could be substantially out of pocket after Sydney federal court ruled that the flute riff from Down Under was ripped off from Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree. The latter was penned in 1934 by Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides Jamboree, and "has since been sung by generations of Australian …

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Bronze badge

OK, I am stumped

I warbled 'Kookaburra sits...' for years as a girl, and when I heard the Men At Work song, no echoes came. This is very silly.

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Paris Hilton

Me too...

Stumped that is. Except I wasn't a girl...

Larrikin didn't even own the copyright at the time of the supposed infringement.

This sounds very fishy.

It may be a large part of kookaburra, but as the judge says, it's a very small part of Down Under.

40-60% is OTT

Paris is a girl. we all know that.

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Silver badge

It's close

But not enough to say it's been nicked. However, if you slow Kookaburra down it bears a closer resemblance to Blowing in the Wind so they'd probably be financially better off going after Dylan.

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Anonymous Coward

Close but no cigar.

Surely if this is plagiarism then almost every musical piece written in god knows how long must have similar length passages that are as similar to some previous music.

Therefore making almost all composers guilty of plagiarism.

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WTF?

No matter how hard I try

I can't hear "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree" anywhere in it.

Just how many notes make up a plagiarised melody?

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Larrikin Music

Why has it taken Larrikin Music this long to sue Men at Work?

Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree was written in 1934.

Down Under in the early 1980's.

It is now 2010, nearly 30 years since Down Under and 76 years since Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.

Is Larrikin Music going to sue all the schools for allowing the children to sing this song as well?

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Paris Hilton

Duh

"Is Larrikin Music going to sue all the schools for allowing the children to sing this song as well?"

This is the same industry that sues senior citizens and dead people, of course they will try anything. They'll sue you if you go on TV and sign "happy birthday".

Paris because I bet she's a vexatious litigator...

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Anonymous Coward

A big win for the underdog?

Sorry, but are Larrikin calling themselves "the underdog"?

The song (Down Under) was released in '79 or '81 depending where you are and Larrikin purchased the rights to the original folk song (from which it is alleged the melody comes from) in 1990. To me it seems less of a case of them being an underdog and more like someone seeing an opportunity to extort some money for something they had no creative involvement in.

It's like witnessing a road traffic accident, waiting for the injured party to die then pulling them out of the way and lying in their place so you can sue someone.

Ridiculous.

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And again

Greed wins

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Stop

Who plagarised what?

Can anyone find a recording of "Wele ti'n eistedd aderyn du?" the welsh folk song whose tune was aparently the basis of the kookaburra song?

I have looked and i cant find it anywhere, but if it is true that the kookaburra song was put to a tune stolen from welsh that makes the court decision ridiculous as the tune would be public domain, only the lyrics could be copyrighted.

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"Happy Birthday...

..To You" Is merely new words set to "Good Morning To You," a public domain song.

Nonetheless, playing only the melody was deemed infringement when played with a visual of a birthday party. (searching madly for the reference)

This reeks the same fetid breath as patent trolling

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Coat

I can't hear it....

....but then I'm no Aussie. Did they do spectral analysis on the flute riff? Is this the equivalent of patent trolling?

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Thumb Down

Ridiculous decision.

I doubt if there's a song on iTunes that doesn't inadvertently share a bar or two with some piece of music that has preceded it. This is a very bad precedent that will make lawyers everywhere very happy.

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FAIL

11 notes?

Court got this one wrong. It's just eleven notes which have the same melody but not the same rhythm as Kookaburra.

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FAIL

But the tune for "Kookaburra" was plagiarised in the first place…

How can they lay claim to the tune when it wasn't theirs to start with?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kookaburra_%28song%29

"Kookaburra" is sung to the same tune as the Welsh folk song "Wele ti'n eistedd aderyn du?" or "Dacw ti yn eistedd, y 'deryn du" (English translation "There you are sitting, black bird."). The syllables and themes are almost identical in pattern to those in "Kookaburra".

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FAIL

But the tune for "Kookaburra" was plagiarised in the first place… FAIL

Your Wikipedia-reading powers are weak, old man. From the article you referenced:

"...the poem was adapted to fit the tune "Kookaburra" in the 1960s..."

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FAIL

Nothing weak about my powers…

That line was added after my post. The quote in my post was all of the text from that entry at the time.

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Silver badge

You mean people can edit Wikipedia?

That's cheating!

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Boffin

Plagiarism...

Having someone sitting in a gum tree with a koala playing the flute to the tune of the original song suggests that they were certainly aware of it. The video shows this at about 50 seconds in.

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Headmaster

Wasn't a kookaburra...

wasn't even a gum tree. It was a mangrove.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/lead-singer-denies-kookaburra-link-20091028-hl0k.html

Curiously the original welsh tune, which is identical to the tune of kookaburra was also played.

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WTF?

So close it must be...

...that whoever was in that court, were deaf.

Ridiculous.

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FAIL

Erm...

Any chance of a link for the campfire song? I've never heard it myself, so I can't decide if they ripped it off or not.

Any idea why the copyright holders waited ~30 years to bring the case? Other than the usual cynical money-making, of course.

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Bronze badge

Link

BBC has an excerpt, presumably one verse, so I'd assume the others are at least close.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8497433.stm

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Men asleep

So has it taken 30 years for Larrikin to notice that the tunes are similar, or do the wheels of Australian copyright law turn exceeding slow?

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WTF?

Money to be made

Hello, all. I would like some information as to where can I buy the rights for the French national anthem. I'm thinking Beatles and “All you need is love”, here.

I'd ask for the rights to the anthem of the USA, too (think Hendrix), but let's take the long road step by step.

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Alert

Beat you

The tune to the National Anthem of the USA is taken directly from a drinking song - said song being the property of the Anacreon Club of Great Britain! (Link below)

http://www.contemplator.com/america/anacreon.html

Perhaps they should demand some royalties for every time that the "Star Spangled Banner" has been sung. Must amount to fair number of times. Even at a dollar a pop, that would be a sizeable chunk of dosh.

And we could let them off for the times that Roseanne Barr and Anastasia made a total horlicks of it.....

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FAIL

Shot themselves in the foot..

By playing the flute riff to a fluffy bear hanging from a tree.

No clue there...

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Boffin

@No clue there..

True, there isn't. A Kookaburra is a bird, A koala is a fluffy bear like marsupial.

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FAIL

Epic fail.

Me.

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40-60% seems a bit steep

It's not like it makes up 40-60% of the song.

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Anonymous Coward

Similar?

I heard this on the radio this morning. I didn't think they were that similar. I'd be interested to hear what other people think.

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FAIL

Re: Similar?

I heard it on the radio, too - there's a passing resemblance at best.

Copyright infringement law upholding fail.

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WTF?

Wot?

That's quite sad really. Whether you like him or not, the rest of Colin Hay's stuff speaks for itself - he definitely isn't a plagiarist. Plus: HOW many decades have passed since Land Down Under was released? Oh yeah that's right, nearly three. Why then is this happening now?

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Unhappy

agreed

I'm surprised that there's not anything equivalent to a statute of limitations on copyright violation. I'd be very surprised if the 40-60% of the royalties these guys are claiming is even there to take anymore. Looks like the original author died a few years ago and her publisher got greedy.

But then, just another argument to limit copyright to a reasonable period like 10 years. . .

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Bronze badge

Kookaburra

Ms. Sinclair's song made it to the elementary schools of northern Ohio within its first thirty years, I imagine well ahead of vegemite. I can't just now remember Down Under well enough to judge the controversy, even were my ear better than karaoke grade.

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FAIL

I call..

Bollox.

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Unhappy

Why so long?

It seems that this song has been around for nearly 30 years, I'm amazed that someone from the clearing arm of this publisher didn't bring the case before.

Poor old MAW, they never seem to be able to get any luck with their work.

I feel the most sorry for the rest of the band who reportedly got virtually nothing from all the songs.

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WTF?

Original artist to get... nothing!

Aah, yes... a generation after MAW release their song and some corporation suddenly wants the proceeds. And let's face it: the guy who wrote the original will get ABSOLUTELY NOTHING out of it. Only the legal suits will get rich off this (and some corporate board members). Everyone else will lose something. Damn, I hate lawyers!

There should be a MUCH shorter statute of limitation on this kind of frivolity and copyrights for published works (music, films, books, etc.) should expire (become free and in the public domain) after, say, 20 years. Not the 100 or so (can't remember) that they are now. This is bull on an epic scale!

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Dead Vulture

Re:Original artist to get... nothing!

That's because the original artist is no longer alive...

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Silver badge

Rollback!

IIRC, copyright was originally for 7 years with an option to (for a fee) extend for a further 7 years; for a maximum of 14 years. Sounds reasonable to me.

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Badgers

Can't see it myself

Not the video, I can see that fine.. I just can't tell what relation the two songs bear to each other.

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Unhappy

W00t?!

=OC

Men at Work are one of my all time favourite bands and 'Business As Usual' was a masterpiece IMO! (As was 'Cargo' but 'Two Hearts', not so much...)

I doubt there's much left of the early big pay-out from Down Under and I'd hate to see this decision sink Colin Hay, who has recently been trying to claw his way back to a well deserved slot in poular music.

This decision is just another example of copyright gone mad - good job Oasis wern't an Oz band as they'd have had to pay Sir Paul just about every major riff.

In this case, I hope the "underdog" doesn't "eventually survive"

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FAIL

WTF?

"well deserved slot in poular music."

Is that polar or popular or some new word we don't know yet?

For those that don't know. There's only one song that's totally and completely original where subsequent singers / writers have always borrowed after that. That sone was the first ever created. Everything else after that has built on some small part of that in some way. This is just plain stupid. Another massive FAIL for IP.

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FAIL

Such a shame....

It's such a shame that this one couldn't simply be left to lie, instead of some skint rights owner trawling for coin 20 years after the event, based on an original recording that he didn't actually have any artistic involvement in. Parasite.

Speaking from someone NOT from down under - this is SUCH a good record that has stayed with me my whole adult life and never fails to cheer me up when I hear it, and I truly hope that that any award will be anything less than minimal, if anything at all.

Now, where did I put my vegemite sandwich?

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Pint

fair use?

Is a musical quote plaguarism? So they did quote, so maybe they should pay up in a world where copyright is perversely long (death plus 70 anyone?) but no way is "40% - 60%" justified by using the one phrase in the flute solo.

Seems copyright "growth" outstrips the passage of time these days, so things will never go out of copyright. Just like i can expect the pension age to grow faster than my actual age from now on, so that I may never reach pension age.

Nice song BTW.

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Bronze badge

It is as important as the saxophone in "Baker Street"

'Cause you certainly don't listen to THAT record for the plot.

And "Down Under" is quite a trivial work, unless I'm missing the point.

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Yeah, right

The law is an ass.

Such a stupid verdict.

I'll hazard a guess that it might have been the chorus that made this a world wide hit, specifically the lyrics.

I am also a little puzzled as to how an action can be brought 30 years after the event.

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Pirate

The law is an ass

Especially so called "intellectual property" law. The more stupid the IP law decision, the more the whole idea of IP law is dragged into the kind of public disrepute that enables the wide ranging legal reforms needed to gain political momentum.

When there is no longer any rational basis to consider IP to represent moral rights, the more these claimed rights are ignored in practice the better.

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FAIL

lawyers

Ii would be funny if a lawyer patented ridiculous lawsuits, then they would start feeding off each other instead of wasting everyone else's time.

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Hoisted by their own petards

This is a stupid decision and it just goes to show what is wrong with Copyright laws around the world. MaW included about 2 bars from the song as a tribute by an Australian band to a part of Australian culture. Hardly an attempt to plagiarise.

What was the actual loss to the rights holder? Nothing!

However there is one part of this case that I find absolutely hilarious. The action was brought against EMI and SonyBMG. Who are the "pirates" now?

Also Larrakin are trolls - from the report on the ABC website:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/04/2809848.htm?section=entertainment

"Costs are yet to be determined but Larrikin's solicitor Adam Simpson says they could run to 60 percent of the income derived from the song.

"Obviously the more the better, but it depends," he said."

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