Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Down Under and Kookaburra lawsuit

I was randomly listening to Men at Work's Down Under. Given I am a child of the 80s, I love this happy little song.
I dig some digging and discovered there was a recent lawsuit against the band. The lawsuit claimed that the song ripped off the children song Kookaburra.
From the Wiki Page, ((In June 2009, Larrikin Music sued the band Men at Work for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff of the band's 1981 single "Down Under" was copied from "Kookaburra". This action followed an episode of Spicks and Specks where this usage was the basis of a panel question ))
The copyright owners won the lawsuit, yet it wasn't as big as they wanted. The Copyright owner wanted 60% of the song's profit, but the court only gave him 5% from 2002 and onward.
Side Note: I side with Men at Work, but... In the music video, it doesn't help their case that the flute player is sitting in a tree playing the riff just like the Kookaburra lyrics say. But still...
From the wiki page, ((On 30 July 2009, Justice Peter Jacobson of the Federal Court of Australia made a preliminary ruling that Larrikin did own copyright on the song, but the issue of whether or not songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert had plagiarised the riff would be determined at a later date.[7][8] On 4 February 2010, Justice Jacobson delivered his judgment that Men at Work had infringed Larrikin's copyright, and that both recordings submitted to the court "... reproduce a substantial part of Kookaburra" ))
I call this lawsuit bullshit. And, it amazes me that the lawsuit came about nearly twenty to thirty years after the 80s Men at Work song came out. I am guessing the copyright holder was running out of money and wanted to make some quick big bucks. I don't like the new trend of suing artist that are just riffs on older songs, but not a clear case of ripping off the song. I feel the same way about the Blurred Lines lawsuit.  There are tributes and riffs and straight up ripoffs.  This wasn't a ripoff.  
Yes, the rhythmic parts are very similar, but the key is different and the riffs are different on the flute parts. Asking for a big chunk of the profits is a bit too much. One of the things that stood out about the song was the wonderful flute solo. It was the flute solo that got Men at Work in trouble. It is just amazing it came after the fact and decades after the song was a hit.

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